Hide and Seek: The Power of Awareness

Chapter Five

The True Self: What We Really Forgot

In a time long past, a youthful and mighty king reigned over the grandest and wealthiest kingdom known to the world. His favored pastime involved galloping freely across open meadows and through dappled forests astride his swiftest steed. Draped in the most exquisite garments adorned with rare jewels, these moments of riding provided him respite from the weighty burdens of his royal responsibilities.

As he dashed through the forest, the cool breeze rustling through the leaves, his thoughts invariably gravitated toward the woman he held dearest, the one destined to be his bride. Yet, in an unforeseen turn of events, his exuberant ride was abruptly halted when his forehead collided with the unyielding limb of a towering oak. Agony overwhelmed his senses as he was unceremoniously thrown from his horse, collapsing to the earth below, unconscious and bleeding. His life hung in the balance as ruthless thieves chanced upon his defenseless form. Stripping him of his opulent silks and precious jewels, they left him for dead. However, this would not be the final chapter in his extraordinary tale.

From a humble nearby village, the local washerman happened upon the battered and unclothed figure. Observing that the fallen man still drew breath, and driven by the prospect of procuring cheap labor, the washerman extended his aid. Nursed back to health by the humble washerman, the king awoke to find his memory shrouded in a dense fog. His royal heritage, impending nuptials, and sovereign rule were all cast into the abyss of forgotten recollections. The splendors of his past existence had evaporated in the blink of an eye as amnesia gripped his mind.

Ego:

Our amnesia is called by many names; delusion, misperception, ignorance, bondage, forgetting.

There is but really only one bondage. It is the misperception created by ego that traps us into the delusion of mis-identification. Despite being the vastness of consciousness, we misidentify as the body, thoughts, feelings, and roles and then believe that we are a small individual. Because of the ego, we remain blind to the truth that we are awareness and we remain in duality and alienated from our essential Self. The only way to give up ego is to create a new understanding and experience by merging the ego in the bliss of the Self – to dissolve the smallness of individuality into the vastness of consciousness. When ego dies, our limitation, delusion, misperception, bondage and forgetting vanish and are no more.

As long as ego exerts its dominance, it will continue to create a constructed identity of survival. Remember the constructed identity? Within duality, a fundamental core fear emerges, inducing the creation of a meticulously constructed identity, a veneer that replaces our true nature as consciousness, our authentic Self. We will now begin to look closely at what actually is that constructed identity, that veneer that replaces our authentic Self.

The Constructed Identity:

Navigating the path from misperception to genuine Self-understanding becomes an arduous endeavor when we remain oblivious to our true Self. It’s akin to mistaking ourselves for the individual wave, while overlooking the reality that we are the boundless ocean. In this analogy, the wave represents our constructed identity, whereas the ocean symbolizes our authentic and genuine Self.

We often anchor our identity in labels: our nationality, our faith, our given name, our race, our gender, our marital status, our emotional states, and our societal roles. We identify as parents, children, siblings, friends, teachers, and professionals. Our health, wealth, and our physical appearance are entwined in this composite self we’ve painstakingly assembled. This, we believe, is our core identity – the image we present to the world.

Yet, these identifications are limited and of our own making – a mosaic of transient and confined labels. We often craft this limited identity in a bid for inclusion, acceptance, and love. But it remains a mosaic of ever-shifting and limiting associations. We constantly strive to enhance this image, seeking to make it more virtuous, more attractive, and more agreeable, all in the pursuit of greater inclusion and worthiness. This constructed identity is constantly changing.

The 5 limited identifications of a constructed identity are:

  • We identify as our body and senses
  • We identify as our mind and thoughts
  • We identify as our feelings and emotions
  • We identify as our roles, concepts, beliefs and patterns
  • We identify as a separate individual

On top of the five mis-identifications, we grapple with three fundamental misperceptions:

  • The Misperception of Separation: We perceive ourselves as separate from the perfect consciousness, which leads us to view ourselves as imperfect. This sense of imperfection begets feelings of incompleteness, unworthiness, inadequacy, dissatisfaction, and incapability. This separation fosters a primal isolation. Our misperception lies in the belief that there is something other than the Self – that we are distinct from or other than consciousness.

  • The Misperception of Difference: When our true nature as consciousness – the authentic Self – is concealed, we experience a burgeoning sense of individuality. We perceive only the superficial facets of names and forms, categorizing everything as distinct from ourselves. All things and beings appear as different and individual, shrouding the unifying consciousness. We erroneously believe we are individual bodies generating individual thoughts. This misperception results in feelings of disconnection.

  • The Misperception of Agency: Our ego dominates our experiences, leading us to claim ownership of our actions. The ego asserts its dominion over the apparent disparate components of ourselves, declaring, ‘this is my body, these are my thoughts, and I am the doer of these deeds.’ Under this misperception, we reduce ourselves to individual bodies, minds, and actions, while remaining oblivious to the overarching truth that we are the witness; pure consciousness.

Misidentifications and misperceptions breed the core fear.

These three misperceptions as well as the five misidentifications are the veils that cover our true Self, our consciousness. They form the core of our constructed identity. They compel us to seek fulfillment in the external world. Our misperceptions and misidentifications manifest inwardly as core fear and outwardly as self-centered grasping.

Rather than experiencing the bliss of absolute consciousness, we are ensnared by 1) a sense of separation, perceiving ourselves as imperfect; 2) seeing differentiation, perceiving the world as a realm of diverse and distinct names, forms, and attributes; and 3) a belief in personal agency, thinking ‘My body and mind are doing this.’

