Having awareness is central to one’s development. It’s what enables you or me to self-realise, at whatever level is appropriate for us. Lacking awareness means that we miss out on crucial data, as it were, and we are potentially ill-informed and misdirected.

Knowing ourselves for who we really are

Self-awareness means knowing yourself, warts and all, your patterns of behaviour, your tendencies, your beliefs, your hang-ups, your dark side. It also shows us what is so great about ourselves, what works, what serves us well, our skills, our character. We might learn too what others appreciate and value about us and how they feel around us. This process, awareness-raising, isn’t where we get to feel bad about ourselves. In fact thinking ill of ourselves also shows us ways that don’t serve us. It’s really instead where we can come to love and appreciate ourselves for who we are, as too we can also come to value others.

We need to do our work. It requires honesty with oneself, as well as with others. It’s facing and dealing with the truth, meeting our inner demons, as well as discovering our angel within. How do we show up in the world and deal with others? Where do we ill-serve others? Where are we a contribution?

“I don’t really know you”

A breakthrough in my personal development came on a workshop where we were invited to come dressed as some aspect of our shadow. The shadow, in Carl Jung’s terms, is that part of ourselves we don’t always know or own. I came as a lion, a rather floppy, amiable one (my birth sign is Leo). I was asked to stand up and talk about it. It didn’t work! A friend of ours in the group gave me feedback. “I know you, John, but then I don’t really know you,” she said. It was a shock. Mr Pleaser had been exposed!

I’d also been told by a clairvoyant that I was like the cartoon characters, the Mr Men. “Will the real John please stand up”.

Who am I? It kick-started a lengthy but very fruitful journey, with a Gestalt therapist and others, which helped answer the question. I started to “get it”. Thank you, Mary. You were a great contribution.

Witnessing”: seeing ourselves

Sometimes our learnings come from others. Sometimes they come in books we read read. Sometimes they are major events that force us to confront a truth. It could be colleagues at work. It might be a bereavement. It might be a workshop!

What we can develop with self-awareness is what is called The Witness. It’s the part of ourselves that sees our self in action. You might like to try it. Imagine a part of you who steps outside of you and observes you. He or she is impartial, just an observer. They don’t judge you: that’s more ego. The Witness observes the Ego, compassionately, gently. They don’t give you a hard time: that can be more ego.

This ability can enable us to detach ourselves from our ways of being that don’t serve us. Some call it our Higher Self.
You can also know this part of you in meditation or in practicing mindfulness.

The Witness is our teacher. It also helps us connect with a deeper part of ourselves.

Knowing that we are so much more

With self-awareness practice, it can work at different levels. There’s the everyday behaviours, thoughts and feelings that we can deal with. We can come to know ourselves in far more insightful and powerful ways. And we come to know ourselves at profound levels too. This is arguably the most beneficial result of this voyage of self-discovery.
We are so much more than the little, sweaty ego that we grew up with, most of us. This is ahamkara, the limited self, a false identification. Something far more profound lies within, Consciousness itself.

This awareness happens for far more people than is commonly thought. If you want to know more about this, I recommend the book “Out of the darkness” by Steve Taylor, a Transpersonal psychologist who researched the phenomenon. It’s superbly uplifting.

You don’t have to be the Buddha to have some level of profound awakening. It’s important not to judge it or measure its extent: more ego. Just accept whatever happens. It’s probably perfect. We simply need to allow the process to unfold.

Awareness can be cultivated over time. No rush. It’s our ego world that rushes: want, want, want. It’s a self-discipline we acquire. There are many ways to do this, many traditions. It’ll be what serves you best. Patience and commitment.

And lots of love.