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  • Writer's pictureBarry Shirley


Hi Guys. In this February 2021 blog (Issue14) – (no January issue) - I would like to contemplate the subject of Self-awareness.

As in my previous blogs, I will draw on the views and opinions of past and current masters, sages, mystics, gurus, philosophers and generally wise people. I also tap into all the worldly belief systems, religions and philosophies to draw on ancient knowledge and wisdom. These blog posts are designed for those interested in mindfulness and will only give you a taste of the information, knowledge and wisdom that is out there.

What does it mean to be Self-aware or to be awake or to ‘find yourself’ or to go ‘soul searching”, or to ask, “who am I?” At some point in your life you will probably think there is more to your existence ‘than meets the eye’, especially when things appear to be going bad or negatively for you. We have all experienced the horrible effects of COVID-19 on our community (and still are) and some of us have had the opportunity to think more about lots of things in our lives.

Self-awareness is said to be a recognition of one’s environment and body and an ability to see yourself objectively. There is also a subjective aspect more along the lines of consciousness or inner self, which I will be covering in this post.

There are an abundance of books and articles on the subject of self-awareness (and on the internet) but it seems that, if you have had time to take stock of things then it is probably time to reflect on whether you are happy, sad or indifferent and maybe try to let go of stuff that does not serve you well – or accept things that you cannot change.

Easier said than done! It is also easy to suggest trying meditation, yoga and other related things that are said to be good for your soul (I think they are however, after trying them).

Many of us are endeavouring to discover the inner being that is said to exist in all of us – beyond the ego. This approach is also called reflection and is an important aspect throughout our lives.

There is a need to regularly look closely at ourselves (observe review and self-examine) and to consider how we have or have not been willing to learn more about our place in the order of all things. However, those that don’t have the inclination to try to understand themselves better may feel quite happy in continuing to see life though their ego filter and long held beliefs. It is all about choice and levels of curiosity!

It comes back to the old villain, our ego (which is said to be either at our lower level of our consciousness or in unconsciousness itself).

The renowned Author and Spiritual Teacher, Eckhart Tolle, has incredible knowledge about who we think we are and discussed this point extensively in his book “A New Earth’. He suggests that, before we ask any other question, first ask the fundamental question of your life: Who am I?

He states that; “Unconscious people – and many remain unconscious, trapped in their egos through their lives – will quickly tell you who they are: their name, their occupation, their personal history, the shape or state of their body, and whatever else they identify with. Others may appear to be more evolved because they think of themselves as an immortal soul or divine spirit. But do they really know themselves, or have they just added some

spiritual-sounding concepts to the content of their mind? Knowing yourself goes far deeper than the adoption of a set of ideas or beliefs. Spiritual ideas and beliefs may at best be helpful pointers, but in themselves they rarely have the power to dislodge the more firmly established core concepts of who you think you are, which are part of the conditioning of the human mind. Knowing yourself deeply has nothing to do with whatever ideas are floating around in your mind. Knowing yourself is to be rooted in Being, instead of lost in your mind.”

Basically, he is also saying that if you let your ego control you when you are under attack from the negative aspects of life and succumb to unhelpful emotions in reacting, then you may not grasp the question of truly knowing yourself.

*Reminder* - as discussed in my previous posts, ego is said to have probably given you an identity based on your upbringing, the influence of your parents, your personality, culture, schooling, religion, social influences and habitual thinking patterns – this is considered to be your lower self (in eastern belief systems). All this is said to be a form of programming that we perhaps need to try and detach from if we want to understand how we are so much more than what we think we are.

Things will happen in life to rattle you, upset you, and how you respond (not react) might just determine how you truly know yourself. Learning to ‘be in the moment’ (i.e. experience right here and now, without any judgement!) and either to accept a situation or let go of one might just be the way to break away from the ego ‘autopilot’!

All this entails a high level of Self-awareness (and more of a spiritual awareness of the higher self) where you can attune to emotions and thoughts and respond in a calm and balanced way.

However, there is also a basic self-awareness which is more attuned to having a perception of your personality and attitudes and how you think you are received by others (the realities of being human?). This aspect is also called emotional intelligence and once again there is a large volume of work on this subject. Whilst it could well be a paradox, there is probably an ideal amalgam of the spiritual Self-awareness aspect and the emotional intelligence side of things which can serve your approach to life.

As Mark Twain stated; “the two most important times in your life are the day you are born and the day you remember why.”

There is also a positive need to be highly Self-aware so that your ego doesn’t mess things up when certain triggers appear. You should perhaps learn to understand your weaknesses/blind spots/biases and reflect on situations that have challenged or upset you.

In a similar vein, some of us may also have the odd moving experience of something positive that appears to come from ‘deep within’ – maybe during a yoga session or meditation or just whilst enjoying a sunset/sunrise, a baby/small child, art etc. This might be called mystical or even momentary enlightenment or just unexplained.

