What is this sense of self, I-ness? How does it evolve?
For most people, their sense of I is this body-mind. I am this person with this name who has these thoughts and feelings and does these things, and so forth. This develops out of childhood, but I won’t explore that here.
Within that I-sense is the ego sense of being a separate, unique person.
Some equate this as THE I-sense or ego that is thence cast off. Thus it may be seen as the bad guy, the thing to get rid of. End the ego!
But that sense of I-ness or person is not an issue. It is a natural part of becoming a complete person. It is what allows us to function in the world like every other sentient being. If I may observe, even the most revered saints and sages have personalities. Some rather distinct ones. (laughs)
The issue with humans is when we become identified with our separateness, it is to the detriment of our wholeness or oneness. So it’s not having a person or sense of I-ness that’s the problem – it’s identifying with that as “me”. If we see this me as a phase, we’ll be less likely to get so stuck.
What is always remains the same. What we’re discussing here is how the I shifts, what it associates with. As our perspective or viewpoint shifts, our I soon follows. We see ourselves to be.
With a spiritual practice that connects us with inner awareness, the witness experience arises. There, we experience ourselves as separate from the body-mind. The body continues to act without our involvement.
When the identification with the separate self falls away, there can be an experience of no-self. No I-ness. The sense of me winds down, leaving us with just silence witness. Some describe this dramatically as ego-death.
Then, at some point, we recognize the silent witness as ourselves. The sense of I becomes less bounded.
Then, there is a shift from being a person experiencing Self to Self experiencing a person. As that settles in, the sense of I becomes the inner wholeness, the big Self.
That sense of Self often expands and deepens over time, shifting the I further.
There can then be another no-self stage if the identity ends separately from what follows. The sense of being this person with a name ends with the core identity.
Then the I becomes progressively associated with everything in unity, similar to prior shifts.
As we evolve, there is a deeper embodiment and more and more becomes associated with the I. We become the cosmic person, the divine, eternal.
All this is Brahman. I am That (Ooops)