“Everybody can be great – because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve … You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
When they hear about self-awareness, most people initially react saying that it sounds a bit selfish to spend so much time looking for or at your ‘self’ and exploring, understanding and caring for its needs. I do understand that: the world is already so full of selfish individuals that we definitely do not want to add more names on the list!
But there is one thing that anyone who has travelled the journey knows: when you ‘find’ yourself and become aware of who you truly are, two things happen:
- One is that, because you recognise your own seed of identity, you become able of recognising the identity of others and respecting their need for expression, growth and realisation.
- The other is that you discover a pool of genuine goodness, a living source of conscious energy motivated by a single intention: benevolence. From presence arises a creative force that has also been called ‘love’.
This may sound like a blasphemy to people who have been educated to think of themselves as competitive creatures, but both empirical observation and personal experience seem to indicate that self-aware individuals who cultivate harmony with their own self are usually willing – committed? – to do something good for the whole. They experience feelings of fullness, contentment, gratitude and with it comes a spontaneous generosity of being that overflows on others.
As paradoxical as it sounds, it is the absence of self-awareness that makes a person selfish whilst self-aware individuals tend to spontaneously and effortlessly be concerned by other people’s needs. Why? Probably because they know their own.
- When you are aware of your own behaviour and have tried to change it, you are more inclined to forgive others for their bad habits;
- When you feel your feelings, you know that being criticised, hurt or punished doesn’t help and you stop trying to change others through coercive behaviours;
- When you are sincere with your motives, you know that you usually only do wrong because you do not know of a better option or, if you do know it, feel helpless and disempowered to use it – and here again, it is obvious that the same applies to others.
- When you have observed your mind, you have realised that it is your thoughts that are the real causes of your success and failures, joys and sorrows. You stop blaming others, become more accepting, tolerant and understanding.
But the most potent realisation that turns an individual into a more selfless creature occurs when you see the connection between the way you relate to yourself and the way you relate to others.
What you ‘do’ to others is a reflection of what you do to yourself. When you reject them, you are rejecting a part of yourself you dislike and wish you could change; when you throw rubbish everywhere in nature, you express a disdainful disrespect toward your own inner nature or character; when you harm someone or something, you harm your own self, your own conscience.
The real insight here is that it is when we are in a state of self-ignorance or self-forgetfulness that we ignore others and that the greed born of fear, and with it, the jealousy, the arrogance and all forms of aggression and cruelty surface and dominate the game of our life.
Nothing in nature lives for itself. Living systems take from their environment what they need for their own growth, but the purpose of this growth is to contribute to other’s growth. Everything ‘gives’ something and this is what you are looking for in yourself: the ‘you’ that intrinsically, spontaneously, finds joy in giving.
The movement of self-awareness is not a looking ‘at’ yourself but rather a ‘presence’ from where expression stems. It is not a closed circle of ‘contemplating on your navel’ like the French say – when your concerns, thoughts and emotions revolve around your ego – but a ‘living from yourself’: starting your thinking and actions with who you are, truly, fully, wholly, and express that in a spirit of sharing and offering – for the purpose of improving the world around you.
Why should we bother to do that? Because this guarantees that your actions are authentic and have realism, integrity, value and power. That kind of action usually moves things in the right direction because it touches similar energies in others and allows people to be authentic, ‘real’, honest and to reveal their own intelligence and innate goodness. This is a ‘resonance’ that has also been called ‘love’.
Love is not an emotion, a dream or a craving – it is a law of nature. The tree doesn’t eat its own fruit; the river doesn’t drink its own water; the sun doesn’t enjoy its own light – they produce it and give it and (apologies to the strictly scientific mind) this is an act of love.
Love, like the sun, sustains life; like the sun also, it can kill it if it becomes too much (attachment) or not enough (indifference). The formula of love, just like that of authentic success or happiness is, I believe, ‘trust yourself, do everything with the conscience that lives in the heart and leave the rest to destiny.’
Conscience is a creative force motivated by the well-being of all – yours and that of others. When you listen to it, you are connected to a gentle yet well-informed, precise and wise presence inside yourself that is primarily concerned with seeing things as they are for the sake of improving them – making them beautiful, useful, joyful and ‘together.’
And one of the question conscience asks is, “What is the purpose of my life? What am I living for? What am I here to contribute? Do I define my existence in terms of survival, breeding and carrying forward the same patterns that have caused the current capsizing of our modern societies; or am I at the beginning of a new line, a new pathway that will lead to a more better, more loving and enlightened world – at least ‘my’ world?”