What is really… real?

3 min readOct 7, 2023

If the present moment is “all that is real,” and the present moment vanishes, is anything really real?

If the ego isn’t the real, authentic self, is there a self beyond the ego? And if so, how do we come back to it?

When we look for that within us that is permanent, it is quite elusive:

Thoughts come and go
Emotions come and go
Activities, personalities, relationships come and go
Life itself comes and goes

I temporarily exist as a body. But even during this life, the atoms that made up my body when I was younger have been completely replaced by other atoms.

If we strip away everything that changes, is anything left that we can identify as our true self? A self beyond this ever-changing physical life? Or is the self only “a mass of constantly changing, causally connected physical and mental phenomena,” as suggested by Buddhist philosophy Rupert Gethin in The Foundations of Buddhism?

Whether or not the self exists independent of physical and mental events, we can discover our basic human nature through meditation. We can temporarily dissipate the obscuring clouds of the mind to more directly experience the safety, freedom, love and connection that lie at our core.

Having glimpsed this nature, which is perhaps the nature of the true self, what then is the relationship between this truth and the external realities of life, love and all of Earthly manifested reality? Is all that I experience in life a shadow, or a pale reflection of the wordless peace and bliss that is buried deeply within?

None of this proves my existence as anything other than a series of self-perceptions that I cling to, perhaps out of fear of the oblivion of death, or out of the desire to transcend my nature and claim some special importance.

Maybe awareness of a true self, a forever ongoing part of the Universe, requires faith as opposed to intellectually satisfying proof. After all, if there is a true self, it exists before language; words would only crudely approximate and diminish its nature.

A central theme of my OCD was an attempt to convince myself that I was uniquely me; I would mentally repeat lists of…




Essays, stories & poetry about OCD, culture and society, by Eric. OCD-Free the book: https://shorturl.at/nGR59