The one you are looking for,
is the one who is looking.
—Francis of Assisi
Life is not just a privilege – each person also contains the seeds for actualizing their potential. Considered to be the pinnacle of biological evolution, we human beings have the capacity for “self-awareness” – to be conscious of a self that “I” call “Me.” The Self is the most unique feature of experience. It is what makes us human. Establishing a relationship with yourself is, at your most vulnerable and deepest core, an invitation to discover and realize yourself.
Throughout the ages, most cultures and societies, East and West, have esteemed the process of self-knowledge. Today, we have available to us the many gifts of each Wisdom Tradition and can study, synthesize, apply and live practical, self-aware lives utilizing a variety of techniques and work-in technologies. From an Eastern point of view, pure consciousness is our spiritual essence and the personality and ego is what we identify with and present to others and the world.
The self we know is “self-conscious” and is instinctively aware of its own subjective existence, while the self we don’t know remains unconscious and hidden to awareness by the shadows of the personality. Both aspects are not mutually exclusive. Rather, together they constitute the paradoxical polarities that form the whole Self.
Through the miracle of wholeness, we are hard-wired with pure awareness that is intricately woven into the fabric of the universe. Consciousness is curious to experience itself in fullness through you. Cultivating an intention to understand and experience the Self fully, gives directionality to consciousness. With Consciousness at the center of ourselves, we have the capacity to direct and shine the light of awareness in any direction.
What we call Self is made up of a network of energy and information, which gives us the innate ability to identify with the unchanging and timeless aspect of ourselves. We naturally cycle through states of consciousness: waking, dreaming, and sleeping each day. Within waking and dreaming states there are phenomenal states, which arise from interior sources such as bodily sensations, feelings and emotions, thoughts, ideas and imagination, memories, intuitive insights and spiritual inspirations. From exterior sources, the constant stream of information enlivens us through our senses: seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and tasting.
To get to know your self, begin by asking the fundamental question, “Who Am I?” pausing to sink deeply into the center of yourself to listen attentively to your answer.
As you observe, ask:
- Who is asking the question?
- Who is listening?
- Who is the silent witness observing my experience moment-to-moment through what I’m sensing, feeling, thinking and intuiting?
- Who is judging?
- Who is criticizing?
- Who is championing my way?
As you aim your attention toward the Self you are learning how to remember that you are the Self. When you enter into dialog with your interior self you realize that you are always being guided toward the wellspring of lasting joy and happiness, even if the path is difficult and challenging. If you truly listen to what the body is telling you, what your dreams are showing you, what your core-desires feel like, you may discover the many clues toward your path that leads to mind-body healing, functional stress-free living and loving, actualization of your purpose and eventual spiritual transcendence. This is one of the great secrets of the world’s wisdom traditions.
One of my favorite models to help individuals get to know themselves and take responsibility for their creations is framed by mindfulness psychotherapist David Richo. His “5 A’s” – self-attention, acceptance, appreciation, affection and allowance – are the central elements that mindfully cultivate self-intimacy (in-to-me-I-see), genuine self-love and happiness.
As I’ve engaged myself with an inner focus on mining those hidden, un-owned sparkling jewels buried deep in the shadows of my unconscious, it’s taken time to peel back the layers to reveal which wounds were ready for transformation and which gifts are ready for liberation. By attending to what my body tells me and honoring my 4 Doctor needs by grounding myself in their values, I’ve been able to consciously change the quality of my experiences as I recreate myself in wholeness giving me a healthy self-respect for my life experiences.
My journey toward self-acceptance has led me to see others as they are with less projections of what I need them to be. As I have awakened to the vulnerable truth of who I am and who I am becoming, I’ve become more comfortable with accepting my flaws, faults and imperfections. It’s such a relief to come to home to oneself and be filled with a tangible sense of peace that I am just fine, not perfect, just that “I AM”. And, if this is true for me, it is certainly true for you. What is happiness but the joy of loving what is?
Appreciation softens my heart and increases my felt sense of self-worth and contribution. When I recognize and appreciate my own preferences, quirks, gifts, talents and differences, I become centered in my heart and I feel more generous in spirit. By expressing appreciation with myself I see others with greater appreciation for who they are, have compassion for their struggles and feel joy in their achievements.
Affection means different things to different people. How do you communicate affection to yourself? Do you speak kind, encouraging words? Do you give yourself a break when you are tired and over worked? Do you resist temptations that undermine your values? Understanding your own authentic love language and 1-2-3-4 stages of loving is essential to fully expressing and receiving healthy love. Sharing love awakens the luminous love-light of wholeheartedness.
Lastly, allowance gives me the freedom to pursue my own deepest needs, values and wishes while simultaneously allowing others to do the same. It may sound selfish, but when I discovered that I could put “I” before “WE” it was a liberating moment! Allowing yourself to be Selfulness means filling up your Self from the inside!
I have found through my own life journey that the emerging states of my experiences have allowed me to grow and transform, evolving in body, mind and spirit as I come to know myself at different stages of my life. The cumulative blessings of a life-long practice have genuinely supported my continued blossoming and integration as a human being.
As you connect to know yourself, seek to know by Love as well as by observation and thought. Plunge into greater participation with life. Go within. Breathe. Be a silent witness to what you behold.
Committing to a relationship of love with your Self is a never-ending process. As you willingly engage and peek into the shadows, become fearless to embrace your whole Self with Love. Through patience, facing your inner fears and acting with courage, you’ll emerge as a wise, mature, capable, loving and happy human being.
May I show all the love I have
In any way I can
Here, now, and all the time,
To everything and everyone, including me,
Since love is what we are—and why.
Now nothing matters to me more
Or gives me greater joy.
Richo, D. (2002). How To Be An Adult in Relationship: The 5 Keys to Mindful Loving.