Updated: Mar 12, 2021
Here’s an experiment: how many selves do you find within yourself? (I’m not talking about multiple personalities…)
Most of us play many roles in life, and within each of those roles, different aspects of ourself appear on the stage of our life. Some of the major roles I play or have played include husband, son, writer, photographer, cat lover, cook, college English teacher, and meditator. I am an Aquarian and a Type 4 on the Enneagram. I live in relatively liberal areas of the western part of the United States, and vote similarly.
But is this “me,” or a collection of roles that fit my temperament?
For a number of years, I thought that, as a meditator, my job was to follow the teachings and practices of my meditation path. If I did that, I believed that my personality would become pure enough that “Paul” would be enlightened, so to speak.
At a certain point in my meditation practice, I started becoming more aware of the simple sense if “I-ness” inside. When I focus in this space, I become aware of the quiet presence of what the sages call satchitananda - the state pure being, consciousness, and bliss without a particular identity of any kind. It's undramatic, and it's easy for my mind to overrun this state with its commentary about just how interesting it is that this supposedly great state is so undramatic. At least I can appreciate the irony of my ego's ideas....
Over time, I've noticed, it’s becoming easier to shift my awareness to that inner space when I remember to do so. Note the catch: “when I remember to do so.” Ah, yes, the catch….Yes, I am the supreme Self, but my mind’s conditioning, my ego’s self-orientation, and my human connection to ideas, desire, fears, resentments, etc. can keep me rather preoccupied with the mental and emotional life of Paul unless I give myself something more delight-full to focus on. So becoming more aware of the simple sense of the expansive but quiet sense of "I" inside, without any content of any kind, has become a true refuge for me.
For the past five months or so, my wife and I have been chanting a Sanskrit hymn each morning before meditation. This hymn is considered to be a very significant text on our meditation path, one that weakens the grip of our egos on our minds and hearts, and makes it possible for the experience of the divine Self to arise more naturally. Over and over again, I notice that as we continue chanting this hymn each day, I'm beginning to feel a deeper simplicity and clarity within myself, and a greater sense of joy. I'm feeling more easeful within myself. And I think that this practice has made it much easier for me to remember to focus on and recognize the pure "I" inside me.
My intention now is to turn toward this inner space more frequently throughout the day even as I engage in the daily activities that draw my attention. Often, I find that turning my awareness to my breath is a practical way to do this - it gives me something concrete to focus on and that also connects me to who I truly am.
What is your experience of this interplay between your personality-self and your deeper self? I’d enjoy hearing about it in the comment section below.
The photo at the top of this entry is of a pool in Madrid, Spain, outside the hotel my wife and I were staying in during the summer of 2015. I love the interplay of the soft blue waves with the white star and the black and white geometric tiles forming the rectangle. The blues are particularly rich, possibly because of the deep blue sky enriching the blue tiles of the pool.
As always, this is an example of how having a good camera (my iPhone) with me all the time can keep my eyes awake to the beautiful scenes I'm living in.