Self is a Subconscious Projection
It’s possible for an inward observing mind to discover the emptiness of a personal self or “me”, that thinks, that intends, that chooses, that perceives, experiences and acts.
A sudden shift can occur where the subconscious self is seen through. It’s a bit like waking up from a dream, where during the dream, the dreamed identity seemed real.
Start by sitting quietly and just notice any sounds. Is a sound just happening without the necessity of feeling “I am hearing a sound”? The “I am hearing” is just an after thought. Sounds are occurring but not “to” a someone like a middle man who is listening. That sense of there being a “listener” is imaginary.
Work with this exercise concerning the “immediacy of sounds” for awhile until an insight arises. An experience of true anatta (no self) can arise.
Once this anatta insight arises, one can then do the same exercise with the other four senses. Continue until it’s seen that all five sensory experiences do not need a perceiving self as a middle man observing them.
Another example would be a moment of “seeing”. Seeing is a perceptual moment of colors. When eyes open in daylight, there is an immediate experience of color. That perception of color
at first, is absent the sense of “I see”. That “seeing” is anatta, without a self.
When the anatta insight is obvious with all five senses, then apply the exercise to “thoughts”. Take time with this one in order to see a thought occurs without a thinker or a contemplator of thoughts. Thoughts don’t occur “to” a me, nor are they “mine”. They just occur as sounds just occur. No one has ever thought a thought. There is no “thinker” just like there is no “sounder” or listener. This applies to imagination, fantasies and memories too.
When the anatta (no self) insight occurs clearly, regarding thoughts and all mental cognitions, then notice the feeling of identity as “me” when it arises. That “me” feeling is not occurring to another, real “me”, it is occurring in the empty mental space of anatta, that has no “me”, is not a “perceiver” or a witness. That “me” is an imaginary “me” identity projected by the subconscious mind, no more real than the “me” in last night’s dream.
When this anatta insight occurs regarding the “me” itself, the seeker, the practitioner, the anxious one, the fearful one and the suffering one, all suddenly disappear. They were never real at any time, they were just imaginary projections of the subconscious mind. Nothing was ever problematic, except in the imaginary narrative of the “me”.
The core of dualism is the presence of a “me” to which all phenomena seem apart from, and to whom phenomena seem to appear.
A Buddha is a consciousness without a “me”. A citizen of samsara is a consciousness where the subconscious is projecting an imaginary “me”.
A great video that can trigger and enhance the anatta insight: Neuroscience and Free Will https://vimeo.com/90101368