I’ve started reading When the Heart Waits by Sue Monk Kidd. I loved her other book, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, because of how she pursued her ideas. She would be overcome by an experience, paint it or write it or meditate it, then research the symbol, have a profound dream, experience an extraordinary coincidence, then the symbol starts showing up everywhere, followed by another profound experience that moves her deeper into the issue. What a way to live. Traveling, pursuing symbols, experiencing remarkable responses in nature and other people, researching passionate interests, having mind blowing insights, then writing about it.
She uses the word “Christ” and “Christian” a lot which kind of makes me cringe because I think those words have way too much fundamentalist baggage and association to closed-minded ideas and stereotypes. She had a lot of revelations in The Dance of the Dissident Daughter that seems to have had a surprisingly little impact on her state of mind and her writing, at least where she is picking up at the start of this book.
So far it is about the search for the true self, the removal of the series of masks we wear and present everywhere we go. She emphasizes the importance of stillness and waiting, and how unbelievably difficult it is for most of us in modern society.
My thesis in part was on the true self and how to move beyond the ego. I think this is why I like her books so much, because they show a way to make this happen. But I find myself beginning to be skeptical of this “true self” talk. As if a static self cowers under all the masks and layers, clutching the vulnerable shadow that was put away as too shameful to be seen. And if you dig deep enough and process enough, it emerges like “Hey, here I am! You’re real now!”
In Thoughts without a Thinker: Psychotherapy from the Buddhist Perspective, Mark Epstein proposes that the true self, and finding the true self, is a myth within therapy.
In the Buddhist view, a realized being has realized her own lack of true self. She is present by virtue of her absence and can function effectively and spontaneously in the world precisely because of her ability to see the self as already broken. It is not necessary to impute a true self to imagine qualities that we associate with emotional maturity. Indeed, it may be the absence of grasping for that essential core that unleashes the flood of affect that makes us feel most real. This is the kind of paradox that both Winnicott and traditional Zen masters thrive on: the true self experience that has come to preoccupy Western analysts is achievable most directly through the appreciation of what the Buddhists would call emptiness of self. 
Epstein adds: “The crumbling of the false self occurs through awareness of its manifestations, not through the substitution of some underlying “truer” personality.” 
Perhaps it is re-training the mind, practicing attention and awareness, becoming an observer instead of a reactor to the critical, negative voice of the ego. Once re-trained, the experience of the self becomes the brilliant white light of the movie projector instead of the jumbled, endless drama and content of the movie screen. The self is nothing, it just is. It experiences, it observes, it radiates without changing shape. It moves from moment to moment without becoming stuck in repetitive, painful patterns. The qualities of spontaneity emerge as well as the ability to experience the full spectrum of feelings without repression and superimposed masks.
Maybe Kidd will come to these realizations or maybe something different. I’ll keep reading.