The 4th Self

I have this theory that our inner experience, our thought process or stream of consciousness, if you will, is actually three entities fighting for the spotlight. Well, two of them fight. The third one just watches.

There’s the Talker, your loud ego calling most of the shots, the Listener, trying to act authentically but often failing and thus just following the Talker, and the Observer, the quiet third party seeing everything without judging any of it as good or bad.

Most of us spend most of our time wearing the masks of either the Talker or the Listener, when the Observer hat is the one that would bring us the most joy and equanimity. There is, however, a fourth self, and it lives beyond the realm of any of the other three.

We could call this fourth self the “Be-er.” The Be-er just exists. It is not even observing, because it is so fully engaged in life, 100% synced, that there is no inner dialogue – peaceful or disturbing – at all.

The Be-er is the surfer fully experiencing the magic of catching and riding the perfect wave. It is the archer completely engrossed in drawing the bow while taking aim. The Be-er is the person exhaling while looking at a sunset, and with their breath their thoughts leave the brain altogether, if only for a few seconds.

The Be-er is the version of you you might glimpse through meditation or in moments of complete silence. There is no thought, but there is consciousness. You are fully integrated into life. You are no longer a separate entity moving through the world. You are the world and all of its inhabitants. All of its wonders, inanimate or alive. You are life itself.

I know this must sound wishy-washy if you’ve never felt it, but if you’ve ever had a flow experience, most likely in sports or while practicing some art form, like painting, writing, or playing the piano, or even newer creative skills, like video editing or graphic design, you’ll know at least roughly what I’m talking about.

The reason this fourth self is not worth focusing on, in my opinion, is that it is not ours to control. The Be-er will show up when it wants. Flow is the result of the perfect conditions coming together, and they are not conditions we can manipulate, let alone sustain forever.

While some people might have experienced extended periods of being the Be-er, those cases are extremely rare, and anyone telling you they walk around in flow all day most likely doesn’t know what they are talking about – if only for the fact that walking around does not constitute enough of a challenge nor enough stillness to bring about flow in the first place. Can you feel happy while strolling through the city? Joyful? Even blissful? Absolutely. But I doubt you can keep the Talker and the Listener silent for a long amount of time.

Therefore, it still stands that the Observer is the most practical self to “wear” as you go about your everyday life. It is calm, unburdened, rational, and peaceful. It is a great state to be in and makes the business of living about as joyous as it gets. You won’t fret about your problems. You won’t spend hours ruminating on the past or worrying about the future. You’ll simply stay in the now, take each next action as it arises, be it by necessity or by opportunity, and enjoy every moment as much as you can by savoring it rather than rushing to get to the next one.

Whenever the Be-er shows up, enjoy it. It is quite the feeling, this “existing as one’s true self,” maybe the only self there is, the one we all share. But don’t be sad if it doesn’t last for more than a few seconds. You have three other selves to take care of, and life is still a miracle even if you don’t become the Buddha.