Once upon a time, ten men were making their way across a jungle. After arriving at a wide, swiftly moving, six-foot deep stream, they decided to cross it. Reaching the opposite bank, one of the men counted the members, forgetting to include himself. He shouted, “There are just nine of us! Someone is missing!”
Another man decided to check, so he recounted the group, but also forgot to include himself. “Yes, you are right,” he said, “there are just nine of us, so someone is missing.” One by one, the others also counted the members, each forgetting to include himself. Soon they were crying because they suspected one of their members perished in the stream…
Before returning to the story, take a moment to think of five great people, five people that you respect and admire. Did you think of five people that you look up to?
Why didn’t you include yourself in the list of five people? Aren’t you just like each of the ten men in the jungle who failed to include himself? Virtually all people are guilty of this flaw. That is, when they consider illustrious people, they never include themselves.
That’s because most people don’t realize how magnificent they are. The few people who do are called self-realized, or said to have reached self-realization or enlightenment. These are other ways of saying they have discovered their True Self. Embarking on the journey of self-discovery is the greatest adventure that life has to offer.
We can loosely divide the way we experience life into four ways or levels. First we have the pessimists. They believe life is a struggle, full of suffering, and pointless. Next we have the optimists. They believe difficulties can be overcome, enjoy life, and have a reason for living. Whenever they are unhappy with their circumstances, they work on self-improvement. Their deeper understanding of life brings them many rewards, including happiness.
But some adventurers continue on, exploring a deeper level. They make exciting discoveries. They learn that they are not what they thought they were! Although they previously had self-doubt, fears, and limitations, after uncovering their True Self, they discovered they have no limits. Unlike optimists that are satisfied with merely repairing a damaged self, these adventurers work on remembering, reclaiming, and restoring their perfect self, which was always there, waiting to be claimed.
Our True Self is our true nature, and it is clearly visible in infants, for they are trusting, loving, courageous, curious, and cheerful. They are explorers, adventurers, and discoverers. But as they are raised by parents and guided by teachers and society, they are unwittingly programmed to believe they have many weaknesses and imperfections. This transformation from perfection to problems, or True Self to False Self, happens so quickly that we soon forget who and what we really are.
The adventurers who take the trouble to discover their True Self are well rewarded. For the ordinary happiness known by optimists gives way to endless joy and freedom. However, adventurers also discovered what Czechoslovakians have long known, “The person who God shows a treasure to must dig it out himself.” (Czechoslovakian proverb) That is, there is some work involved.
Just as there is a formidable chasm between our True and False Selves, there is a huge gap between the third and fourth levels of experience. The first three levels are psychological, but for the fourth and final level, we must leave the realm of psychology and enter the field of spirituality. Yet, doing so is perfectly natural and scientific. After all, what am I? Am I not a swarm of incessantly moving molecules? How is that any different from you? And what are molecules? Aren’t they composed of atoms? But what are atoms? They are composed of subatomic particles. As we delve deeper and deeper into the ultimate composition of the universe and the ‘glue’ that holds it together, we reach the nonphysical, which we can label as immateriality, energy, or spirit.
So, what am I? At my deepest level, hidden in the recesses of my being, I am spirit. The word ‘spirit’ is just another label. We can choose to use different words. I choose to call it LIFE. Life expresses itself through me, you, and everything in the universe. We are the notes in its majestic symphony. I can no more be separated from life than sunbeams can be separated from the sun.
So, the greatest adventure that life offers us is the discovery of our spiritual True Self. This discovery awaits all spiritual seekers. It is not an intellectual exercise but a life-transforming experience. It is akin to a near death experience; it completely liberates us.
The pessimist is locked in a prison cell of his own making. The optimist has unlocked the door of his cell and is free to roam anywhere in the prison. The adventurer who has discovered his psychological True Self found the key to the prison and is free to roam anywhere in the city and country. But the seeker who discovers his spiritual True Self knows unabated freedom. He is free to roam anywhere on earth and beyond.
