This deep urge within us all has been given many names throughout history by different cultures, but is nevertheless still very present inside of us all. Now more than ever, with our modern culture’s emphasis on the development of the individual “sense of self” or “ego”, we encourage the achievement of self-mastery by forceful control, in other words, to use our individual will power to control our emotions, other people, situations, and the environment around us.
The idea that the human race has a “sickness of the soul”, is hard to dispute for anyone who has studied history, watches the news or is well versed in many spiritual teachings. However, there is a special cure to this illness that has been taught by a select few to those who were sincere in their journeys of Self-Mastery. I will be discussing this very cure in this article.
Who Is Your Master?
When we think of “Mastering” something we immediately associate this word with being in full “control”. So then, to achieve mastery over the self would imply that we have learned to control our selves.
But who is that self? If we define ourselves as our minds and thoughts, then we would define self mastery as control over the mind. However, how is this possible? Quite simply it is impossible for us to control the mind. To try to control the mind with another part of the mind only breeds neuroticism, and thus must involve something more, something beyond control.
So this raises the question: If you are the mind, who is experiencing your mind? Who is experiencing these thoughts, emotions, beliefs and values within you? The answer is deceptively simple. With enough Self-Exploration we realize that ‘I’ must be the very awareness that is above the mind that allows us to experience the manifestations of the mind and body.
The reality is that most people in the world live their lives believing that they are their minds and since they are their minds, they are in ‘control’ of themselves. Fortunately, if that were the case, they would not suffer as much as they do. However, unfortunately, most people are slaves to their minds and circumstances, and thus create their own misery.
People are slaves to their minds when they create expectations, desires or beliefs about themselves , other people or situations, that when not fulfilled or met, create anger, jealousy, fear and unhappiness of all kinds. All along we believe it is “us” who is creating this misery in our lives, when in reality is is our slavery to our minds – the worst kind of imprisonment.
Sadly, most people in life experience this kind of imprisonment, a servitude that is built of our habits, social and religious conditioning and beliefs we form about ourselves from a young age.
We see this kind of servitude in many aspects of our lives, where, instead of acting consciously as a Master would, we react unconsciously, as a Slave would. For example, as humans we tend to love others only if they love us back – which is a reactive and conditional love*. Or when someone criticizes us, we get upset and feel hurt, giving the other person control over our happiness and our authenticity as we learn to behave in ways others approve of.
In essence, the nature of our minds is to perceive reality in a fragmented way. Our thoughts fragment reality, and our thoughts fragment awareness. In doing so, we destroy our innate wholeness and become absorbed into an interpretation of reality rather than experiencing its true wholeness. To achieve freedom from our thoughts and erroneous perceptions that taint reality is the ultimate liberation. This is awakening, and this is true Mastery.
True Mastery is not based on active control, as eventually we see that there is no “Master” that is in control. True Mastery is in fact a passive awareness, a freedom from the false ‘Self’ we carry.
Awakening Through Passive Awareness
When people speak of ‘awakening’, they are are referring to liberating themselves from all the baggage that comes from identifying with an illusionary sense of ‘Self’. This illusionary sense of self is composed of all the beliefs, conditioning, emotions, judgmental thoughts, instincts and values that comes with thinking you are your mind.
Our “Self” creates a dreamlike perception of reality – and most of us aren’t aware of this. I describe this perception as dreamlike because when we look at the world, we are in fact looking at it through a lens that carries all the shades of past experiences, memories, personal judgments, instinctual behavior, belief systems and expectations.
To awaken from this dream is to give us the responsibility to change our perception of that which makes us suffer and consequently become Masters of it. To live our lives through the dream is to live our lives peripherally, instead of being centered.
When we live life with a peripheral vision, we’re avoiding direct contact with it. By this, I mean that reality is only something that is peripherally occurring on the sides of our main focus of attention which are the ideas and images of what we think reality is like, taught to us by friends, family members, books, movies, songs, priests and any other thoughts that can serve as looking glasses, instead of helping us to see what is right in front, or inside of us.
