Self-awareness, Other-awareness and Social Perspective

Are you watching yourself on basic cable or satellite?

Posted Jan 23, 2009

If we think of our "self-ness" as a television screen and our self-awareness as the channel that we're watching, we can get a good idea of what level of self - and Self - that we're tuned into. Most of us are watching basic cable, receiving only a few stations. As we look more deeply inward, we find the premium channels and, recognizing here the confluence of our shared journey, we gather greater social perspective, tolerance and compassion.

Moving forward with our metaphor, if we are watching Channel 1, then we are seeing things at their most basic. We look at another person and we see man, woman, child, black, white, and so on. We are looking at and "receiving" only the material object.

If we change to Channel 2, one level deeper, we are looking at the psychosocial aspect and we begin to see, among other things, attitudes and social roles. Here we find anger, jealousy, rage, joy, love, neurosis, psychosis, mothers, fathers, shopkeepers, doctors, chambermaids, school teachers and so on.

Most of us are content with watching Channel 2. We receive people as physical form, material manifestation and social position. This, in our highly simplified model, is basic cable. There is no shame, misdirection or wrong in this, as it is the warp and woof of our everyday lives and what, quite realistically, we are typically tuned in to.

In viewing only Channel 1 or Channel 2, we are operating at a very basic social level that breeds things like racism, classism, and sexism, as well as social and psychosocial dissonance. We start from a place of discord, of pushing back against "that-which-is-not-Me". We are, in point of fact, living in the grip of the Shadow, rather than integrating it.

Should we choose to move beyond this and view one level deeper - Channel 3 in our construct - we begin to access the premium channels; here we are operating at the level of archetype and mythos. We activate the constructs of collective unconscious, racial memory and myth, and apply them to the other, collapsing differences and recognizing the commonalities of parallel existence and manifestation.

We begin to see -- to use one formulation - the leader as Leo or the waffler as Pisces, and, from this vantage point, recognize that there are really only twelve of us existing in various permutations. Using other formulations, we may see the Sisyphus in the obsessive-compulsive or the Icarus in overachiever, the personality tendencies of the three gunas or the developmental stuckness in one of the seven chakra bandas.

At this level of connection, rather than operating from a place of discord, we begin to find accord; we begin to recognize the parallel nature of our shared existence. We have moved here from seeing difference - that-which-is-not-me - to seeing similarities.

Even the most intellectually and spiritually advanced of us tend to stay here. Although we may seek out and hover around the deeper levels of connection, these are very difficult to hold on to in day to day life or as more than simply an esoteric concept. Staying in touch with these deeper levels is typically the ken of realized Yogis, actualized Zen Masters and Ascended Masters. It's difficult to remain fixed on the eyes of God or rest in the Universal Consciousness when the eyes you're looking into are those of the checkout clerk at the Piggly Wiggly who is arguing with you about the validity of your coupon or the teenager who just rear-ended you at a stoplight.

Regardless, the next level takes us to a place behind all of these personality structures - the soul level. We look at another (or more properly an Other) and say, "Are you in there? I'm in here..."; we begin to recognize the person behind the persona.

The soul of which we speak here is the differentiated Self. It is that level of Source or Self that can still be identified as "I" or "Me". When we come to a place where we can recognize this differentiated Self - or, in the words of Paramahansa Yogananda, the "Divine Ego" -- in another person, we are one step closer to genuine awareness, where that awareness in ourselves is typically characterized as the Christ Consciousness or Krishna Consciousness. For the atheist or agnostic, this would likely be characterized as a state of profoundly altruistic social consciousness.

The next level leads us to a place where we can directly experience Awareness -- where Awareness is "looking at Itself, looking at Itself". At this level, there is no differentiation between either self and other, or Self and Other. All of the labels, psychosocial elements, archetypal and mythic constructs, and sensibilities around individual "person-ness" have fallen away to reveal the Essence. Again, for the atheist, this would be an experience of pure love and completely balanced and blended connection with another person.

Lastly, all of this disappears and Awareness is only "Itself in Itself". This speaks to the notion of the Universal Oneness - God in the Judeo-Christian tradition, Goddess in the Pagans traditions, Allah in the Islamic and Sufi traditions, God-Realization in the Yogic wisdom teachings, Intelligent Design in the neo-spiritual scientific tradition and/or samadhi in the Buddhist tradition. From here, we see Source or Essence in all people and all things because we have come to recognize that everything is a manifestation of God or Divinity or the Universal Oneness or the Grand Plan or whatever you wish to call it.

How is this little exercise in understanding planes of reality is important to us in a practical sense is the recognition that the deeper we go inward, the more balanced and compassionate we can be in our reception and experience of the world around us. the fully we are connected with ourselves, the more fully we can be connected with our world.

The "how to..."? Meditate, meditate, meditate... Remembering that meditation is not some esoteric exercise reserved for dirt-loving-tree-hugging granola-head neo-hippies (yes, like myself), but, rather, it is simply finding a place of stillness and center within oneself. Sit, quiet your mind, follow your breath and let your thoughts flow'll be amazed at what you'll find.

© 2009 Michael J. Formica, All Rights Reserved

Michael's Mailing List  |  Michael's eMail |  Follow Michael on Twitter

Michael on Facebook  |  The Integral Life Institute on Facebook