There is no spoon

I spent this weekend completing the Level 1 Mindfulness Meditation Teacher training with Dharma Moon.

And one of my favorite topics came up more than a few times (in fact we did a whole meditation on it)!. That topic is the Buddhist concept of “no-self”.

I’ve read that the first time the Buddha gave this dharma teaching, that several students with high levels of realization, simply had heart attacks and died because they couldn’t accept the reality of what he was saying. Talk about a truth bomb! By the way, call it truth, dharma, whatever - it’s not a “Buddhist” idea. Buddha was just pointing it out.

The idea shows up in other ways, even if you’re not a Buddhist, you probably remember the scene in the Matrix with the kid bending spoons.

In a nutshell, “no-self” means that everything lacks inherent existence. Including ourselves. To put it simply, everything is just a collection of causes and conditions, nothing has an independent identity. Just like in The Matrix - spoons don’t bend, but you can realize that there simply wasn’t a spoon to begin with.

Can you trust this? Can you allow your mind to let go of the concept of the spoon - to glimpse the “no-self” of the spoon and everything else in your reality?

Or does the idea give you a heart attack?

“No-self" was one of the topics that came up on the last episode of The Vital Point Podcast.  My guest, Hector Marcel, President of 3 Jewels Enlightenment Studio in NY gave a great explanation. He showed a pen and posited that if there was an independent identity to the pen then a dog would also want to write with it. Which the dog doesn’t, the dog sees a chew toy. 

For me thinking about "no-self" makes me breathe a sigh of relief. Can you imagine if everything was fixed and you couldn't change it?

As I did the “no-self” meditation yesterday it reminded me of an important concept in breathwork - the most important concept really…to trust the process.

What does that have to do with self and no-self? Well, before you begin to work with transformation through breathwork and psychedelics it is very easy to believe in your stories. We all weave complex narratives about the meaning of our lives and the things that have happened. Your spoons are very real. And spoons don’t bend.

But if you can trust the process, it invites curiosity that perhaps things are happening for you. Perhaps things have happened for a reason. The promise is that the narrative can change, and shift if you have an open mind and allow things to begin to unfold. You can become the Neo of your own Matrix.

This isn’t just something I’ve read about, but the result of my practice.

A few years ago I experienced a very traumatic event. A catastrophic event categorized as a shock trauma. In the blink of an eye my life changed.

It took a long time to work through it, and feel safe in my body again. In some ways I am still working on that.

For a long time I was angry and bitter and I would get really upset if you told me that “it happened for a reason”. But it also inspired me to learn more about trauma and ultimately to get more training around supporting others. Without trusting the process that would have never happened.

I had to realize that there was no spoon, no-self. This simply doesn’t happen without trusting the process.

Trusting the process is something you experience, you don’t read it on a bumper sticker or a meme and understand it. It happens when you get uncomfortable, because that’s when the spoon feels the strongest. That’s one reason breathwork is a practice - I give myself the opportunity to practice trusting the process. This is something that gets stronger the more I practice. It’s not a one and done thing - just like Neo (who was the One) didn’t get it the first time.

About the Author

Jonathan Schecter

Jonathan Schecter

Jonathan's interest in the transformative power of the breath is driven by his own healing journey. After practicing meditation and mindfulness in the Zen and Tibetan Buddhist traditions for almost 20 years, he rediscovered breathwork during a dark night of the soul and was amazed at the impact the practice had on his life.

After exploring several types of breathwork and working to create his own system, he found Neurodynamic Breathwork and completed an extensive facilitator-training program that was equal parts breathwork, deep personal development, and training in how to hold space for expanded states of awareness and support others through authentic presence.

This training, combined with lessons learned integrating his own extensive experiences with plant medicine helped Jonathan launch his brand “Blue Magic Alchemy ” that provides 1:1 integration and transformation coaching, a podcast, breathwork and meditation circles, and information to support grounded exploration into altered states of consciousness.


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