We'll call her 'C'. Sweet girl. Enthusiastic, eager to please - really wanted to do a good job. First class intent.
"C", says I. "Can you cut a piece of that cake for the customer?".
She looks at me. Looks at the cake and says "Cake? For the customer? Yes, I can do that." And off she toddles to get a knife. Chooses a knife. Pulls it out and takes it across to the cake. Looks at the knife and thinks about whether it is the correct knife to do the job. Changes her mind.
Takes the knife back.
Chooses another knife. Takes it to the cake. Looks at the cake.
Puts the knife down.
Goes to find a plate. Gets the plate.
Puts it back. Chooses another. Places it next to the cake. Picks the knife up.
Looks at the cake, puts the tip of the knife on the centre of the cake. Moves it over. Puts the knife down.
Gets a napkin, picks up the knife again; decides it's still not the right knife for the job. Goes back to the knife rack and picks out the first one she'd selected.
All the while she's calculating and weighing up the options for the mechanics of cutting the cake. Obsessing over the best way to do it, the correct tools to use, the best position to start the cutting.
Until I snap at her: "C, cut the bloody cake. Just cut it."
See, until she cut the cake, it was just a concept to C. An idea. She was applying a model of cake-cutting without ever actually cutting the cake. Until finally, she was pushed to do it. Without thinking. "Cut the cake, C". C cuts the cake - there's no longer an option to conceptualise the practice of cake-cutting. The knife goes in, the cake gets cut. Job done. And it's obvious at that point that it didn't matter what knife she used or what plate she put it on; the cake gets cut, as only cake can be. And all the rest is window dressing.
And this example is applicable to any area of life. You can posit the possibility of doing something. You can consider notions of it. Draw up a plan. Sketch out a blueprint. Draw up detailed instructions. Write a manual and expound a theory. But in the end, the only way to do it... is to do it.
Yeah, it's good to have a plan of action and a tried and tested method, honed by people before you, who've floundered and failed and worked out what didn't work so that they can tell you the most efficient and effective way to get it done. So that when they say 'do it', you know that's the best course of action.
Stop thinking about HOW to do it and just do it.
And nowhere does this apply more urgently or with more relevance and importance than to looking at the reality of whether or not there is a you.
You can think about what you think you might be. You can practice looking for yourself. You can medidate on your higher self. You can read up on the best method of dissolving yourself. You can discuss the notion of no-self. You can think about the idea and about how what you are is just a thought. But until you look; actually look to see whether there is a real, findable, seeable, identifiable self, then you're just thinking about cutting the cake.
It doesn't matter how keen you are, how enthusiastic or earnest or desperate; until you pick up the knife and get the cake cut, the cake will stay sitting there uncut.
Pick up the knife. Cut the bloody cake.
Look. What you are is a thought. A belief. Look.
P.S. Needless to say, C is no longer trying to cut cake in my employ. She's 'thinking about cutting cake' somewhere else.