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
Many of us were raised by imperfect parents in an imperfect world. In our early years, we were exposed to criticism by others. 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.
However, I am not the thoughts that flood my mind, but I am the Thinker that uses 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 of. 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 simple 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 of time.
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 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 a better place.
- 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, but initially difficult. However, as Lao-Tzu wrote, “All difficult things have their origin in that which is easy, and great things in that which is small.”
How Our 3 Selves Are Created
We are not one person, but three people. The first is the person we were born as. The person we were before our caregivers and others filled our minds with doubt in our own power and worth. This person is our True Self, and you can see it in any infant. They, as you were, are filled with courage, trust and an adventurous spirit. This person represents your unlimited potential and is the kernel of the person you were meant to be.
When Johnny is told he is a “bad boy,” he has no idea that this statement is merely a tool to provide temporary relief to his young, inexperienced, impatient, and exasperated mother. Lacking the capacity for rational thought, young children, such as Johnny, simply accept what they are told as true. After several years of programming, Johnny comes to believe that he is bad, stupid, clumsy, worthless, and whatever other criticisms were hurled his way.
So, Johnny’s True Self is now covered by another layer. This layer is his False Self. It is the incapable person he believes himself to be. The False Self is the second person we are. It is the image we hold of ourselves in our subconscious. Having a poor self-image is equated to having low self-esteem. Our False Self can also be called our Limited Self or Wounded Self.
Now, here’s an important point. You are not what you think you are, but what you think; you are. That is, you are not the weak person you think you are, for your True Self is powerful and has unlimited potential. Yet, because you believe you are weak, you are incapable of acting any other way. Incapable, that is, until you change your self-image. As you change your self-image for the better, you begin to strip away the layer of your False Self, allowing your True Self to emerge in all its splendor.
What is the third person we are? It is our Fake Self. It is the Mask we wear, the person we pretend to be. It is also the third layer of our personality. You see, the shame and guilt we feel for being the person we think we are (False Self), causes us to wear a mask to hide from the world the inadequacies that we believe we posses. So, for example, timid Johnny wears a mask pretending to be courageous. How ironic that Johnny has to pretend to be what he really is, but doesn’t realize!
Not only is our potential limited by our False Self, but it is further limited by our Fake Self. This is because when we pretend to be what we think we are not, we are afraid of being uncovered. We are afraid people will discover that we are weaklings after all. The shame and guilt we feel, as well as the fear of detection significantly depletes our energy, making us unable to reach our potential.
Well, then, how do we awaken to our True Self? It is by changing our self-image. For once we believe in ourselves, in our capacity to change and reach our goals, we no longer need to wear a mask. And as our False and Fake Selves fall aside, all that remains is our True Self.
But how do we change our self-image? All we have to do is do the things the person we want to become would do, and we then become that person. This is because we become what we do. If I kill people, I become a murderer; if I workout, I become strong; if I treat others with kindness, I become kind. Simple, isn’t it?
Wait a minute! If I do what the person I want to become would do, isn’t that just pretending? Isn’t that the same as wearing a mask? No, it’s not, for two reasons. First, our mask is created subconsciously, but doing what the person we want to become would do needs conscious and deliberate effort.
Second, the mask is based on a lie. It is created to hide the inadequacies we think we have. But acting like the person we want to become is the opposite. It is based on the truth. It is done to reveal, uncover, and expose our True Self, our powerful self. In other words, we deliberately create our actions and then our actions create us.
Let’s look at an example. Leo is timid and wishes to restore the courage of his True Self. He decides to take a small step. He is unhappy with a recent purchase and decides to return to the retailer and ask for a refund. Despite his timidity, he acts confidently. He does what the person he wants to become would do. That is, he gently, yet firmly asks for a refund, fully expecting to get it.
And guess what? Leo gets his refund! As soon as he does he can hardly contain himself with excitement, for he has made several startling discoveries. First, he learned he could obtain the same results a confident person would receive, merely by acting confident! Second, he learned that he can change his behaviour and, therefore, change his life. Third, he felt great. He experienced a victory. Fourth, he experienced positive thoughts. These positive thoughts were not scripted affirmations, but genuine thoughts that burst into his consciousness. Thoughts such as, “Wow, I didn’t know I could do it! This is great! I feel good!”
Leo took more small steps and continued to experience success. The thoughts, feelings, and positive results he experienced began to change his beliefs. He no longer believed he was powerless. Before long he came to believe he was powerful. He became the person he wanted to be. Actually, he became the person he was meant to be.
When you understand that your thoughts, feelings, beliefs, actions, and positive results shape your self-image, you will have at your disposal the power to transform yourself. But before you can wake up and find yourself successful, you have to wake up and discover your True Self. Become aware of your three selves and take some corrective action every day, no matter how small. Doing so will bring you, bit by bit, closer to achieving your goals. And as you start to make progress, your rate of growth will speed up.
Recapping and Review
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. After 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 categories 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! They thought they had self-doubt, fears, and limitations, but they uncovered their True Self, which knows 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 and uncorrupted young children. Infants are trusting, loving, courageous, curious, and cheerful. They are explorers, adventures, and discoverers. But as they are raised by parents and guided by teachers and society, they are knowingly or 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. Adventurers have discovered what Czechoslovakians have long known, “The person who God shows a treasure to must dig it out himself.” (Czechoslovakian proverb)
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 his 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, Wolter 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.”
Does this subject awaken your interest, but appear overwhelming? Don’t be discouraged, for as S. I. Hayakawa wrote, “It is the individual who knows how little they know about themselves who stands the most reasonable chance of finding out something about themselves before they die.”
Finally, when you discover your True Self, you will discover the cure for failure, for as William James wrote, “There is but one cause of human failure. And that is man’s lack of faith in his TRUE SELF.”
The Silent Miracle by Ron Rathbun
HOW TO MEET YOURSELF: …and find true happiness by Dennis Waite
HOW TO FIND GOD IN EVERYTHING: An Invitation to Awaken to Your True Nature and Transform Your World by Amoda Maa Jeevan, Watkins
OPEN THE DOOR: A Journey to the True Self by Joyce Rupp
UNDERSTAND THE TRUE SELF: The Treasure Within by Floyd Jerred
Deepak Chopra: Finding your True Self, the Cure for all Suffering
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.