The questions “Who am I?” “Who are we?” and “What is consciousness?” is fascinating to think about. These issues carry within itself another, even more important question: “Where do I belong?” The answer to that question is discovered within a fellowship of friends. I believe belonging is a core need of nearly all of us in the quest for answers and truth. On my postmodern journey (belief there is no one objective “truth” rather many possible intrepretations of any event) I connected with the article, The Essence of Self (Russell, 2003). Russell believes when the mind is quiet we are experiencing our true essence which is a state of pure consciousness. He says we develop our sense of self from people, places and things. I have learned that the challenge is to understand that “I am” not my appearance, my work, my achievements, or my bank account, etc. This “I am” realization is a sense of my own presence, it is not thought. Russell describes this well in the following quote:
“When the mind is silent, and the thoughts, feelings, perceptions, memories with which we habitually identify have fallen away, then what remains is the essence of self, the pure subject without an object. What we than find is not a sense of “I am this” or “I am that,” but just “I am.” (p. 12).”
It is during meditation that I sense this “I am.” I feel my own presence (authenticity) in my breathe with such peace that my thinking, emotions, physical body, and the passing of time, seem insignificant in comparison to it. It takes me beyond what I previously thought of as “myself.” This presence is essentially me and at the same time greater than me.
Russell (2003) also delineates the concept of self, time and space in his article and I connected with his words. I can observe when my mind gets caught up in identification with the past and continuous compulsive projection into the future. I believe Russell would say when I’m getting caught up in mind thought I am building my sense of self from time. As soon as I am conscious of this mind process, I become present. I seize to be my problems and emotions; I stop acting out my compulsive projections and instead become consciousness of which I really am. The challenge is to stay in the present moment and stop punishing myself for behaviors in the past or with anxious predictions about the future.
Ken Wilber’s integral psychology model has also had a dramatic impact on my postmodern learning. He has put into words my spiritual awakening with such accuracy that my sense of belonging to something greater then myself is much stronger. I have learned of this postmodern thinking and shared experiences after the fact and it gives credibility to Wilber’s teaching and my awakening. A chapter in his book, Integral Psychology (2000), “The Archeology of Spirit” was the most profound. He writes about the experience he calls looking deep within the mind so well. “In its gentle whisperings, there are the faintest hints of infinite love,” and “It is reached by a simple technique: turn left at mind, and go within” (p. 111). The descriptions are wonderful. I have felt the hints of infinite love during meditation and as a result, in moments of dialogue with others.
Wilber speaks of “at-home-ness” with the world developing deeper as the self integrates various “streams.” I think of this as having a place wherein I fit, at home with self, with family, with the world. Spirituality helps me find that experience by accepting myself, including my relationships with others, and especially my family. Because of this, I have learned to see my relationships in a different way and to better fit with others. Wilber calls this process identifying, “If you identify with your friends and family, you will treat them with care. If you identify with your nation, you will treat your countrymen as compatriots. If you identify with all human beings, you will strive to treat all people fairly and compassionately, regardless of race, sex, color, or creed” (p.116). This passage struck me because when I had a spiritual experience as a result of losing my forearm, I than possessed the most profound need to connect with others. This need helped me overcome the uncomfortableness with looking different and gave me the courage to be myself. This loss was a powerful lesson in understanding that I am not my body or mind and that my real self had not changed though my outward appearance had.
My postmodern learning journey requires an examination of my invisible inner world through introspection, interpretation, and conscious awareness of my mind talk. My beliefs about subjective reality have been changed by what I am learning. We live in an exciting time of conscious evolution in which the scientific method is inadequate in its explanations. Modern science is uncomfortable with subjective uncertainty as are most of us. The challenge of nonresistance to change and unpredictability is shaped and affected by our own culture, community and compulsive thoughts. We are the shaper of our reality, environment and culture. The good news is that we do have some control over our thinking and hold the key to our personal freedom from self-bondage.
Thank you for reading this article. I’ve dedicated my personal and professional life to the importance of non-violence and self-love by teaching from my experience. In the past, I’ve sacrificed my emotional and spiritual well-being for perfectionism and looked to others for approval at the cost of trusting my intuition and developing my self-worth. As a result, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to put an end to the self-judgment. And, as I learn and grow, I teach self-compassion and give advice I use myself, in the hopes that it helps you to improve your own life.
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