There are two meanings of self-awareness. The first is to be aware of our ephemeral self (our body, energy and mind) and the second is to be aware of our true Self, the inner formless silent luminous space which is eternal and is pure existence, pure awareness and pure bliss. We must develop both kind of awareness, both are necessary, but more important is to develop awareness of our true Self. However the one leads to the other. By trying to be fully aware of our body and mind we become aware of our Self and by becoming aware of our Self we become aware of our body and mind. Only in deep meditation we are only aware of our true Self. In all other cases we are aware of both; we decide where to focus more (to the silent inner space or to the body and mind) according our goal and circumstances. In this text I am referring to the self-awareness about our true Self.
The general rule is that we can increase something by doing as much as possible what we want to increase. So, if we want to develop self-awareness we must practice self-awareness. In order to develop self-awareness it is highly recommended to use some techniques or exercises appropriate for this purpose. At the same time we must avoid as much as possible what make us fall in forgetfulness and identification with thoughts, emotions and objects and eliminate one by one the obstacles and the egoic tendencies that impede us remain self-aware.
In order to develop self-awareness, first of all we must investigate what is to be self-aware and what is to be identified. Right knowledge, a focused mind, attention and discernment are the necessary requirements to do this enquiry. It is a must to acquire a clear perception of what self-awareness is, as well as what identification is, regarding the external objects and situations, the body, sensations, emotions, thoughts and the ego itself. Moreover we must enquiry and discover how identification happens as well as the strategies by which the egoic mind pulls us to forgetfulness of our true Self and identification with its own context and external objects. We must be alert and vigilant as much as possible during all day, in order to observe ourselves and enquire the nature of identification and self-awareness and deepen more and more in them. The practice of Self-awareness and the stopping of identifications is a whole life process; we practice it until to free our subconscious mind from all samskaras and vasanas* (which are the cause of all identifications) and rest permanently and effortlessly in our true nature (Sahaja state).
To enquire Self-awareness and be aware of the play of egoic mind, it is necessary to dedicate daily some time to do this enquiry in favorable conditions. We must do this enquiry two or three times in isolation (home, nature etc.) in order to investigate carefully the works of the mind regarding the identification as well as deepen in self-awareness without distractions.
Since we have a clear perception of what self-awareness is, then we must practice (to practice doesn't mean to struggle or strive hard) moment to moment to remain as much as possible self-aware and avoid identification. Of course it is not easy to avoid identification and remain present but this is the challenge in spirituality; our capacity to remain self-aware depends on our maturity, motivation, mental and emotional capacities and the power of ego.
A fundamental requisite to develop self-aware is our motivation, how much we want to remain self-aware, and the opposite, how much we don’t want live in identification. Are we fed up by the mechanical life full of miseries and suffering, or we are still thirsty for sensual pleasurable experiences? What is, we want more? Very important are also our determination, patience, perseverance, tenacity and self-confidence to succeed in this endeavor.
Remember that in order to remain and deepen in self-awareness we must seek and associate with what help us to succeed in this and avoid what impedes us remain in self-awareness and facilitates identification. A problem regarding identification and self-awareness is that we don't want to avoid the identification in relation with pleasurable and pleasant experiences. This is the greatest challenge we face in our journey towards liberation.
Can we enjoy objects without identification? Yes we can, but we cannot have pleasure (except sexual pleasure; of course there is also passionate sex which is based also on imagination, identification and projection) without identification, imagination and projection. Pleasure needs identification. This is subtle subject and needs a greater analysis.
Strangely in some cases our ego doesn't like also to let go of negative emotions as well; this happens because our egoic identity is based on these emotions (in reality these emotions are modifications or expression of the ego itself) and also because of false concepts and beliefs.
The quantity and the quality both are important factors of development
In order to develop any capacity or quality, the quantity and the quality of practice are both necessary and important. High quantity of practice with low quality gives poor results and vice-versa, high quality (which normally is impossible without a lot of practice) with a little practice gives poor results as well.
High aspiration, devotion, dedication, self-confidence, faith, determination, patience, perseverance, tenacity, are more important than the methods.
We and not the practices or the techniques by themselves are the most important factor and everything depends on our faith and determination.
Practical tips to develop self-awareness and self-awareness
Practice two times a day meditation or self-enquiry.
Read books about self-awareness (of spiritual teachers (like Eckhart Tolle, Nisargadatta etc.), two or more hours every day 'trying’ to remain self-aware.
Read classical advaita books like Ribhu Gita, Astavakra Gita, Avadhuta Gita and 'try' to remain self-aware.
Watch video that are focused in self-awareness (of spiritual teachers (like Eckhart Tolle, Adhyasanti and others) 'trying’ to remain self-aware.
Participate in satsangs about self-awareness and self-awareness and ‘trying’ to remain self-aware.
Listen spiritual music or mantra 'trying’ to remain self-aware.
Repeat mentally mantras 'trying’ to remain self-aware.
Walk one hour every day 'trying’ to remain self-aware.
Walk one hour in market and see how your mind is attracted from sense objects and how the process of identification unfolds. Observe how your egoic mind reacts with like and dislike, attraction and aversion towards objects.
Practice pranayama 'trying’ to remain self-aware.
Practice hatha yoga asanas 'trying’ to remain self-aware.
Practice relaxation 'trying’ to remain self-aware.
Stay in front of a big mirror and look at your self 'trying' to remain self-aware.
Find your own ways to develop self-awareness and be established in it
Find your own ways to remain and deepen in self-awareness according the conditions of tour life.
Finally by continuous steady practice you must achieve remain self-aware in all situations of daily life.
Introspection and dissolution of egoic tendencies
You must also every day (usually every night) to do introspection and work with some egoic tendency, some negative emotion in order to understand it and dissolve it by proper means. By dissolving little by little every day the egoic energy we create more free space in mind that enable us remain more easily present and self-aware.
Everything is in you, everything will be revealed to you in the right time. If you aspire sincerely and practice regularly with faith and steadiness you will succeed. There is no doubt. Obstacles are many but you can overcome everything, no doubt! Everything depends on faith!
samskaras and vasanas*:
- Eradication of vasanas (desires) is the proper remedy, Not Suppression by Swami Sivananda
- Freedom from Samskaras and vasanas leads to liberation / by Atman Nityananda
- Samskaras -impressions by Swami Sivananda
- Death of samskaras (impressions) leads to Liberation (Moksha) / by Swami Sivananda
- Sexual Samskaras and eradication of lust
- Mind is a bundle of Vasanas - Destruction of Vasanas will bring freedom. Swami Krishnananda