The Meaning of Self-Awareness
I have been thinking about this for years; what do we mean I know my self? This is supposed to mean I, me learning about the self that belongs to me? So I don’t know me but only the self. But who is I and who is the self? Am I the I or the self? Am I the self being observed by the I or am I the I observing the self? And in the first case who is the I observing whereas in the latter who is the self being observed? In this paradox we will try to shed some light in the following lines, the observer and the observed. I think it’s obvious already that maintaining a linear thinking about this issue is not expected to help you much.
I am sure that there are surely times when you have said: “I overdid it”, or “I wasn’t myself”, or “I can’t believe how I have done this” and so on. But let’s stand for a while. How can you do something that a person like you wouldn’t do? Who did that then if not you? Or how can you lose your self, where were you and where the self? Once again we can’t avoid having similar questions like in the beginning.
The Fake Division Between I and Self
I hope you can understand now but you may have never contemplated on this division created only inside our minds. In the latter case, the lack of understanding of this is expected to cause much frustration. Because on the one hand, you think you are in control of yourself and rationally choose your actions. On the other hand there are times that you do some things that you don’t like. This contradiction in most cases tends to increase your egoism as most people after the action try to rationalize that it was their choice and search for ways to justify it. However, even if it remains hidden,the feelings of discomfort are still there.
2 states of Living
An important aspect that can surely help us is when we understand the difference in the quality of let’s say, 2 states. First there is the state that we are carried away. We are lost in thoughts, influenced too much by emotions and we just act. The latter seems to happen habitually. All the above we don’t realise them at the moment they are taking place and we only recall them from our memories as we were hypnotised. Second is the situations that we are consciously in this moment. We have a clear mind, we know why we do everything we do, we observe it happening more or less in an objective perspective and we constantly keep making decisions about our next move. These times are understood in the moment they are happening and we don’t need to be reminded later about their existence.
The creation and characteristics of the I’s
If we observe a baby that hasn’t started talking yet we will notice the spontaneity in its actions. The baby is of course concerned about its individual survival however hasn’t formed an identity yet. There aren’t specific things that fights to acquire or passionately needs to prove or to be compared and so on. But as time is passing and starts talking and creating what we call personality is when all these begin to arise. The toddler and then the boy or girl and so on gradually starts having its own passions. They start becoming jealous, they demand with no reason and so on.
But isn’t it strange? To see most human beings growing older and instead of demanding less they demand more? Instead of recognising more mistakes on themselves they keep recognising even less? What is the mistake in our thinking?
So the more the person grows and the personality is being formed together with it are formed specific blockages. They come as a result of the experiences and the way we received them during our upbringing. And these cause extreme reactions towards specific issues that are being expressed in a habitual manner. The latter is the reason why most of the times they can’t be recognised by the individual, they have been used to such behaviors or ways of thinking that they consider them normal. I mean that there are specific issues that make them angry, specific issues that make them scared, specific issues that makes them jealous and specific issues that make them greedy.
These are the I’s and everyone of us has too many of them. These “entities” have certain general characteristics. One is that they fight between them, they don’t accept the in between, they want full control over the being. Another is that when they take full control we are hypnotised, they govern every step we take, at these moments clarity is lost. That’s why many times we remember what we did later and can’t recognise ourselves. But the damage is not done there. The more they are being fed and they are in control they multiply in similar but more detailed I’s.
They are the heads of the Hydra. Cutting them does nothing to them, not only they still exist but they become even more. Only fire can save you from them.
What we call Self
So what we call self of a person most of the times is a sum up of these I’s that from time to time or all the time are in control of him. However, these don’t necessarily need to exist, as in the babies. What I am arguing is that there is something more behind it, a higher quality that we have forgotten. Our family, our environment, our schools and generally our culture never taught us to look towards there.
We were educated to cultivate these I’s instead. To promote our selves in the society. To protect our selves. To compare. Can you understand how wrongly have we been instructed? All these “entities” that govern our deeper being instead of doing what Hercules did, burning them, we fight tooth and nail to promote them. And we call this self-awareness. We say I am what I am and I don’t want to change. Meaning that we are proud to have our I’s!
And is hard to go beyond that since your own mind is not even helping you. Like I said, the characteristic of the I’s is that they take over. Everything you see you see it from their prism and of course they can’t expose themselves. Therefore it’s not uncommon to have a very proud I convinced that you have recognised all your I’s although this is not possible because the I’s are hidden, you need to be open to the unknown and wait as it’s a gradual process.
All this process is so much of importance that is not a coincidence that the ancient Greeks were saying “Man know thyself and you will know the Universe and the Gods.” Because what you are is something much higher than just the externalization of your egos. At the same time is way more mysterious.
Seeing what’s Behind
But how can you see beyond them? It’s when you are in the 2nd state that I mentioned earlier. When you are detached and look at you objectively. When have the clarity to not be hypnotised by the thoughts. At that moment you are in touch with your essence as a human being. This essence is what you are in reality and of course is beyond any self, it is formless and untouchable but only experienced. This is the observer. By looking towards this direction you can only learn who you really are.
That’s why meditation as a practice is helpful. Because it teaches you how to touch your essence and be an observer. Most meditation practices are trying to put you in the state of uncluttering all the hypnosis of thoughts-I’s and see beyond that. To experience what is behind the thoughts. By closing your eyes and focusing on something is expected to teach you how is the other side, the deeper one when you aren’t anymore governed by your habitual reactions.
But meditation is only a practice that is teaching you how to be in your whole life.You see how it is driving us? We want to have more and more times of clarity. Times that we are the objective observer. Times that we have the alertness to know that an I is trying to take over us and how. This is how it’s being burnt and vanishes.
I think now can be clear another way of explaining self-awareness. As we said what most people consider as self and try to protect it is in fact the I’s. These I’s that promote division, comparison, competition, fear, hatred, jealousy and so on. The deeper level though is when you realise them but get detached of them. Instead of trying to protect them, try to expose them. See how you, the deeper you is being dragged by the idea you have about the self that is made of these I’s. How would you be behaving if there weren’t these I’s? How do these make you act and think and under what circumstances they operate?
This is the real selflessness and not when you call yourself selfless. In the latter case most possibly it’s another I talking and not your essence. As a rule of thumb, the more you give names and characteristics to yourself the more possible that an I is talking. Because else you wouldn’t need to claim something, there isn’t anything to protect as we said, you are what you are but in your essence now, you don’t want to be your I’s and doesn’t matter to you at all how you are being called, isn’t it obvious?
How You and your self are merged
And during this whole process you are building the maturity to reach another level. The point where indeed there is no division and all are one. You remember in the beginning that we said it’s not possible to be an observer of yourself in reality as they are both the same. By vanishing the I’s you are letting your authentic personality come out, your unique tendencies that aren’t a result of egoistic “entities” that take over. That’s why you now act spontaneously. This is when we say there is no thinking process before your actions. Observer and observed are one because there are no considerations. There isn’t anything now to prove, there isn’t anything to gain, you aren’t being compared, judgment doesn’t affect you, you just act naturally and all that matters is contained in the present moment.