I don’t understand the stuff Sam Harris often says about the self being an illusion.

During meditation, Harris says to look for the self, or look for the one who is looking, or follow another person’s gaze as they’re looking at you, and then you’ll realize that your ‘self’ doesn’t really exist.

Harris’ attitude is that most people don’t understand this at first and that we will later. I find myself thinking that he’s not explaining what he means very clearly. But I can’t tell really if he’s not making sense or if I don’t know enough to understand what he’s saying.

Here’s a transcribed quote from his “Looking in the Mirror” talk near the end of the Intro Course. I think I understand some parts of it.

So as you look at another person and they make eye contact with you, it’s quite possible to follow their gaze back to where you think you are, and to fail to find yourself in a way that opens consciousness to an experience of centerless totality. And in a social encounter, this means many things. It means above all that there is no place from which to be neurotic. There’s no place from which to be self-conscious. Thoughts and emotions can continue to arise, but when you’re looking at another person and they’re looking back at you, and you no longer feel like you’re behind your face, you no longer feel like you’re behind the mask of your face, rather you’re nowhere, you’re simply the condition in which they’re appearing. That is an experience of total freedom, psychologically, in the presence of another. Your attention is totally free, to hear them and see them and relate to them from a position that is completely free of egocentricity. It is literally free of ego, because the ego is simply this feeling of being behind your face.

I don’t get the part about failing to find yourself or the part about being simply the condition in which someone else is appearing. I think it’s good to not be neurotic or self-conscious, to notice your thoughts and emotions but not be swept up in them. I can see how it would be useful to feel like you’re nowhere, like you’re noticing what’s happening in your mind but not bogged down in it. But I think people do have selves. I think we should keep that feeling of having a self, but lose the worry about what people think about us and gain the ability to experience emotions without being controlled by them.