Various meditation techniques strongly emphasize the importance of calmly observing the self in acquiring the real knowing of who we are, where we come from and what actually motivates us to thought and action. The term ‘mindfulness meditation’ is the most commonly used in this context. It’s one that almost everyone on the inner journey recognizes, regardless of path or tradition. In aiding our understanding of who we really are, as opposed to who we think we are or would like to be, it is incomparable.
Of course it takes practice and patience to park our schedule-fixated self long enough to relax into the non-aligned rhythms of the breath and blood that regulate our physical self, the one that provides us with the operational base from which our adventures into the mysterious otherness of everything else can be conducted. It’s just that those adventures, the planning, excitements and recall, can totally obscure the one who is doing the questing. We forget who we are as we experiment with duties, commitments and what used to be called follies. We identify with the personas and characters that are developed for each adventure; we think we are the masks used in the theatre of life and forget we are the soul holding the mask.
Observing the masks, and the thoughts and emotions which accompany them, can be one of the most rewarding challenges on the inner journey. Stripped of the games we play to suit the demands of family and society, we can glimpse the knowing we are striving towards, and rest assured that we shall, with practice, become, once again, one with that serene intelligence sitting quietly within us.
In some way, we are bearing witness to our real self, just as we might bear witness in the biblical or historical sense. We are seeing and speaking of the trauma of history, the wickedness of deception and the bearing of false witness. The history of the self, the history of the world: is the latter composed of the former? Are the scars of the traumatized selves the source of protective deceptions? Does the hand raised in defense become the dagger that strikes in pre-emptive fear? I would argue Yes, but it is only one of many insights to be gained from observing the self in meditation.