Many deeply spiritual persons in the past have sometimes been referred to as mystics. These individuals are said to be able to recognise the mystery of the unity of all things. However, many more persons nowadays have a knowledge of wellbeing, philosophy, metaphysics and can recognise these co-called mystery events.

Such experiences can come at any time and the 20th century British author F.C. Happold, in his book; ‘Religious Faith and Twentieth-Century man’ attempted to analyse what these experiences were all about, as follows:

“One is enabled to recognise these experiences as truly mystical in character since they invariably contain some at least of the known and recognised characteristics of mystical states. In my book 'Mysticism' I listed seven characteristics of such states.

1. They defy expression in terms which are fully intelligible to those who have not had some analogous experience

2. Though states of feeling, they are also states of knowledge, resulting in a deeper insight into the nature of things.

3. Except in the case of true contemplatives, when they can result in a permanent shift of consciousness, they are infrequent and of short duration.

4. They convey the sense of something 'given', not dependent on one's own volition.

5. There is a consciousness of the oneness of everything

6. They also have a sense of timelessness.

7. There is forced on one the conviction that the familiar phenomenal 'ego' is not the real 'I’.

The Bhagavad Gita (ancient Sanskrit Hindu teaching at least 3- 5 thousand years old) has many such references to remind us of our purpose in life (also called dharma or true calling).

The Gita basically denotes an allegorical battle between the forces of ego and the higher self (i.e. the forces of evil and good) with Krishna (Supreme Soul/Godhead) teaching the warrior Arjuna (representing the best but flawed aspects of humanity) how to defeat the ego forces and discover his higher Self. Krishna also explains to him his duty to himself and others and the ultimate meaning and order of existence. Self is the ultimate goal of human experience and Krishna reminds Arjuna:

The impermanent has no reality; reality lies in the eternal. Those who have seen the boundary between these two have attained the end of all knowledge. Realise that which pervades the universe is indestructible; no power can affect this unchanging, imperishable realty. The body is mortal, but he who dwells in the body is immortal and immeasurable. Therefore, Arjuna, fight in this battle. Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2 Slokas 16 to 18.

In eastern philosophy and religions, it is said that we have a dual nature; mortal and immortal, and the purpose of our lives is to determine what is the ‘truth’. That is, to transcend this duality to self-realisation/enlightenment or even just a momentary taste of this. It is said that, we are a soul having a body experience trying to get home and to escape the cycle of birth and death.

Also, another question might be, what are you? As Neil deGrasse Tyson (American astrophysicist) quite beautifully says; 'We are stardust' bought to life by the universe so that the universe can figure itself out. We are made of the elements created in the fires burning at the heart of stars and share these elements as other planets, asteroids and other bodies in this universe.”

Our body structure is temporary and science confirms that it is made of the stuff of stars [] and returns to those atomic elements when it dies. However, what is animating us? What force makes our body move? Indigineous, eastern and western belief/philosophy systems all suggest there is a life force or subtle energy with literally hundreds of names, such as; consciousness, prana, spirit, Qi (chi), soul, atman, élan vital, god, mana, baraka, ha, tummo, orenda, pneuma, migaloo, including dreamtime stories, etc, etc.

At this very moment you could be hosting atoms which came from various famous persons of the past!

We are aware. We are conscious. And we are made from the same stuff as the heavens – we are by extension the universe!

There is a knowing intuition in all of this and in the end, you have to work it all out yourself, as our teachers and gurus are just guides and influencers on the mysteries of life.


  • Everything depends on the individual human being, regardless of how small a number of like-minded people there is, and everything depends on each person, through action and not mere words, creatively making the meaning of life a reality in his or her own being.” (Viktor Frankl -1905 – 1997 Holocaust survivor - neurologist, psychiatrist, philosopher and author).

  • You don’t have to change the world or find your one true purpose to lead a meaningful life. A good life is a life of goodness and that’s something anyone can aspire to, no matter their dreams or circumstances.” (Emily Esfahani Smith – US author).

  • If you end up with a boring miserable life because you listened to your mom, your dad, your teacher, your priest, or some guy on television telling you how to do your shit, then you deserve it.” (Frank Zappa – 1940 – 1993 – American singer-songwriter).

  • There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.” (Martha Graham – 1994 – 1991- American dancer and choreographer).

  • Follow your heart, listen to your inner voice, stop caring what others think.” (Roy T Bennett – thought leader – US Author).

  • "The Ego is the 'thing' that you've created to keep hiding from your Shadow, convinced that it’s all the ‘light’ or ‘good’ things about you – when in reality, the ego is neither ‘good’ nor ‘bad’ because it’s totally unreal.” (Oli Anderson – UK coach and author).


  • Aspire to know yourself and challenge your beliefs.

  • A definite purpose in life is to become awake (or aware) to the higher Self. It is also a journey, to look within yourself.

  • Keep ego at bay – stay humble.

  • Live your values and be the best version of yourself.

  • Try meditation, try yoga.

Compiled by Baz Shirley.


*See also:

Instagram: @bazabstract - Facebook: Barry Shirley And all my previous posts one:*

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