In meditation and in the general awakened state, I try to practice awareness more so than concentration, partly because the awareness process doesn’t have a strong sense of self.
The confusion is conflating ‘thought process’ with ‘self’—I think therefore I am. Thoughts are just thoughts—they are not the self. Awareness is not the self either. It’s just the brain’s ability to monitor its own processes. Even the sensation of having a ‘self’ is not self; it’s just a sensation. And a perception of self is just a perception and a thought of self is just a thought. Even the process of cognizing a ‘self’ is not ‘self’, it’s just a particular kind of cognition.
‘Self’ is this extra conceptual process that attaches to sensations, perceptions and processes of the mind. Neuroscientists have identified that ‘self’ is an additional cognitive process that happens after the person has had a sensory experience, thought, memory, etc. The person has that experience, and then as an additional mental process, attributes and attaches that experience to ‘self’. They have identified the part of the brain where this process occurs. Furthermore, it’s not automatic; it’s an additional step the brain has to undergo. So it is possible bypass that additional process. Depersonalize all that, and see that one’s mental processes are innately liberated and not self.
‘Self’ must be intentionally created and then vigorously maintained in order to survive longer than a momentary blip; but even that comes to be seen as ‘not self’. ‘Self’ is not a self; it’s just a particular kind of cognitive process. It is a superfluous meaning or label attached to various experiences of the body/mind.
One does not even have to suppress the experience of ‘self’; it’s just a momentary experience. It has no intrinsic or lasting meaning. Like all thoughts and experiences, it comes and goes in an instant. Therefore, one does not have to ‘get rid of’ the self. It’s a fleeting thought or sensation that passes—a neurological blip, a neural instant.
It’s Western Culture that reifies this neurological blip into a Subject or Personality and attaches so much meaning to it. Western Culture makes the reified Self into the Subject and matrix of capitalist accumulation. Perhaps Vedic culture was worse–it deified the blip into a ‘God’, into equivalence with the Universe, the Divine Self or Atman.
That’s why the Buddha’s teachings on the five skandhas was so brilliant. A body is just a body; a feeling or sensation is just a sensation, a perception is just a perception, a thought or cognition is just a thought. None of this is ‘self’. One cannot find a ‘self’ anywhere in these, nor in all of them together.