The ways of self-cultivation are likely to be many, but it also seems likely that, given our limitations, we would do best to settle on only a few, or perhaps just one. I have chosen to look at those things in me which disturb my peace. I might call these 'issues'. All issues arise as a consequence of self.
It is probably the case that self is a complete fabrication, an insubstantial piece of fantasy imagined by the electro-chemical processes of the physical brain. Nevertheless, it is a given of the human experience and we do well to explore its nature so as to discover how best we might make it work for the happiest experience of ourselves.
Issues are those responses of self to the world and to itself which, as I have said, disturb our peace. We might describe some as minor, others as major, yet in the end, for the 'normal' person, they are all minor in that they cause no serious harm to ourselves or others, and they are all major, in that they all point to a gate through which we might pass into a happier mode of being.
Issues are not difficult to find; there is little that self does or imagines that is not an issue by virtue of its being an expression of self. For those without a desire for change or a remonstrating mind (issues, by way of their absence or presence), there are few issues at all. What's wrong with a bit of road-rage? The bastard cut me off! But for those engaged in the process, there is an endless flow of possible gates.
If issues are gates, then they are something we affirm even as we wish to transcend them.
Given the plethora of issues, it might be wise to focus on just a few to see how they might help us to realize a way of being more transcendent of self. I have chosen, among others, my tendency to reference the opinion of others as a means to my own affirmation, or lack thereof. Awareness of this tendency in action provides me with an immediate insight into the nature of self, and enables me to imagine a different way to be. This is why I worry this particular bone.
This is by no means an uncommon theme. When the sages speak of transcending 'accomplishment' and 'failure', 'fame' and 'disgrace', this is precisely what they have in mind. Zhuangzi's "far and unfettered wandering" has transcendence of these egoic issues as its precondition. Hidden in the vastness, there is nothing to which to reference and no need to do so. Self has been turned inside out, has been transformed from the fearfully insular to the vastly open.
All that self does is intended to confirm itself; being, in reality no-one, it is a ceaseless striving to be someone.
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