2 Paradoxes That Lead To Self-Awareness
If we can say one thing about human nature without much debate, it is that we are a very clever species. Not in the sense of intelligence, which we obviously do have, but in the sense that we are very open to self-deception in order to get what we want.
We want to earn money, achieve certain goals, have an impact on the world, become spiritually enlightened etc., but there are often subconscious reasons why we want these things. For example, do we want to have an impact on the world such that we can reduce our collective suffering, or because we have a hidden desire to become famous while doing so? Do we pursue goals because they reflect our true nature, or because we want to get ahead of other people? Do we want to become enlightened because we see the consequences of egocentric behavior, or because we are looking for some form of extraordinary experience?
These questions can make some of us uncomfortable because they require us to practice a degree of honesty we aren’t always prepared for. This honesty leads to the end of self-deception in all its forms. That is the foundation of self-awareness. But why should we practice self-awareness at all?
The Importance of Self-Awareness
Without self-awareness, it’s possible we never realize that getting that degree or finding that perfect job was someone else’s idea of our happiness, not ours. We may never realize that most of our suffering is a result of our attachment to unnecessary things. We may never stop chasing temporary pleasures or have the courage to do things we truly love.
Self-awareness helps us understand who we are before we decide what we should be. We realize that spontaneous and irreversible change is possible only when we stop mechanically repeating our past, and live in the present. Most of the time our mind is judging everything it sees. We label things as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and therefore do not try to explore them any further. This is because knowing makes us secure while the not knowing makes us insecure. Yet, by definition, we can learn something only so long has we are in the state of ‘not knowing’.
A Taoist Story
A farmer once lost his horse as it ran away into the woods. The neighbors all gathered and said, “Oh how sad, your horse ran away”. The farmer replied, “Maybe”. Then the horse returned after a few days with five other wild horses, and the neighbors said,” How amazing, your have 6 horses now”, to which the farmer replied, “Maybe”. The farmer’s son then rode one of the wild horses and fell down, breaking his leg. The neighbors said, “Oh, how terrible! Your son broke his leg riding the wild horse”, to which the farmer replied, “Maybe”. Then the army came looking for recruits, but they didn’t select the farmer’s son because he had a broken leg, to which the neighbors said, “Oh, how lucky you are, your son stays home!”, to which the farmer replied, “Maybe”.
Delay Your Judgment to Deepen Your Understanding
Become very sensitive to yourself as you judge events, people, situations, the news, or daily experiences as good or bad. The natural law of this universe does not condemn anything to be bad, nor does it exalt anything to be good. These terms exist only in the human consciousness. An eagle does not distinguish a good day from a bad one. It eats when it’s hungry and sleeps when it’s tired.
If you don’t judge something the instant you see it and delay your judgment for a little while, you open yourself up for a different point of view and a wider horizon of possibilities. The more time you spend observing something in this state, without quickly arriving at a conclusion, the more likely you are to have a deep insight into its real nature. Paradoxically, the more you refuse to conclude your understanding of something, the deeper it becomes.
Become Totally Selfish to Truly Help Others
We are always advised to put other people’s interests over ours and perform acts of charity and selflessness, yet most of us are selfish in our daily life. How is that possible? This is because half-hearted self-lessness is often worse than wholehearted selfishness.
A half-heartedly selfless person is engaged sometimes in helping others, and at other times in acquiring material possessions and wealth. Whereas a totally selfish person is always concerned with first and foremost, her own psychological well-being. Because she is serious, she discovers that this well-being is synonymous with having a peaceful mind. Her mind, therefore, is always without conflict or an ulterior motive.Her action is always wise and compassionate.
Paradoxically, it is by focusing on herself, that she is able to help others. Such is the nature of self-awareness, wherever such a person goes, love and peace follow.
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