Now our misperceptions and misidentifications cause us to forget what was hidden, replacing the essential, true and authentic Self with a constructed and limited identity. We have put the final nail in the coffin and buried our vast, conscious Self under layers of misperceptions and misidentifications. Forgetting who we are is now complete. We now hold the mistaken belief that our unique personality, and our body and mind, which consists of apparent forms, attributes and roles, is the true Self.

So, what truly constitutes the ‘I’ in this multifaceted construct? Who is it that observes, witnesses, watches and relates to these facets – the body, the mind, the emotions, and the roles? Who, indeed, is the unlimited and still ocean beneath these ever-changing waves?

Resolution entails dismantling these misperceptions, enabling us to realize our unity as consciousness – a state of perfection in which we merge with all that exists, embodying universal awareness as the witness of action.

The Authentic Self

Consciousness resides within us – it is not a façade, a role, a veneer or a mask we present to the world as our identity. The authentic Self transcends self-construction; it is not our invention. Our genuine Self – the deepest expression of “I” – exists beyond the realm of emotions, thoughts, and the physical body. It lies beyond the mind and is the source of mind. What we are seeking, what we are looking for, what we want to attain, is who we have always been; pure awareness.

We are often encouraged to be authentic, to remain true to ourselves. Socrates imparted the wisdom to ‘Know thy Self’ to his pupils. But who, precisely, is this Self, and how do we authentically embody it?

The essential Self is the vast ocean of consciousness – a reservoir of awareness that is the power to perceive and comprehend. It serves as the foundation for knowledge and the beacon of awareness. Consciousness animates and bestows life upon everything. Our senses emerge as the products of consciousness’s illuminating and knowing prowess.

The true Self emanates light; awareness. It encompasses the light through which we perceive the world. This aspect of the Self empowers us to illuminate, reveal, and understand. Consciousness is the essential nature of the authentic Self.

Our true Self is that which is not thought by the mind but by which the mind thinks. Our true Self is that which is not seen by the eyes but by which the eyes see. The true Self is the intelligence and power of consciousness.

Joy characterizes the essence of the authentic Self. Bliss constitutes the core of consciousness – an enduring, ever-present state of happiness. The quest for joy arises because joy represents our intrinsic nature. Regrettably, for many, this essence remains concealed and forgotten. We identify with the transitory wave outside, neglecting the boundless, still ocean within.

Identifying with the authentic Self reveals us as the “I am” – the observer, the watcher, the witness. This Self transcends time and space, manifesting as pure illumination, pure consciousness, pure intelligence, pure awareness, pure presence, and the force, the power that allows us to both create and comprehend what is created. It stands as the reflective power enabling us to acknowledge our consciousness.

A complete identity, true authenticity – these remain unaltered. While we indeed have a body, a mind, emotions, and roles, they are ever-shifting and in constant flux. What we’ve seemingly forgotten is our identity as consciousness, the boundless ocean. This forgetting lies at the heart of a life dominated by ego, suffering, and limitations.

Authenticity, by definition, signifies an origin that is beyond dispute, something genuine, essential, and original. Therefore, in our quest to unearth the authentic Self, we must gaze beyond the perpetual fluctuations and transformations. We tend to identify ourselves with our ever-changing physical form, our thoughts, and our emotions, firmly believing that these define who we are.

For most of us, striving for authenticity equates to becoming an improved version of the persona we have created – a more comfortable, more acceptable self that still remains a created identity. We mistakenly believe by changing, we are becoming our authentic self. This pursuit often entails fixing ourselves, whether it’s shedding weight, attaining wealth, obtaining a partner, becoming what others want us to be, or achieving success. This becomes an endless play of adjusting a created identity, never realizing what is always there, beneath the chaos of our thoughts. The pursuit revolves around acquiring superior names, forms, and attributes, all in the hope of garnering more love, acceptance, and approval. However, these pursuits, noble as they may be, do not lead us to the essential Self.

The authentic Self is the ‘I’ that maintains awareness. It is the “I” that is the witness of our actions, the observer of our thoughts and the watcher of our feelings. It is the “I” who witnesses the body’s aging, observes mind creating stories and remains the source of it all. The true Self is the observer that observes, the witness that witnesses, the watcher who watches.

The emperor who is asleep dreams that he is a beggar and weeps. When he awakes he laughs because he imagined he was a beggar. This is our plight.

Beneath the layers of our ever-evolving identities, a constant, essential, original, and authentic essence lies awaiting remembrance. It is the awareness, the consciousness, the witness, and the seer – this is the true Self.

Regrettably, we have concealed and forgotten it. We, our Selves, are that which we are seeking. We seek only because we do not know our Self.

Our experiences have taught us to experience and comprehend life solely through our senses and the lens of our conditioning. These senses perpetually direct us outward, while our conditioning binds us to worldly outcomes. In this realm, we identify ourselves as the body, the mind, and our emotions. This fixation on the external prevents us from pausing and looking within, from recognizing the silent ocean of consciousness that serves as the wellspring for all the waves of our ever-evolving lives and shifting identities.

It’s the ocean that begets the waves, just as consciousness begets feelings, thoughts, and the physical body. However, when we fail to remember the unchanging, the original, and the essential – the consciousness that is absolute intelligence and power – we inadvertently sow the seeds of duality. In the absence of a firm foundation rooted in the knowledge of this awareness, we are left adrift in a world characterized by relativity, difference, change, and contrast. This pervasive sense of separation, this perpetual lack of grounding, engenders core fear and a lingering feeling of not quite fitting in, a vague sense of loneliness, and an undefined sensation of being lost, of not quite knowing where we belong or where we are going.

This consciousness stands as the source, the wellspring from which our intelligence, our power, our existence, our understanding, and the radiant light of awareness flow. This, indeed, is the genuine, fundamental, essential, and authentic Self – the very essence we have regrettably obscured and forgotten. It is this forgetting that forms the bedrock of our suffering.

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