Me, Me, Me, if not for you — Me, Me, Me… and the Joke

me, me, me — Understanding the purpose of self is key. Developing a self is a stage, not who we are.

We’ll be looking at the difference between “political” and “personal” relationships (hint: confusion in this area is the cause of many communication problems — especially at work!) We will explore The Phoenix Centre’s resetting of the traditional Communication Model. And we’ll give you opportunities to ask questions and practice!


I want to spend some time, over the next several articles, talking about the ego, and talking a bit about Zen. Mostly, I want to suggest an exercise for you to try.

The exercise is this:

Notice, moment by moment, how attached you are to the stories you tell yourself – and how that attachment leads to each and every miserable moment you have.

Let’s briefly think about the one aspect of ego—of “me-me-me-ness.” Part of the human incarnation is gaining a sense of “me”—in psychology, this is called a sense of the self, but I am not so sure if self and ego are the same. In any event, it’s a sense of me as distinct from, initially, mommy. As anyone who has a kid knows, this process takes a bit of time.

spiralRound and round we go

It is almost as if the process of growing up has within it this great joke. I come into the world as an undifferentiated being, and as such I am wholly other. I am unaware of my “me-ness”—I feel connected to mommy and to the universe.

As I grow, I become more “me,” and the system of life experience teaches me to do more of this. I am coached to set myself apart, to strive, to succeed, to be noticed, to be special. I find myself more and more separate, both from my environment and from others. I differentiate, and become an isolated ego. Emphasis on isolated.

And then I die, and I go back to formlessness, back into the wholly other.

Now, the joke is this – we were never supposed to get stuck in “me-ness.” It’s supposed to be a stage, like adolescence is a stage. But, because of the perverse joy of being miserable, the ego does everything it can to keep us stuck, isolated, and miserable.

I’ve been reading Zen: The Path of Paradox, by Osho. I happened upon a few quotes. I’ll share one now, and one later.

Yes, when you see for the first time, a great laughter arises in you—the laughter about the whole ridiculousness of your misery, the laughter about the whole foolishness of your problems, the laughter about the whole absurdity of your suffering. There was no need. There was no point in suffering; you were in a nightmare of your own creation. You were the author of it and you were the actor in it and you were the screen and you were the projector and you were the spectator and you were all in all.” (pg. 172)

I’ve been counselling since 1981. In that time, I’ve seen hundreds of clients. In that time, I can remember only one or two true tragedies – authentic dramas. Typically, they’ve been of the “dealing with cancer or death” kind. And even in those cases, the people who have lived through these “large” events seemed to go back to the same “me-me-me-ness” upon recovery.

Mostly, what I hear from my clients is a retelling of the story in order to maintain the misery. And there is only one, universal story. As my mom used to put it,

They are not treating me right. Don’t they know who I am?”

Now, it is so that some people, especially if they have spent considerable time with us, or at Haven, will understand that no one is doing anything to them, and indeed, everyone is so busy feeling miserable that they have no time to be doing anything to anyone else. So, blame drops away, and a more self-responsible language and thinking occurs. Instead of, “You make me sad,” I hear, “I am making myself sad right now.”

The problem is that accepting responsibility for one’s life is only “half way home.”

stuckwhat do you mean I’m stuck???

If you truly see, you’ll find that the seeds of your continuing misery are contained in the words of that sentence, “I am making myself sad right now,” and especially the words “making myself.” So long as I assume that I must create, over and over again, my self, and that the self I create, over and over, should be miserable, I am doomed to remain painfully mired in the illusion of life.

It begs the question: Why the hell would I choose to re-make myself, over and over, and in the process, make that self miserable???

The alternative is not happiness.” I should be happy” is just as stupid as “I should be miserable.”

No! I should be nothing.

Now, that’s strange… yet I artfully constructed that sentence, and I’d like you to re-read it. Because it has two meanings, and both are accurate.

  1. We are nothing. No thing. We are not objects, egos, “me-me-me.” When we get caught into ego and objectification and labelling and naming and blaming and finger-pointing, we create, as Osho said, the entire drama.
  2. There is no should. Who determines who you “should” be? Your parents? Your spouse? Your kids, boss, co-workers, teachers, professors, therapist? YOU? Even you, (me-me-me!) can’t determine who you “should” be—because all you ever are, is how you are right now, no matter who or what your ego tells you that you “should” be.

A friend reported being sad, and indeed looked teary. I encouraged her to cry. She desperately wanted to explain “why” she was sad, and it all had to do with externals, some of which happened 20 years earlier. I kept saying, “Nice story. Just cry.” In the end, with much effort, she cried, still gamely alternating with words. And the words were her ego-stories, her defenses against simply being; they were her self-created dramas.

Now, who was she?

She was not someone making herself sad. Her being, in that moment, was sad and teary. Sad and teary requires tears, not a dramatic story.

Osho mentions a story about Buddha. After he attained enlightenment, someone asked him what he had attained. Buddha replied that he had attained nothing. He had lost something.

Buddha said, “I have lost something—I have lost my misery. And I have attained nothing—because whatsoever you think I have attained has always been there, and now I laugh at the whole ridiculousness. Why was I missing it? It was in me: it was within me. Why was I missing it?” (pg.172–3)

The essence of Zen is Zazen, or simply sitting. There is nothing simple about it. At a recent Zazen, my right foot kept falling asleep, and my mind (ego) said, “Oh…my…god, how will I get up? How will I walk? I can’t do this! This is tough. Everyone will know I can’t do this…” And on and on. I found I could carve out a second or two of simple presence—a breath amid the clatter and clutter of my mind. Then, my ego started harping again.

Later, talking with others, I heard the same story, and in each case, the teller was smiling. One even said, “Don’t worry. Twenty years from now, you won’t even notice.” Cracked me right up.

The ego is desperate to keep you away from being in the moment. In the moment, your ego drops away and you are simply and completely here. You occupy your body, you feel your energy, and you recognize that nothing is happening. There is no need to name, to judge, to criticize, to blame, or to “me-me-me” misery-make. In this moment, I am exactly and precisely who I am and how I am, and nothing more.

As Darbella and I work on ourselves, and with others, we practice dropping the ego while encouraging simple presence. In breath and bodywork, we create space to feel the moment-by-moment “what’s-up-ness” of living.

Then, the ego kicks in and creates fear or boredom or judgment, and there is the urge to run and hide. If I can see that this ego-created drama is madness, is foolishness, I can have a breath and bring myself back into the moment.

Watch yourself this week. Notice how you play games with yourself, to stay stuck. You may even be trying something new—a new therapy, a new bodywork, reading a new book. Notice how you use the new thing to prop up the old, misery-creating thinking. Notice how you use stories and fears to keep from being present.

Then, have a breath. Surrender to each moment. Invite someone in, someone who will help you to let go of the things you hurt yourself with. Let go of thinking you have more to learn, more to gain. Notice that, in the moment, all that you need is already there – because you already are all that you need.

And then, laugh.

Make Contact!

So, how does this week’s article sit with you? What questions do you have? Go to the top of this article, click on the title, and leave a comment or question!

About the Author: Wayne C. Allen is the web\‘s Simple Zen Guy. Wayne was a Private Practice Counsellor in Ontario until June of 2013. Wayne is the author of five books, the latest being The. Best. Relationship. Ever. See: –The Phoenix Centre Press

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