Perhaps you are familiar with this feeling - you find yourself in a challenging moment, be it personal or professional. You can sense yourself losing your capacity to rise up and meet the challenge at hand. Your negative thought patterns are making you respond defensively and your unrelated emotional storylines are rushing to the surface. You can sense somewhere in your periphery a different, more evolved reaction to the situation at hand, but you can’t quite seem to grasp it.
Moments like these, though quick and passing, can be incredible opportunities for spiritual development through personal growth. It is in these little, challenging spaces that we have the chance to observe our learned responses, survey alternatives, and try something different. Be it a response that is kinder, more effective, more productive or even just more fun, it all begins with awareness.
Without awareness, we would not even be able to see when we are acting in a manner that isn’t in our highest capacity. We are driving blind, making choices, and enacting behaviors that have consequences we have not even considered. Given that we make countless decisions throughout the day, it is no wonder that self-awareness is the first step on the journey to choosing the most enlightened version of our life.
The Yogi Who Lives in the World
There is an old saying, “The Yogi needs to live in the world but not be part of it.” This is an interesting adage in that Yogis build their spiritual discipline through the time spent in ashrams, monasteries, and intentional communities. Through this environment, they minimize their interactions with the outside world.
The ascetic living conditions and dedicated time for meditation allow them to build up their practices and hone their knowledge of wisdom traditions; however, it also limits the Yogi’s ability to understand themselves outside of the specific conditions of this singular, distinctly supportive, spiritual environment.
The Yogi must live in the world in order to experience themselves in relation to real-life challenges and they must bring their practice with them, not letting the world overtake who they are reaching to become. When such a person can relate to their responses with a certain degree of thoughtful observation, they can participate with a healthy sense of detachment that makes the scenarios we described above, more workable.
Curiosity, Gentleness, and a Little Bit of Courage
The process of beginning to understand yourself more clearly begins with intention. If you set your mind to the task of noticing your behavior and responses for the sake of self-refinement, you will over time, naturally build a foundation of awareness that will allow you to go deeper. While this may seem like “extra work,” instead try to think of it as a shift in energy. Instead of feeling remorse or defeat following a given scenario, you are redistributing that mental energy to feelings of curiosity and gentle exploration.
Like in meditation, curiosity and gentleness are key to self-awareness. As we learned in our Meditation 101 instructions, meditation is not only the act of returning to the breath but the act of returning to the breath gently. When we sit in meditation we learn to observe our minds. We are practicing observing when our attention has wandered from the breath and drifted into the more ego-driven lands of thought and emotion. The practice aspect comes when we apply compassionate self-discipline to that moment and say kindly to ourselves, you have been thinking, return to your breath.
Like the Yogi in the world but not of the world, the insight we gain on the meditation cushion can be a source of clarity as we compassionately observe ourselves in the world. This ability to be curious, simply means we are eager to learn in a way that does not have an agenda, paired with the ability to be gentle, meaning we are firm but compassionate in our return to the task at hand, are your two key tools for self-observation.
With your curiosity and gentleness in place, it may be time to rouse a bit of courage. The work of slaying the lower aspects of our nature is often depicted as a knight slaying a dragon and for good reason! It can be frightening to face ourselves directly and without delusion. Be brave and strong, calling on the sincerity of your intention to smooth out the inevitable discomfort of self-reflection.
Examining Yourself Through Personality Evaluation
Now that you have set your intention, called on the wisdom of your meditation practice, and roused your courage, it is time to deepen your understanding of yourself. Remember, the person who is self-aware has a clear understanding of their strengths and weaknesses, their challenges and opportunities, and the landscape of their life as both a day-to-day exercise and a long-term journey. Through this work, you are shining a light on every aspect of your being so that you have more insight, more visibility, and more intention in how you live.
With that in mind let’s begin with the exercise of naming aspects of our personality through the balance of positive and negative.
If you are a person who tends to be self-critical, start by listing your positive characteristics. If you often hesitate to consider feedback, start by listing your negative characteristics. Here may be a good moment to call on your meditation tools: gentleness, compassion, and a dash of courage.
