This challenge, put forth by Socrates, one of the most exquisitely expressed mysteries of humankind, pins at the center of our universe, the discovery of our own inherent nature. On a (relatively) more basic level he poses the question: What, or who, is this self?
Our own instincts may gravitate toward labeling the self as the combined entity of mind and body. Other schools would posit that we are no more than a smattering of environmental inputs we've been gathering like moss since the day we were born. Additional possibilities include seeds or imprints we've carried with us from previous lives or on a cellular level there are also those who would blame our pre-dispositions on DNA.
There is however, one common thread running through each of these positions: Regardless of why we are the way we are, we are, or are we? Despite the ascribed reasons for creation of the self, our subjective nature is at the nucleus of our current existence. In other words, each and every one of us has a personality. Right here; right now, the origins notwithstanding, tendencies exist and the previous conditions manufacturing this amalgamation may not be manipulated. Period. If any one of us wishes to change, we've no choice but to work with who we are at this very moment.
One of the challenges with philosophy is that concepts often subsist only on a plane of mental abstraction. We talk of ideas as they exist outside of ourselves — spinning & spinning the cube until satisfied with an angle, never licking the cube or cracking it open to see what gushes out.
How is it then, that we begin this process of knowing thyself?
Spheres of metaphysical, scientific and religious belief orbit around thought as the creating, delineating and subjugating force manifesting our lives. However staggering this potential power, the inherent problem we face is we are not in control of our thoughts. If any doubts exist as to the assertion that the inmates are running the asylum, attempt to sit in silence for ten minutes. For ten minutes, no outside distractions, sit and pay close attention to your thoughts. Without suppressing, manipulating or guiding, simply listen. Trust me. It's ten minutes well spent. Try it. Please.
…10 minutes later…
If your experience was a tranquil flow of gentle musings, surrounding a lotus of calm, then you are well on your way; congratulations. For the rest of us, glimpsing at these streams of mental rubbish floating by the periphery are a mere taste of what is slowly swirling far beneath the surface. Oscillating currents of wavering satisfaction, responsibilities, & angst moving by in a continuum. Judgments and beliefs, accumulating since birth, are elemental in the formation of our views and reactions to the world. It logically follows, if our underlying values are compromised, that which floats to the surface also will be tainted.
Experts across the fields of psychology, spirituality, and philosophy have, for centuries, been exposing the nature of our afflictions as rooted deep inside ourselves and also providing the methods of extraction. So why then are we not all wallowing in happiness? What is the reason we are not diving into the core of our neuroses and creating harmonium in our lives? For the same reason we are not all healthy and fit; our immediate desires far outweigh the personal effort involved. Even when knowing with absolute clarity that eliminating discursive thinking is vastly superior for our well-being, we choose otherwise.
Swimming through the ocean of our being to reach the depths of who we are is a powerful process that can only be developed over time. This purposeful endeavor requires courage, honesty, and the patience and kindness reserved for a child. Knowing Thyself is a declaration to love [all of] who you are, without judgement.
When beginning life's journey, we've no clarity as to where it will lead until, upon reaching a point in our spiritual development, when it is impossible to move forward without understanding where we've been.
~ by Christine Fowle