Should We Be Self Aware Or Have Non Self
There is a lot of confusion about the term “self”. And many people don’t know what relationship they should have with their self (or with themselves).
- We are told that we should be self aware (mostly from science and psychology)
- But we are also told that there is no self (mostly from spirituality and especially Buddhism)
- So, how can we be “self aware” if there is no self?
Yes, it is confusing. But by the end of this article you will know everything you need to know about the self and your relationship to it.
Understanding “No Self ” And Self Awareness
Much of the confusion about the self is created by the ambiguity of the word.
Different definitions of self:
- In spirituality the self is described as the centre of conscious awareness.
- In psychology, the self is described as more of a sense of identity (who we are, our values, and so on)
- In everyday speech we often relate self to words like selfishness and self obsession.
- And closely related to self is ego. This relates to self esteem and self importance. Sigmund Freud described the ego as the part of ourselves that deals with reality and takes place in our conscious, preconscious and unconscious minds.
In order to truly understand the self we need to consider all these definitions of self.
Let’s go through them in order. And then you will completely understand the self and your relationship to it. And after that, I will share a powerful meditation for self and for self identity.
There are many definitions of self, and it is important to understand each of them.
The spiritual self and the sense of “No self”
Let’s begin with the spiritual sense of self because this is really where the term begins, historically speaking.
In spirituality, self is generally described as being the centre of conscious awareness.
Many religions state that there is no real substance at the centre of our being, hence the concept “no self”. Buddhism, for instance, speaks of Anatta (non-self), which is the idea that we are pure energy or “nothingness”.
Many spiritualities involve the realization of non-self. For instance in yoga and Hinduism there is the practise of self enquiry.
We want to be aware of the fact that there is nothing concrete or of substance in the centre of our being. And this is non-self.
The reason we need to be aware of non-self is so that we can achieve liberation and freedom.
Be aware of the nothingness at the core of your being. This is “non self”.
We need self awareness and a sense of self identity
So far we have seen that we should achieve non-self so that we realize that the centre of our being is empty.
However, we still need a sense of self identity.
Even though there is emptiness at the core of our being, we still have a self in the sense that we have thoughts, values, beliefs, and attitudes. These constitute our self identity. And we need to be self aware of these things.
Think about self identity like you think about the body. You have a body but you are not your body. You have an identity (a self) but you are not your identity.
When we talk about self awareness, we are really talking about being aware of our identity. And this is important. Indeed, being detached from your identity is a part of a mental health condition called dissociation and depersonalisation.
There are many benefits of self awareness.
- A strong sense of self identity can improve self esteem and confidence
- Helps us understand ourselves in relation to others
- Helps to instil our sense of existence and our place in the world
- Reduces biases
- Improves decision making skills
- Decreases stress
- Increases happiness
While you should be aware that there is “nothingness” at the centre of your being, you should also be aware of your self identity.
Don’t become too attached to self and identity though
While you should be aware of your self identity, you should not become too attached to it. This can lead to egotism and selfishness.
As well as causing egotism and selfishness, if you are too focused on your self identity you will also limit yourself. This is simply because if you are too focusing on thinking “I am THIS”, you prevent yourself from being anything else.
In summary, be aware of the emptiness at the centre of your being. But also be aware of self identity. And while being aware of self identity, do not become too attached to it.
Meditation for self awareness and non self
We have covered many things so far. We now know that we should be aware of the emptiness at the centre of the spiritual self (consciousness). And we should have a keen awareness of our self identity but not be too firmly attached to it.
So how do you achieve non self yet still have self identity? Just use this meditation.
Make sure you are sitting somewhere quiet. Sit with good posture and a straight but relaxed spine.
- Close your eyes. Breathe mindfully for a minimum of five minutes.
- Now we move into self enquiry. Focus your mind on the centre of your consciousness. Notice the emptiness there. Continue to meditate on the centre of your consciousness for five minutes. This is non self.
- Now we want to become aware of self identity. To do this, contemplate your beliefs and values. Who are you? What do you stand for? What do you care about? Contemplate these things for five minutes.
- Now we want to become aware of how our self identity interplays with that of other people. Contemplate the identity of people you know. Who are they? What do they care about? How does their identity match your own? How does it differ?
- Finally be aware of ego (the psychological definition of the word). In other words, be aware of how your mind creates the sensation of being real and alive in this moment.
- Take ten relaxing breaths and open your eyes.
This meditation will help you to realize your self and to have a healthy relationship with your self.
To discover your true self, book an online meditation lesson with me today.