If we're willing to look in a deep way underneath the appearances, what we expect to discover—or perhaps hope to discover—is some great, shining image. Most people, deep in their unconscious, want to find an idea of themselves, an image of themselves, that's really good, quite wonderful, quite worthy of admiration and approval. Yet, when we start to peer underneath our image, we find something quite surprising—maybe even a bit disturbing at first. We begin to find no image. If you look right at this moment, underneath your idea of yourself, and you don't insert another idea or another image, but if you just look under however you define yourself and you see it's just an image, it's just an idea, and you peer underneath it, what you find is no image, no idea of yourself. Not a better image, not a worse image, but no image. Because this is so unexpected, most people will move away from it almost instinctively. They'll move right back into a more positive image. But if we really want to know who we are, if we want to get to the bottom of this particular way in which we suffer, arising from believing ourselves to be something we're not, then we have to be willing to look underneath the image, underneath the idea that we have of each other, and most specifically of ourselves.


from Falling into Grace: Insights on the End of Suffering