Deconstructing the Myths (Part 1)
UNDERSTANDING THE SELF
An inner voice tells you that there is much more to your life and yourself than you are capable of experiencing at the present time.
Carl Jung defines the Self as the purposiveness of being, a process by which we honor the mystery that we are. It is the totality of all the parts of the psyche – the ego, the conscious mind, the personal and collective unconscious, the persona and the shadow, among other elements of our psychological being. Because of its nature, the Self encompasses an integrated viewpoint of “opposites” that lurk within us – the contained self that we present to the world as a construct of personal and collective experiences, and the self that resides in its purest, infinite form. It is a “wholistic” expression of the personality and the regulating center of the psyche. The Self is a transcendent, unchanging part of ourselves and a manifestation of the God-image within. A conversation with the Self is an encounter with the divine, a numinous experience that leaves us vitalized, enriched and in union with the larger purpose of being.
Our inner dialogue begins with birth and continues until we transition onward. The quality of dialogue is impacted by our history, our earlier interactions with the world and experiences that build the processing and filtration landscape within the psyche. The prevailing questions in this perpetual conversation, at any point in time on the spectrum of our life journey, remain consistently present: Who am I? What is my place in this world? What meaning does my life bear? In essence, all spiritual and psychological paths attempt to answer these questions. Whether by integrating the inner child and strengthening the positive ego, developing our inner intuitive energies to enter into a transpersonal realm, or detaching from our formative ego, the objective is one: To expand our consciousness, and to widen our scope of understanding of who we are. Directing the flow of awareness into our multileveled inner reality necessitates that we acknowledge, accept and integrate the many contradictions of being human... to befriend all that makes us who we are...the good, the bad and the ugly. It is a process of accepting the tension of opposites. We see ourselves as either/or: happy or sad; rich or poor; success or failure; loved or abandoned; conqueror or victim, sane or insane; and so on…We tend to oversimplify our human experience by defining ourselves and others in terms of these dualities which we are conditioned to recognize, rarely allowing our vision to scan the vastness of our existence. We seek to place labels and have definite answers about ourselves and others that will keep our reality secure and fixed.
Mental, emotional and spiritual maturity necessitates that we gradually educate our immature, dualistic minds to embrace the whole of human experience, to transcend oppositional ‘either/or’ thinking, and to allow the wisdom of ‘both/and’. This expansion of our understanding of who we are is the next step in our collective spiritual evolution. On the social level, we need to challenge the oppositional mentality that has produced wars, in which our relationships with "the other" is reduced to the simplicity of seeing everyone as either an ally or an enemy. This mentality of me versus the other is also central to the planetary crisis of ecological exploitation, in which we see humans as separate from the earth, rather than as part of the matrix in which we and the future generations of our species must live in harmony if we are to thrive.
Walking in “shoes too small”, as Jung warned, means that we live in lives too narrow. Just like a beautiful mosaic or an intricate mandala, the coming together of all the fragments is what creates the artistic enchantment. Similarly, there is something that is living us, more than we are living it. Our own individual story unfolds within the world story, and the world story unfolds around our own private, individual stories. Our stories are the embodiment of a set of questions continuously echoing in the front and recesses of our psyche. Some questions are conscious, while others are unconscious. The more conscious we are of listening in and addressing these questions, the more fully and purposefully we will experience our lives.
Knowledge of the Self is knowledge of that which is mysterious, unknowable, and expresses itself autonomously. The ego has no control over the manifestations of the internal real truth. This truth has a life of its own and despite all efforts to resist that unknown part of ourselves, it may appear physically, emotionally or spiritually in ailments, dreams, visions, and guiding voices (regardless of direction). You can never come to your self by building a meditation hut on top of Mount Everest. The self appears in your deeds, and deeds always mean relationship.
What is important here is the understanding that self-knowledge is not about making the unknowable Self knowable, but rather to acknowledge its mystery, and to learn to live with its fiction, as part of who the true Self is.
I am more than a drop in the ocean…I am the ocean itself…
Find a quiet place. Turn off the lights. Close your eyes. Connect with your breath. Feel the expansion and contraction of your physical body. Expand your abdomen upon inhalation and relax the abdomen upon exhalation. Continue to take a few breaths while sitting in your quiet space. Ask for guidance from your inner divine-self in directing you onto your path. Ask to see what it is that prevents you from living a more fulfilled, purposeful life. Listen in and observe the forces that are pulling you in the other direction. Write or draw what comes to you. Ask for guidance through a vision or dream then record the occurrence. Check in with yourself to see whether you trust or do not trust this innate wisdom. Allow yourself to trust.