Why do we feel the need to “find” ourselves? Are we lost? No! We’re already here! But we might feel lost. Why?
We are aware of what is around us, i.e., what is not us. When we focus outward, life is interesting. It flows. This is how we were in our childhood. Eventually we became aware that we existed, i.e., self-aware (either because others said things about us or as a natural part of our development). Now when we looked outward, we had the idea that we were ignoring ourselves, i.e., we were “losing” ourselves in the process. In reality it is impossible to lose oneself, since we are the self. We can ignore it, but we can never lose it.
Being aware of our self, we started focusing on it. “What can I get out of this?” “What do they think of me?” “I feel happy/sad.” “How do I compare to him/her?” We tried to turn our self, which is a subject, into an object. This painful mental process has persisted in us for decades. We are like cameras trying to take photos of ourselves. It can’t be done, but we torture ourselves trying. Rather than simply being involved in activities and observations, we think to ourselves, “How does this affect me?” This kills our experiences. It might seem that by thinking about ourselves, we have “found” ourselves, but all we’ve “found” is thoughts about ourselves, which prevent us from being absorbed in pure experience.
All this thinking has caused us to live a lie via the false self of thought (ego). If we would stop thinking about ourselves, and just be conscious without being self-conscious, our experiences would be clear and untainted because there would be no nagging thoughts of a self interfering. This is the essence of the “no self” philosophy: it’s not that the self doesn’t exist; it’s that we should not focus on it.
The only way to find our true selves is to stop thinking. At first this might seem like an exercise in becoming unconscious because we believe that we can’t be aware without thought. We believe this because we have spent so long living in our minds, which must think in order to function. But the mind is not us - it is just a tool, like an arm or a leg. We certainly can be aware without thought. Animals and small children are. We can be aware without thought because we are awareness! Therefore we can simply choose not to think and just be in the moment. This will bring pure awareness. This is how we find ourselves. It is what brings peace and bliss.
Some people seem to be able to not think much or to not be very self-aware. We might simultaneously resent and envy them: we resent them for living such “shallow” or “unexamined” lives, and we envy them because they seem to be enjoying life more than we are. We might think, “I’m self-aware and I think deep thoughts, so I deserve to be happier than they are.” Doing more of something doesn’t necessarily produce more happiness, enjoyment, or well-being. Every activity is good to a point, after which it can become counterproductive. Too much exercise can cause injury. Too much rest can produce boredom. Too much eating can make us overweight. Too much dieting can cause us to become malnourished. Well, too much thinking about ourselves can make us torture ourselves with worry, regret and frustration, all the while missing out on life.
So we don’t need to find ourselves. We need to lose ourselves! Our false selves, that is. Then the natural bliss of being, which we experienced before we became self-aware, will return. This is not regression to toddlerhood. It is progression to a state of pure being, no longer shackled by the unreality of thought, but fully conscious of reality.