Adventurers who discovered their psychological True Self, see themselves in a very positive light. They may see themselves as brilliant scientists, world class athletes, nurturing parents or teachers, inspiring leaders, social activists. But for seekers who found their spiritual True Self, these descriptions or labels are far too restrictive. For they see themselves and their possibilities as boundless as the universe. Although adventurers experience love, spiritual seekers become love itself, for that is the nature of our spiritual True Self. These enlightened beings radiate compassion wherever they go, for they are profoundly in love with all that is. As for freedom, Walter A. Keers explains, “If you are enlightened, you are not free as some people would say, but you are freedom itself. Not like a bird in the sky, but like the sky itself.”
The question is, then, how do we uncover, recover, and discover our psychological and spiritual True Selves? Read on to learn how.
Discovering Your True Self
The most important question of all. Many people are on a quest seeking to discover whether God exists, what happens to us after death, and what the purpose of humanity is. Few people, however, are asking the most important question of all: “ Who or what am I?” What good are the answers to the other questions if we don’t even know who or what we are? Most of us are asleep. We’re zombies. We exist, but don’t live. We see, but don’t watch. We hear, but don’t listen. We speak empty words and eat without tasting. We rush on our way without feeling the wind on our face, the sun on our arms, and the grass beneath our feet. Why chase after life-after-death when we ignore life-before-death? Why do we pass through life unaware of the greatest treasure of all, our True Self?
The way we are. As explained earlier, we were raised by imperfect parents in an imperfect world. In our early years, most of us were exposed to criticism. Not knowing any better, we accepted the criticism of adults as the truth. Some of the thoughts that flowed through our minds may have included, “I am lazy. I am stupid. I am bad. I am worthless. I can’t do anything right.” First we were criticized; then we criticized ourselves. We identified with the negative thoughts. We gave them life. We believed the thoughts were us. Later, we started criticizing others, in the vain hope that by dragging them down we would be uplifting ourselves. Our own feelings of inadequacy led us to treat others unfairly. Naturally, our victims fought back by criticizing us, thereby perpetuating the problem.
The way we were meant to be. To discover your True Self, you need to understand the roles of Things, Thoughts, and the Thinker. Things stimulate our senses and cause thoughts to arise in our consciousness. After, licking an ice-cream cone, for example, my stimulated taste buds may cause me to think, “Wow, this tastes great!” Thoughts are powerful tools. They allow us to advance. Ice-cream tasters and other experts working for the ice-cream factory used the power of thought to develop new, delectable flavors. We are poised to explore space, build new super computers, and discover cures for deadly diseases all because of the power of thought.
I am not the thoughts that flood my mind, but I am the Thinker that uses the thoughts to create. That’s our legacy. That’s what we were meant to be. Unfortunately, many are still trapped in their thoughts. They don’t realize they are the Thinker and not the thoughts. They allow their thoughts to control them instead of them controlling their thoughts. This is a recipe for disaster because our thoughts are created by things and events that we have no control over. Therefore, if we allow ourselves to drift in the tide of our thoughts, we will have no control over our destination. We must reclaim our True Self, The Thinker, and analyze our thoughts as they appear. We must be critical thinkers, tossing aside every useless or negative thought while using every positive thought to bring us nearer to our full potential.
The way out. How do we crawl out of the quicksand of our thoughts and assume our rightful role as The Thinker, our True Self? A good way to begin is with a simple meditation technique. Choose a comfortable room where you won’t be disturbed. Wear loose-fitting clothes. Sit straight, yet comfortably. Close your eyes to remove distractions. Breathe slowly and deeply. Relax. Allow your thoughts to flow freely. Don’t try to control them; merely observe them.
Another name for your True Self is The Witness. Assume the role of The Witness by witnessing your thoughts. Do not analyze them. Above all, don’t be judgmental. Merely observe and accept. If a negative thought arises, don’t say to yourself, “I’m too negative. I need to change.” Just observe; don’t judge. But if you do start criticizing yourself, that’s okay, too. Witness your self-criticism. Step back and observe, just like you’re watching someone else. In fact, that’s what you are doing. You are observing someone else because the thoughts are not you. The thoughts come and go. They fade away and change. But your True Self is changeless.