Consider the following sample to guide you:
My positive characteristics:
My negative characteristics:
After you have made your list, consider how each of these personality traits makes you feel. Hold up the feeling of each characteristic in your mind and consider the following questions. You should allow yourself time to do one negative characteristic and one positive characteristic in order to maintain a balance. For now, we will use one example, “controlling,” to guide us:
How does it feel when I am exhibiting my tendency to be controlling:
I feel as though I am getting ahead of what could be a disorderly situation that could cause me pain or discomfort.
Without exercises of control, I feel adrift, confused, and disoriented in my own life.
Feeling in control in certain aspects of my world allows me to relax in certain parts of my life that I need to feel connected.
How prevalent is this characteristic in my personality:
I have significantly evolved my desire to be controlling but there are still aspects of my world where I rely on the sense of being in charge in order to function.
Am I attached to this aspect of my personality, if so why:
I do feel attached to this aspect of my personality. There have been times when this characteristic has been helpful in moving my life forward, even if at times, I sense I am not enjoying my life as fully as I could, especially now that I have many good systems in place.
How does my need to control affect others:
There are many moments where I feel those around me wishing I could relax more or wondering why I need to have things a certain way. For those who love me I feel as though they have accepted it but for others, I sense they find my attachments to order a bit strange and cumbersome.
It may be best to take one set of positive and negative characteristics at a time. After you have finished the exercise, look out for the characteristics you reviewed in your day-to-day life. Soon you’ll feel the awareness helping you to engage with it naturally and gently. This work takes time. Negative aspects of our personalities are deeply ingrained and similarity it can be difficult to bring our positive traits to the surface, particularly in challenging moments. Luckily, the Higher Self is here to help.
Using the Higher Self to Emphasize the Positive and Transform the Negative
It’s possible that this exercise has left you feeling both tender and inspired in your desire to evolve your personality and embrace self-awareness. In this moment, remember that you always have the support of the Higher Self to guide you on this journey. In fact, the Higher Self is your perfect companion in this work, encompassing your full potential to live a fulfilling life through growth and expansion.
As an embodiment of your full potential, the Higher Self knows what it is like for you to live as an accumulation of your most positive traits, manifesting as being of wisdom, kindness, and strength. This “Wise-Being Within,” can guide you in becoming the best possible version of yourself, if you simply continue to embrace the path of self-awareness.
The Higher Self Yoga teachings from the works of the Founder, Nanette V. Hucknall, employ a unique method of meditation, self-reflection and practical application. This is not a tradition that shys away from difficult emotions or challenging personal obstacles but rather uses the inner wisdom of the Higher Self to identify and resolve your personal hang-ups for the sake of true spiritual progression.
Below are a series of questions to ask your Higher Self on how to relate to what you have learned from the evaluation of your personal characteristics:
Enter a meditative state by sitting in stillness, following your breath, and resting in the space between your thoughts.
Connect to your heart chakra by bringing your attention to the center of your chest and resting in whatever feelings arise from there.
Visualize your Higher Self, and imagine your heart connecting to the heart of your Higher Self. Feel its energy flowing towards you until you know you are in sync with your highest guide.
Embody the characteristics you are contemplating and ask your Higher Self the following questions –
- Is this a true understanding of my relationship to this trait? Is there anything I am continuing to hide from myself?
- Am I truly willing to embrace or transform this characteristic? What is holding me back?
- How can I become more aware of when I am calling on this characteristic in my life? What can I do to have better clarity on my relationship to this characteristic?
After you have thanked your Higher Self and released the visualization, journal your findings and provide yourself with a plan for continued self-awareness around this trait.
Self-Awareness as a Naturally Occuring Phenomena
Now that you have expanded your capacity to see yourself more clearly, you will notice that this does not always have to be an active process. Soon you will begin to apply awareness, curiosity, and self-examination without the aid of such a direct process. Embrace and celebrate these moments as they occur and by doing so you may be inspired to make that slight change in response that will lead to a more aligned, awakened way of being.