Friday, February 17, 2012

Self-Awareness

Scott Bradley


Self-awareness is an attribute by which we define what it is to be human. We are all self-aware. Yet there are degrees and kinds of self-awareness which we do not all share. Much of what we do and say is motivated by inclinations within us of which we are unaware. The work of self-cultivation, as I understand it, is the illumination of these inclinations so as to find their remedy in some larger awareness. Without this illumination, the work cannot be done.

There is a sense in which this activity increases, rather than lessens, the burden of one's egoic existence. One is made aware of one's bondage. There is appeal in the seeming bliss of ignorance, but once the box has been opened, there is no hope of keeping the gremlins within it. Once the work has begun, the happiest course is to see it to its theoretical end. And there is no reason that this project cannot be fun.

Not surprisingly, it is generally easier to see how others fail of self-awareness; we all have our blind spots. With respect to the world at large, this hardly seems worth mentioning; people are generally ‘blissfully’ ignorant of what motivates them and really don't care to know. It is enough to be angry, or judgmental, or offended, or resentful, or covetous. There is little point, practical or otherwise, in attempting to enlighten them.

Within the context of the sphere of which this blog is a part, however, such utter lack of awareness brings one up short. Isn't this what we are all about? Perhaps not. But many of us are. It is disconcerting, therefore, to sometimes see so little of it in evidence. It is not simply that we fail of sagacity — of course we do — but that we fail to understand how it is we do so. None of us is a sage and it is unlikely we will ever be so; it is the path that matters, and that path requires self-awareness.

Experience teaches that there is little point in pointing out the failings of others, even those ostensibly engaged in the process of self-cultivation through self-awareness. The egoic self is a formidable adversary indeed, and we all have our hands full just dealing with our own. At best, one can only re-iterate the importance of looking within.

In the end, the only person we can ever hope to change is ourselves.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

1 comment:

  1. Examples show us that interaction with a community support, which might involve critiquing or questioning another, is beneficial. The success found in Alcoholics Anonymous groups is one of many. People wanting to lose weight find great help in belonging to groups like Weight Watchers. It is the same with many spiritual groups.

    It is a very narrow subjective viewpoint to "do it alone" in our spiritual walk. Even though it is up to the individual to make a change, that is supported through the interaction of other viewpoints and critiquing. Though critiquing may be just a cover to avoid looking at ourselves, that in itself does not mean that constructive criticism, though at times painful, should be baned.

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