Sometimes we aren’t even aware of how we feel in the present moment because we think we already know or understand ourselves and then are surprised when we experience a ‘breakdown’ from an accumulation of unacknowledged emotions.
To awaken from this dream state and to experience reality directly rather than peripherally, we must go beyond thinking into a state of pure experiencing.
Awareness is our capacity to pay attention with intent and purpose. Soulful Energy uses the same principal; paying attention to the present moment with intent and non-judgment. This way of experiencing reality wakes up the fact that our lives unfold only in moments. These moments of awareness are rich of clarity, acceptance of the present moment and full of possibilities for growth and transformation.
Mantra prayer, meditation, yoga, shamanic dancing, psychoanalysis – these are only some of the many techniques that have been used for centuries in order to awaken and center ourselves. No matter what method is used, the basic principal behind all of them is of passively witnessing the present moment unfold.
Witnessing, or passive awareness, creates a separation between yourself and the thoughts that are arising in your mind. This is a curious paradox, but a separation must occur before you can create wholeness within you. In other words; in order to become a master of yourself you must first create separation and distancing between yourself and your thoughts, in order for you to create conscious wholeness.
With conscious wholeness we have stopped reacting and identifying with a thought or emotion, and thus this gives us the freedom to act in full control, as a Master, instead of reacting unconsciously, as a Slave. With anger for example, instead of feeling “I’m angry”, it turns into “I’m experiencing anger”. With fear, instead of feeling “I’m scared”, it turns into “I’m experiencing fear” – and so forth with the full spectrum of human experience.
From Self-Awareness to Awareness of Self
Involution may be composed of seven different paths, but none of the paths are dependent on each other. Instead, they are all interdependent elements of the same whole.
Our basic desire for Self-Mastery arises from the need to soothe an elementary feeling present within all humanity; a feeling of emptiness, of having nothing, of extraordinary uncertainty, frustration and a deep inner void that seeks something greater than the empty sense of “Self”.
We distract ourselves with books, movies, games, social media, money, careers and other pursuits in order to escape from the necessity of facing this inner void. We fool ourselves into believing that we can control the external world, and we allow our illusionary senses of “Self” to fool us into thinking that we are in control and are Masters of our selves in life. But we are not.
Involutionary Self-Awareness is the moment where we build up enough courage to start facing the truth by shining awareness on that which we have been trying to escape. Soon, we begin to Self-Explore and Self-Discover, and with enough intensity of awareness we finally begin to Self-Understand and grow in Self-Love. During this whole process a Self-Transformation begins to occur that with enough awareness bridges the necessary gap between the experiencer and the experience, and results in a wholer human being.
Our search for existential meaning, for God, for a Higher and Divine self is born from our urge to belong and to feel whole. It is only by cultivating pure awareness, bringing light into our fragmented and indirect way of perceiving the world, that we can find what we’ve been looking for all along. Once you have cultivated this pure awareness – consciousness, light, or what many refer to as ‘God’ – illuminates your being, revealing that there is no inner, there is no outer, there is only One.
We are not alone in our journeys. Many have come before us, have found what we are searching for and have shared their experiences. These people have gone so deeply into this awareness and have trancended so highly their dreamlike senses of self, that we’ve found them worthy of being called Masters.
Each one of them clothed this experience in a different way: Moksha, atman, enlightenment, nirvana, kingdom of heaven, promised land, allah, cosmic unity, unio mystica, mysterium tremendum, cosmic consciousness, union with God, oneness, divinity, non-duality, no-mind, samadhi, satori, harmony of the spheres and so on.
When we don’t know where we are going, we may only go in circles. It’s only when we’ve really found where we are that we realize there is nowhere to go.
Rather than making you a controller, awareness is what makes you a Master – simply a timeless, continuous, and eternal presence.