Greater Tokyo Area, Japan.
Photo taken by the author.
These negative self-images and misbeliefs, when we identify with them, dominate our daily lives, thoughts, feelings, and actions, operating as some sort of unseen enemy. They haunt and hound us, and rob us of peace of mind and emotional equanimity. The funny thing is these self-images have no power in and of themselves except the power we, the persons that we are, give them by, firstly, our belief in them, and secondly, the attention and time we give them in our mental and emotional life. Who or what is this 'I' or 'me' that is inferior or fearful? Call out to 'it.' Does it answer back? If it does it's more than likely it's another 'I' or 'me' doing the answering. It's all quite tragic ... and silly ... and unnecessary. There is a much better way to live. There is a way out!
Unfortunately, the mental construct of ‘self’---indeed, hundreds of ‘selves,' that is, 'I's' and 'me's,' in the form of our (often negative and destructive) likes, dislikes, attachments, aversions, cravings, habits of thought, prejudices, beliefs, opinions, and so on---which we have each built up over many years by thought and habit, and then reinforced by words spoken as well as memories of the past, imposes severe limitations on how we see life. All too often, life’s experiences are filtered through a distorted lens comprised of the totality of our various self-images. We fail to see things as they really are because of this distorted lens. You see, how you experience what happens to you in life will be determined very largely by your self-image, that is, how you see yourself.
The first thing to do is to accept that you are a ‘person’---a vital and integral part of life's self-expression. That is what you are. You are not that 'I' or 'me,' whether under the guise of your so-called 'witnessing self,' ‘transcendental self,’ or ‘ego-self’---all of which are essentially the same thing---that are nothing more than the aggregation of the hundreds and thousands of ‘I-moments’ you have manufactured in your lifetime. Nor are you any of the other false selves with which you habitually identify (and thereby perptuate) and which you mistakenly believe to be the ‘real you.’ However, the reality is that this supposed 'real you' is nothing but (to use the words of the Indian spiritual philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti [pictured above left]) 'self-centred activity, the self that is always asserting, the self that demands fulfilment, the self that perpetuates itself through identification, the self that is constantly in action and creating its own centre and therefore isolating itself.'
The second thing to do is to recognize that you are always in direct and immediate contact with internal and external reality---that is, with what is---except when you put barriers between yourself---that is, the person that in truth you are---and reality.
Self-observation of your thoughts, feelings, and actions as they arise or occur---if undertaken with passive detachment and choiceless awareness (that is, with no judgment, justification, analysis, attitude, comment, interpretation, interference, criticism, or condemnation) of what unfolds as your inner and outer reality from one moment to the next---will in time break down your identification with your false selves as a result of the insight gained from the process of self-observation itself. When you truly observe the process of your thinking, and cease being ‘an observer apart from the observed’ (to use Krishnamurti’s words), which means you see the whole movement of your thoughts, and your feelings, as well as your actions, choicelessly in the sense explained above, then the very act of self-observation puts an end to thought. The result? The false selves are dissolved because they are simply the creation of thought, habits of thought, and conditioning---all of them thought. No thought, no false selves---and over time a psychological mutation occurs that is of tremendous depth and profundity. You have become a light unto yourself. Yes, it’s a wondrous thing to behold. Self-change from self-knowledge from self-observation. (Note. The reference to 'self' in the expressions 'self-change' and 'self-knowledge' is a reference to what we actually are as persons among persons. As to the expression 'self-observation,' the word 'self' has an expanded meaning as described above.)
In some spiritual traditions this whole process is referred to as ‘surrender’ or ‘letting go,’ with the idea that there needs to be a re-surrender and further letting-go whenever one becomes aware of something---in particular, some false self---that is holding us back from fully being the real person that we are. It doesn’t matter what you call it. The only important thing is that you dissolve your false selves through ongoing---yes, it must be undertaken on a progressive basis---self-observation.
YOUR MIND IS ITS OWN PRISON