The Journey of ‘S’elf Discoveryby Robert Meagher on 10/02/20
In Richard Harvey’s 3-stage model of human awakening, the first stage is all about the journey of self-discovery. The ‘self’ this stage speaks about is the true, authentic self. It is often spelt ‘Self’ in spiritual teachings, with a capital ‘S’.
What is this journey of ‘S’elf discovery? What does the journey look like? How does one travel on this journey? Where does the journey end? And what does one discover at the end? Who and/or what is this true, authentic ‘S’elf?
What is this journey of ‘S’elf discovery? The journey of ‘S’elf discovery includes a process of shedding early life conditioning. This early life conditioning is poignantly adopted from childhood. Our early years are formative and they can leave an indelible mark on us. This early life conditioning is carried forward into our adolescent and adult years. The result is a contracted adolescence and adulthood. We carry around remnants of our early life conditioning and don’t move fully into adolescence or adulthood. We are actually living a ‘kid-olescent’ and ‘kid-ult’ existence (kid + adolescent = kid-olescent; kid + adult = kid-ult). The kid-olescent and kid-ult are chronologically mature, but they are not psychologically mature. The result of this ‘kid-escent’ or ‘kid-ult’ existence are behaviors, reactions and decisions that are psychologically immature. The kid-olescent and kid-ult allows their early life conditioning to infiltrate their existence and keeps them tied to their early life experiences. Until the kid-olescent and kid-ult sheds their early life experiences, they are subject to a limited life—a life limited by beliefs of who they think they are, what they think the world is, and what they think their place is in the world.
What does the journey look like? The journey of ‘S’elf discovery is a lot like ‘peeling the layers off an onion.’ Our early life experiences result in the building up of layers of protective covering that grew as a result of our sense of danger and a need to protect ourselves from what we thought was going on around us. As each layer of the protective child-hood covering is peeled away, scars are revealed. The sensation can be like ripping a band-aide off a festering sore. Eventually the scars heal, however, until the next layer is peeled away. You may notice, however, that as each layer of the onion is peeled away, the core of the onion becomes a lighter and lighter color. So too is the journey of ‘S’elf discovery. As we shed more and more of our childhood conditioning, our story becomes more bathed in light. The brighter the light becomes, the purity of our true, authentic ‘S’elf starts to reveal it’S’elf.
How does one travel on this journey? There is no one way to travel on the journey of ‘S’elf discovery. Each one must find his/her way. Most people never find the courage to undertake the journey. But for those that do, there are many decisions to make along the way. Do I go this journey alone? Do I work with someone? Is there a community of people who could support me through the journey? The Way of Sacred Attention teaches there are three pillars of personal and spiritual growth and development: the teacher, the teaching, and the sanga, or spiritual community. The journey of ‘S’elf discovery is similar. One can benefit from a teacher (or therapist, or healer), a teaching (a method or modality), and a sanga (a community of people that can support the seeker on their journey).
Where does the journey end? The journey of ‘S’elf discover may never end, as we hopefully continue to learn about ourselves our entire embodied lives. However, at a point we realize all the beliefs we held about ourselves, the world, and our place in the world, have changed. We realize we are not the person we thought we once were. We arrive at this point through forgiveness, in the spiritual sense. Forgiveness arises as a practice of letting go of the past with the realization that what we thought happened to us never actually did—it only happened in our mind. It did not happen in truth.
What does one discover at the end? This is a very personal question. Not everyone discovers the same things. But there are some common themes that emerge for those who have shed their early childhood conditioning. Those who have emerged from their early childhood conditioning have done so because they have learned how to forgive. They have risen into the heart space that is filled with love, harmony, compassion, and joy. The tell-tale sign of someone who has shed early childhood conditioning is they have rediscovered a sense of peace in their life. What we may discover at the end is our true, authentic ‘S’elf.
Who and/or what is this true, authentic ‘S’elf? Our true, authentic ‘S’elf is devoid of attachment to anything or anyone. We no longer cling to our story. We no longer find value in the past and all that it meant to us. We jettison our story of early life experiences. We hold on to nothing. We learn to live in the eternal ‘now.’ While we may plan for the future, we accept whatever happens, not what we may have planned for or wanted to happen. Our relationships are not based on what we need or want from the other person, but what we can share with the other. Our true, authentic ‘S’elf learns that in giving we receive and that the only thing worth giving is love. Alas, we realize that the only thing we want to do with love is to give it away. We rest in peace knowing that this love will return to us, because we have given it away.
Robert Meagher has been ordained as an Interfaith Minister and certified as a Sacred Attention Therapy (SAT) Therapist. Robert is the Founder and Spiritual Director for Spiritual Guidance and Co-Founder of the Center for Human Awakening.