Although the technique is simple, it is not easy to do. You are so entrenched in your thoughts that you will find it almost impossible to step back and remove yourself from them. But that’s okay. That’s to be expected. Practice this technique for five to ten minutes at first, gradually increasing it to twenty minutes. Over time, you will be able to witness your thoughts. At first, just for a fleeting moment. But as time passes, you will be able to witness your thoughts for longer and longer periods.
The technique may be simple, but the rewards are great:
- Once you learn how to witness your thoughts, you will realize that you are not your thoughts, but you are The Witness. This realization is a small, first step in discovering your True Self. But compared with where you were before, it is a giant step forward.
- By learning how to accept your thoughts without self-criticism, you learn how to accept yourself. You will be more at peace with yourself. Importantly, when you stop criticizing yourself, you will stop criticizing others, which means that you will make this world more peaceful.
- By learning how to witness your thoughts, you are releasing their power over you. You are now prepared to reverse roles. That is, you are ready to start controlling your thoughts, instead of vice versa. Start witnessing your thoughts throughout the day. As you travel to work, as you wait in line, as you take part in a meeting. Observe, analyze, and manage your thoughts. Weed out the trash and nourish every thought that has potential.
Do you want to meet a wonderful person? Try getting acquainted with yourself! The meditation technique I described is small, and simple while difficult, but as Lao-Tzu wrote, “All difficult things have their origin in that which is easy, and great things in that which is small.” Once you discover your True Self, you will want to live a life of action, for it is in action that you share your gifts with the world.
Discover Your Greatness by the Actions You Take
Sometimes it takes a shock to bring us to our senses. Catastrophic news can jar us from our slumber and cause us to reconsider how we are leading our lives. Consider Tim, for instance. Imagine his shock when told by his doctor he had a terminal illness (cancer) and should prepare for death. His initial shock was followed by anger. Interestingly, he changed that anger into a fierce determination to prove the doctors were wrong. Like Marcel Proust, Tim believed “For each illness that doctors cure with medicine, they provoke ten in healthy people by inoculating them with the virus that is a thousand times more powerful than any microbe: the idea that one is ill.” Tim also took to heart the advice that appears in a Mother Goose rhyme, “For every ailment under the sun, There is a remedy, or there is none, If there be one, try to find it; If there be none, never mind it.”
Tim refused to buy into the idea that he was ill. He ignored all dire warnings to prepare for death and just went on living. And that was more than twelve years ago! Not only did Tim get a reprieve from death, but he also got an opportunity to reflect on what is most important in life for him. There is nothing like a death sentence to help us set our priorities.
If you discovered you had a terminal illness, would you do anything differently? Most of us would. Now, here’s the point: you DO have a terminal illness. All of us do. It is called LIFE. So, what are we waiting for? The time to do things differently, set our priorities, and strive toward our goals is now. We can no longer wait. We cannot afford to treat life like a rainstorm, whiling away the time as we wait for it to stop. When will we start to spend time on what we believe is most important in our lives? The choice we have to make is a simple, but urgent one. For as Time Management Expert Alan Lakein says, “Time = Life, Therefore, waste your time and waste your life, or master your time and master your life.” To reinforce this message, I’m including a list of reasons to act on our priorities now.
- Because of the brevity of life, there is no time to delay. Yang Zhu elegantly reminds us how brief life is, “One hundred years is the limit of a long life. Not one in a thousand ever attains to it. Yet if they do, still unconscious infancy and old age take up about half this time. The time he passes unconsciously while asleep at night, and that which is wasted though awake during the day, also amounts to another half of the rest. Again pain and sickness, sorrow and fear, fill up about a half, so that he really gets only ten years or so for his enjoyment. And even then there is not one hour free from some anxiety.” Here’s how Austin Dobson expresses his view on the subject, “Time goes, you say? Ah, no! Alas, time stays, we go.”
- The sooner we act, the sooner we can learn from our experience, make corrections, and reap the rewards. Remember, things may take longer to do than we imagine, and we may not get it right the first time. We cannot choose the day and time we will be successful, but we can choose to begin now, thereby hastening our eventual success.
