The essence of who we are is deeper than our body or even our thoughts. Something inside us is aware of these!
Peeling back the onion as far as one can, we find that our deepest essence is that awareness. It is most commonly experienced as the voice in our head that looks outward at the world, narrates experience, judges behavior and defines “Self”.
I label this, ego-centered awareness.
Do you ever play “video clips” in your head about things that happened earlier in the day? “Self” curates and judges experience. It is a harsh critic. “Self” seemingly is inescapable, not to say we don’t try. Substances that temporarily loosen its grip have always been popular.
The problems with ego-centered awareness, or “Self”, have been known for thousands of years. Among them are:
1. “Self” is insatiable. When things fail to go our way, we suffer.
2. “Self” is viewed as distinct and separate from everything else, which is the root cause for feelings of isolation and loneliness.
3. “Self” is mortal. This haunts us, even when ignored or suppressed.
Recognizing these and other issues, the world’s wisdom traditions universally advocate abandoning “Self”. Have you ever tried to do that? It’s incredible difficult to silence the voice in our head. Evolution made sure that ego-centered awareness got hard-baked into our DNA.
Finding the proper balance between a healthy self-image and unhealthy self-absorption is like walking down the edge of a knife. No wonder happiness is serious business. If you doubt that, type it into the Amazon bookstore search bar and browse the eighty-thousand results!
Years ago, in a staff meeting, a colleague made a comment that I felt discredited me. After the meeting, I confronted him. Turns out he didn’t mean the comment the way I took it. I was deceived by ego-centered awareness.
After much searching, I have come to the non-original conclusion that when “Self” is my primary context for experience, I suffer. But, what other contexts for awareness are there?
I spent years searching for the answer. Finally, I had to admit that I wasn’t going to be able to think my way to a solution. The reason became clear in hindsight.
Awareness occurs in the present moment. Thoughts are reflections on prior awareness. This means the search for awareness beyond ego could only be conducted by exploring awareness directly. In other words, to practice being aware that I am aware.
Ultimately, this practice revealed five modes of awareness beyond “Self”. They are:
Future posts in this series will address how each of these impact our life.
My objective is to point the way to the single most important thing one can do to improve emotional well-being and increase joy. Namely, to practice watching what awareness is doing. My personal experience is that when this is done, awareness naturally expands beyond “Self”.
Key Principle: Discovering the role awareness plays in life
Key Question: When upset, where is awareness pointed?
Link To Previous Posts: https://tim-coats.com/posting-briefs/