Hide and Seek: The Power of Awareness
As I cradled my new-born son, I perceived his innocence and purity, but especially his profound impressionability. As a parent, I grappled with the daunting responsibility of guiding him, imparting values, and shaping his perceptions of the world. I felt ill-prepared for this profound task of expanding his understanding so that he could navigate life authentically and perceive reality as it truly was.
At the age of three, his cherished book featured a remarkable feline protector of royals against menacing dragons. He adored the captivating illustrations, and it unfailingly earned the title of his bedtime favorite. However, the dynamics of his perceptions shifted when we welcomed a real-life feline companion into our lives the following year. As he matured, he discovered that cats didn’t talk and dragons weren’t the creatures of reality he once believed them to be. A few years later, the delicate truth about Santa Claus was revealed.
As we journey through life, our awareness naturally expands, and our perceptions evolve. Our reality undergoes transformations as we accumulate experiences and knowledge. We often perceive our reality as stable and absolute, yet, as with the cat, the dragon, and Santa Claus, life constantly reminds us that our notions of reality are neither absolute nor unchanging. They are fleeting constructs that we mold within our minds, influenced by our ever-evolving experiences and understandings. Only pure consciousness remains unwavering.
Our mind acts as the lens through which we perceive the world, and our perceptions, in turn, shape our experiences and understanding. As our awareness broadens, our perceptions shift, our comprehension changes, and our reality transforms. At some point in our evolution suffering will compel us to look within and examine our perceptions and identity.
Perhaps the most significant misperception is believing that we are the persona we’ve crafted; our limited identity. We forget that our core essence is pure awareness; consciousness. In this forgetfulness, we construct an artificial identity, assume a role, and live it out as if it were our true Self. We fabricate a constructed identity and become actors in the grand play of life, gradually losing touch with our true Selves. This is the essence of forgetting.
The image we adopt, the roles we play, and the personas we present to the world are often tailored to gain acceptance, love, and approval. Sadly, this leaves us vulnerable to the expectations and desires of others. The ceaseless quest for fitting in and seeking external approval renders us perpetually vulnerable, stripping us of our empowerment.
We come to associate our worth and sufficiency with the approval of parents, friends, partners, teachers, bosses, and society, ultimately leading to feelings of worthlessness and constant insecurity. We live in continual fear of disapproval, judgment, criticism, and rejection.
From early childhood, we are subjected to intense conditioning. Recall the punishments we faced in our youth – timeouts, shunning, isolation, spanking, temporary rejection, all designed to make us contemplate our misdeeds and conform to established rules in order to rejoin the group. As adults, breaking the law leads to incarceration, and defying societal norms results in exclusion. This cycle of control through approval or rejection continues throughout our lives. In essence, it can be distilled to a simple message: “Conform to our expectations if you want love and approval.”
This lifelong conditioning fosters layers of false identities, pain, and suffering in order to fit in and be accepted. It’s only natural that we create false identities in our quest for love and acceptance. The greatest misperception, however, is believing that this limited, constructed identity is our true Self.
When we conceal our true Selves, when we forget our inherent awareness, our reality becomes a tumultuous sea of opposites – pain and pleasure, good and bad, happiness and sorrow, acceptance and rejection. We forfeit the stability of absolute, pure consciousness and instead reside in a relative, ever-shifting world. In this forgetfulness, fleeting moments of happiness arise, but they are often overshadowed by suffering. This alternating chaos feels like a structure built on shaky ground, like a life constructed upon shifting sands without a solid foundation. This is the power of misperception – the power of forgetting who we genuinely are.
The core misperception of Self-forgetting is a potent catalyst behind the emergence of feelings of unworthiness. Within our own awareness, existence, presence, and being, we are inherently worthy. We are sufficient in our consciousness. Yet, in the propensity to forget this essential truth, we lose this core experience of Self, and instead seek validation externally.
We transition from being the witness to becoming that which is being witnessed, from the observer to the thing observed. When we become angry, we become the anger and forget that we are the awareness that is watching and observing the anger. When we forget that we are consciousness, we become the physical body that holds the consciousness – we live in a house and believe we are the house.