We recently posted on Not Two’s Facebook page the meme shown below, created by Jeff Foster, one of our favorite contemporary teachers of non-duality. As he often does, JP, our fearless Weaver of Web Pages, shared it to his personal account. One of his friends, making note of the camera turned back upon the photographer, asked “Then how do I take a no-selfie?”
I liked JP’s first answer best: “Duck.”
But his second one was pretty good too, and he gave me permission to clean it up just a bit and post it here.
“According to non-duality, any image you take would be a no-selfie, even if the camera points back at you like this one. It isn’t that the physical entity you think of as “your body” disappears. It is a deconstruction of the ego, of the mental concept of something that says “I have a body.” You’re getting closer by saying “I am a body” because now the “I” is simply the subjective experience of the body itself.
That’s as far as most people will take it, but there’s further to go with it. Because the next logical question is “Whose subjective experience is this?” Any attempt to say “mine” just reapplies the duality that was deconstructed.
Stay with the notion that it is the body’s own experience, that the human nervous system triangulates a time-space location for itself and interacts with its environment. But then another question arises: Is this body really something that can be isolated from its environment? Or is it more like a wave —a place where the ocean (the total environment) is behaving in a wave-like manner? Could it be that the subjective experience of the body itself is a narrowing of selective attention to this wave-like activity and an ‘ignore-ance’ of the rest of the ocean? If so, whose attention is being narrowed, and by whom???
Every direction you go with it, there are these cascading inquiries that break down the notion of ownership of self, of a self behind the experience of perception. And yet, perception persists; the world doesn’t disappear when self is deconstructed. We know the perception must trace back to something or someone.
This is where monist ideas of God come from. We take the work that non-duality does, and ascribe various imaginative explanations for it that keep the attention holistic so as not to revert back to egocentrism. The many variations of a “world soul” are among them, or the idea that all the countless subjective experiences are the dreams of one Dreamer, or characters played by one Actor. In Advaita Vedanta, God is the true Self of the whole universe.
So, between non-duality and monism, you have two complementary, co-arising options: Any picture that you take is a no-selfie, or a Selfie.
In reality, the deconstruction process is much, much simpler. Meditate, let go of selfhood, boom, done. This is just the scratch paper work on the side, like when you were first learning long division and the teacher needed to make sure you weren’t hiding a calculator in your desk. Call it ‘long indivision.'”