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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Meditation is just the first layer of Self awareness

Self awareness is preached as a Mantra by many professionals. It is supposed to be a door towards Enlightenment. The routes suggested to achieve self awareness are different. Some take a simple route of meditation. Some offer Vipassana, a 10 day retreat of silence. Some join movements that promise the path towards self awareness through Yoga. Some join non-religious associations that take you to villages for self-help work in a rural area or help you vitalise your 'kundalini'. Some gurus take you to Himalayas to deliver Enlightenment.

But all these movements of meditation are just the first, even if they are the most important, step towards self awareness. Journey of self-awareness involves moving from one layer to another until you are 'comfortable' with your Self, the way it is.

I have been able to discover these four overlapping layers in the journey of self-awareness:

Layer 1: Self-observation
This is the first layer where we start seeing our own actions, thoughts, opinions, evaluations as a third person. This is a tough step for many professionals because we often are so busy in 'running' that we rarely 'pause' to see ourselves. Some, like my friend, may initially run away from this 'meditation' silence.

Many professionals however remain at this layer , believing that meditating for an hour is the ultimate goal. Some even practice mindfulness, trying to be present in their daily activity. Many feel that 'emptying mind' is enough to achieve self awareness.

If you want to leave this 'practical world' and go and stay in Ashram for the rest of your life, this layer is the last layer to engage. But if you want to use self-awareness to find your happiness in the practical world, then you have to move to the second layer of self-awareness. Because the first and second layer overlap, the first layer is difficult to negotiate simply because it exposes the 'black part' of our Self, which is part of the second layer.

Layer 2: Self-criticism ( Knowing the black side of ours)
The moment we become self-aware, we start seeing the black side of ours. For instance, sometimes we have not helped our friend, when we could have. Or when we felt happiness when our friend was not promoted. Or when we were jealous of our friend's beautiful wife. Or when we could have spoken our 'mind' to our boss, but did not. Or when we acted very selfish with our parents. And on and on.

We all do so many things in our life of which we are not proud of. Sometimes, this list is so long, that facing these sins of omission and commission may lead to depression. Due to this awareness, most of the professionals get stuck in this layer itself. But sooner or later, one needs to move to the third layer.

Layer 3: Self Appreciation ( finding the white side of ours)
After knowing so many negative parts of life, it is so difficult to appreciate ourselves.

Many professionals take an easy route to negotiate this layer. For instance, they try to adopt new beliefs propelled by self-styled gurus.  For instance, they tell us believing that you are 'unique' helps you to balm the wounds. Or believing that 'you must forgive yourself' helps you appreciate yourself. But these change of beliefs is like a 'change of clothes'. It does not work for a long time.

But negotiating this layer is difficult because appreciating oneself involves peeling our own behaviour and understanding the dynamics from which it got invoked. For example, many of our wrong behaviours help us understand the power of 'situation' in which we committed the mistake. Like when we 'bribe' to save time. It also forces us to appreciate the fragile nature of our Type-1 spontaneous mind ( of emotions and biases) that often misdirect our desires and actions. And more importantly, our bad behaviour also uncovers our basket of beliefs (that we have unwittingly adopted from the society around us) that are ruling our daily lives. Such as the belief that 'You can win only if you are honest'. 

Layer 3 overlaps a lot with Layer 2. Only when we start appreciating our Self, the more we are willing to accept our mistakes. In a way, layer 2 cannot be negotiated independently of Layer 3.

Layer 4: Self-acceptance  
Only after we can accept our 'white and black' parts of our Self, we are in the position to accept our Self. Otherwise we either keep on changing Our Self and get attracted to many self-help books which promise you to change any of your faults. Or we live with a false 'sense of bravado' where we think we can do anything.

Only after we accept our self, we can be comfortable in our being alone without fearing the loneliness. When we accept our Self we can be 'happy' with the way we are, or else we constantly try to do something to prove ourself to others. When we accept our Self, we can find what we truly desire without the pressure of friends and well wishers. And only when we accept our Self, we can do what we want because we are neither overexcited by our strengths, nor overwhelmed by our limitations.

Summary

Although self-awareness is important to achieve better results in job, it cannot directly help you produce the other two outputs, work outputs and relationship outputs, that are critical for your success in career.

We should remember that self-awareness is not a magic potion of career success that many self-help books profess to be. Instead, if we understand that self awareness is an important milestone that links all the three outputs, we can find better ways to achieve self awareness. For instance, dense relationship with our partner has perhaps a  much better chance to achieve this 'self awareness' than meditation.

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