But what if the self is not any experience at all, but is merely information in the brain that is the very foundation of all experience? You might be aware of yourself, but that is just an experience. That is not the same thing as the actual self. So when you speak of transcending the self and not becoming a mindless zombie, you would be referring only to the awareness of oneself. But if you were to somehow transcend the actual self, then you would be an actual mindless zombie according to my theory.
It comes down to how the brain determines what is you and what is other. Here is another thought experiment.
One of your arms gets severed from your body and you look down at the ground. You can no longer feel anything. If you were to stomp on your severed arm laying on the ground you wouldn't feel it. So is that severed arm still yours?
What if that arm rots completely where it's just minerals in the ground, would you still call it yours?
If you say yes the every time you urinate or dedicate you are leaving parts of yourself everywhere. Because you lose blood cells and other minerals that get replaced.
The point is that the self has no determined boundary. Where does the self end and everything else begin. Some say there is no boundary and others say there is a boundary but it's difficult to point out.
If you deeply examine this to the core youll discover there really is no self at all. What there is though is a cycle system which goes like this.
Form, Feeling, Awareness, Contact and Consciousness.
Form is the sense data streaming in through a sense organ. Such as light for the eye, or sound for the ear.
Feeling is the immediate response to the data. Recognition.
Awareness is the impression awarded, this being the label, green light, red light, loud, quiet, annoying, scary, etc.
Contact is the aversion, attachment or indifference to that data. Such as you like, hate or don't care about a sight, a sound or taste, etc. You adhere in some way or attempt to avoid it.
Consciousness is the completion phase which clears the data for receiving new data.
This process happens a few hundred times a second. Which is why most people are only aware of consciousness step.
So how were the other steps discovered? Through a process of single pointed concentration. It takes time to develope since we are easily distracted by thoughts and feelings, painful cramps, an itch, a thought like, "I'd rather be watching TV."
When you can focus your awareness on a single object of concentration something unusual will happen. Your thinking will slow down dramatically. Even your breathing will become light and very slow.
When you become so focussed youll begin to experience these steps as your brain continues to attempt to carry them out but they are much slower from this practice. You can clearly see each step as the body feels a sensation like an itch starting but at the first step you can't even tell what it is yet. It has no identity, its just raw "something". Its only later that it becomes recognized as a bodily sensation then you see where aversion arises. "Oh its an itch, better scratch it to make it stop, I don't like this sensation."
You do this whole thing with eyes open, you will experience the stream of eye data attempting to figure out what the eye is seeing. Of even better the sounds. You can become so focussed you can't even name the sounds streaming in, they become meaningless data.
If you continue down this rabbit hole youll come to a point where everything stops. You can't even make out where, when or even if you are anything. There is nothing at all, not even self awareness. Most people think this would be a horrible experience but it turns out that it's just the opposite.
Its called the first Jhana stage. There are three more stages where the self is completely transcended. If you continue this process your entire outlook on the self completely changes. Youll begin to see the self as an illusion if this cycle.