Jeffrey Baird

March 5, 2021

No Self, No Problem

I spent years trying to understand what was wrong with my brain. Why, despite having a wonderful life, was I so miserable? I had a great job, great friends, a supportive family, and the best partner in the world.  The only thing I wanted to change was me. And that made me miserable.

When I spent time with therapists examining what I wanted to change about myself, I struggled to identify what I wanted to change. I liked most of the individual things about myself, just not the collective existence.

I also felt apart from the world, just out of sync with reality. I felt there was a human experience I couldn't reach. That distance left me alone and adrift.

When I started meditating, I was desperate. Medicines and ECT kept me from suicidal ruminations, but they didn't put me at ease or generate contentment. I didn't see any immediate improvement, but I decided that I was out of other options. I kept at it. I kept at it for three years before I  picked up a book on Buddhism and started to see improvement.

There are many parts of Buddhist practice that bring me joy, but only one that saved me. The concept of "No Self" rescued me from my distress. After all, if I don't exist, with whom could I be displeased? If nothing separates me from the rest of existence and non-existence, then I could not be alone. The trick, of course, was believing that I didn't exist.

Accepting that you don't exist may strain your credulity. It may not even be a concept that works for you. But for me, staring at a wall and realizing that there was no "me" to change was a liberation. What was there to worry about when there was no one to whom anything could happen?

*I took the saying of "No Self, No Problem" from Anam Thubten's book of the same name.