- Although things may take longer to do than imagined, they are also easier to do than imagined. But this advantage disappears if we keep postponing things. For as we delay, the number of tasks keeps rising, reducing the time we have to spend on our projects. As we try to cram many tasks into the little time we have, the quality of our effort decreases and the likelihood of making a mistake rises.
- The need to act now should be a foregone conclusion, for the only time we have the power to act is at this very moment. The past and present cannot help us, only this moment can.
- The consequences of our positive actions boost our value, confidence, knowledge, and power. What better time to enjoy these benefits than now Enjoy life instead of watching others do so. Become a participant, not a spectator. Rather than watching what happens to you, make what you want to happen, happen. If we have time to complain about how bad things are, we have time to do something about it. Keep in mind what Andy Warhol said, “They always say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”
- Self-discovery. Surprise yourself by becoming the person you never dreamed possible. For as Golo Mann, the third son of Thomas Mann) said, “Man is always more than he can know of himself; consequently, his accomplishments, time and again, will come as a surprise to him.”
- Do you have any regrets about time you have wasted? If so, use those regrets as a catalyst to take advantage of your remaining time to reach your goals. By sticking to your priorities, you will protect yourself from future regrets over what might have been.
- Awaken to opportunity, for opportunities come to those that act. And once it appears, we need to act quickly because it may never return. The news of the death of a loved one, for example, may arrive before that phone call we were planning to make to them. Opportunities don’t linger. They are like worms that are gobbled up by early birds.
- If we keep ourselves busy, there will be no time to complain or fall under the negative influences of others. Many a person avoided disaster by keeping busy.
- Create more time! If we always tackle our tasks as soon as they appear, we act efficiently and wind up with more time to spend as we please. I look at it this way, procrastination is a life extinction plan while a constant stream of action is a life extension plan.
- Experience peace of mind. We may not be able to do everything we would like to each day, but if we at least finish what is most important, we will be able to sleep soundly.
When are we going to act, allowing our True Self to express itself? Today! Why are we going to act today? Kalidasa, the 5th century AD, Indian Sanskrit poet explains, “Look to this day for it is life. In its brief course lie all the realities and verities of existence, the bliss of growth, the splendor of action, the glory of power. For yesterday is but a dream, and tomorrow is only a vision, but today, well lived, makes yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope. Look well, therefore to this day.”
- Soul Shifts: Transformative Wisdom for Creating a Life of Authentic Awakening, Emotional Freedom & Practical Spirituality by Dr. Barbara De Angelis
- Jump…And Your Life Will Appear: An Inch-by-Inch Guide to Making a Major Change by Nancy Levin
- The Silent Miracle by Ron Rathbun
- How to Find God in Everything: An Invitation to Awaken to Your True Nature and Transform Your World by Amoda Maa Jeevan
- Open the Door: A Journey to the True Self by Joyce Rupp
- Embracing Our True Self: A New Paradigm Approach to Healing Our Wounds, Finding Our Gifts, and Fulfilling Our Spiritual Purpose by Paul Ferrini
- Teal Swan: False Self vs. Real Self
- Deepak Chopra: How to discover your true self
- Guy Finley: Be Your True Self
Chuck Gallozzi lived, studied, and worked in Japan for 15 years, immersing himself in the wisdom of the Far East and graduating with B.A. and M.A. degrees in Asian Studies. He is a Certified NLP Practitioner, speaker, seminar leader, and coach. Corporations, church groups, teachers, counselors, and caregivers use his more than 400 articles as a resource to help others. Among his diverse accomplishments, he is also the Grand Prix Winner of a Ricoh International Photo Competition, the Canadian National Champion of a Toastmasters International Humorous Speech Contest, and the Founder and Head of the Positive Thinkers Group that has been meeting at St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto since 1999. His articles are published in books, newsletters, magazines, and newspapers. He was interviewed on CBC’s “Steven and Chris Show,” appearing nationally on Canadian TV. Chuck can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. View his photography at https://500px.com/chuckgallozzi. This article cannot be re-published without permission.