Julian Baggini‘s new book The Ego Trick arrived unexpectedly on the doorstep yesterday; thanks, Julian! He sent me a copy because I feature in it, in a small way. We met two years ago, to discuss ideas of self and identity. I described the meeting here, and Christina Alley wrote a considered response which became a post of its own here.
Reading it, I was interested in the thoughts of Jñanamitra, who also transitioned, though not before moving back to a male role for some time, as she was following the path of Dharma, and the Buddhist Order that she followed had ‘a rigid view that your gender is determined at birth and that’s it’.
This is of particular interest given the recent discussion of talking therapies as a ‘cure’ for gender dysphoria. My bold in the final sentence.
‘About three or four years after I was ordained, I began to notice more and more that I’d have a sort of gender dysphoria episode about every month. And I had to finally acknowledge that this was something I hadn’t really dealt with at all.’
It all came to head on a mindfulness retreat. Part of the practice involves observing what thoughts and feelings arise in the mind and considering what such thoughts depend on. What stimulated it? What was the trigger? ‘So there I was, mindful of this arising, that arising, and then I realised that underneath all that was an absolutely steady thing, my gender dysphoria, which wasn’t arising in dependence upon anything- it was just there. And when I spotted that, I had a most cataclysmic spiritual experience. I’ve never had anything quite like that since. The whole superstructure of my motivation for pursuing meditation just disappeared like a pack of cards thrown in the wind, and I realised that there was absolutely no point suffering and I might as well go back and see the doctor again. The whole thing that was putting the brakes on was the idea that I could transform this with insight. I did get an insight, but the insight proved that I couldn’t transform it with insight.’
Ch. 1 (Bodies of Thought) , The Ego Trick Julian Baggini