Finding your True Self
Everyone is searching for their true self, whether they know it or not.
The search for identity doesn’t begin as a search. It begins by experiencing life without filters or understanding, as an infant. Then, as a child, you begin to add filters and personality, then as a teenager, then as a young adult, then as a mature adult: so many phases of growth and development, each with its circumstances and demands.
The identity, the ego, the self takes shape through the phases of life. In effect, life has shaped you into who you are at this moment.
For the most part, we let life shape us, because we don’t know any better. We don’t know any better because life is constantly demanding our attention, absorbing us into its flow. And much of our life experience is learning how to survive in the flow, how to keep from sinking under the weight of life‘s activity and demands.
Our true self is the innocent child’s sense of self. The child that knows nothing except its own beingness, and the present moment he or she is experiencing. Life as play and discovery. Life filled with possibilities.
The world wants to destroy that innocence, that love of play, that freedom to be only who you are, before you even know who you are. You simply are.
That’s why finding your true self for the second time is a rebirth. A rebirth into your essential beingness and the vastness of possibility.
Some mystics teach that you must die to your old self in order to find your true self, your perpetually new, always fresh and simply alive self.
Of course, some people, in fact, many people, never give up their childlikeness. Ever notice how some men and women hang on to their high school and college identities? They refuse to give up partying and playing, and their love of personal freedom, at least until it’s squashed by responsibilities and worries.
Ever notice how a nice walk on a beautiful day sometimes brings back the sense of awe and joy that you felt as a child? That “oneness with nature” that is so freeing and wondrous. Could it be that you are always one with nature, always free, always wondrous, you’ve just forgotten how to live in it?
“Enlightened people” are simply those who have been reborn to live as children again, but the second birth is often (but not always) accompanied and facilitated by an understanding of the true self. This understanding is gained from a spiritual teacher, religious training, personal insights, and practicing stillness through meditation and prayer. In other words, it takes some effort, some discipline.
We hear things like, “Yes, he moved to the beach in an effort to find himself.” Or a Christian might say, “I accepted Jesus, now I am a child of God.”
We are all searching for the true self within, and in many respects the true self is the childlike essence, the essential quality of beingness and freedom that is the natural state of human consciousness or spirit. But, for the adult seeker, the search involves effort and spiritual understanding. It has to require effort, because the conditioned self, the coat of identity, the worldly fabrication we call self, has to be taken off, and that’s what takes effort, attention, and understanding.
It’s as if we’ve built a box around our experience of life, a box called the self.
We’ve learned to identify with the box, the box has become our definition of self. We can see the walls of the box so clearly, we bump into them all the time. Sometimes, the claustrophobia becomes intense inside the box, and we want to scream, we want to yell for help, or we just want to die, because the walls of the box are too thick, the air is too stale, the heat inside the box is too much to bear, and we know that if we don’t escape to freedom, life won’t be worth living.
I suggest that there are two ways to escape the box of self.
1.Jesus. Jesus simply smashes the box. It’s a brute-force, mysterious act of love. Jesus destroys the box with a swift Chuck Norris roundhouse kick. Suddenly, in a an instant, you are a child again, a child of God with a new future. (Obviously, I’m skipping some details.) The beauty of the Jesus experience is that it is immediate, if you want it to be. The “problem” with it is that, unless you have an enlightened spiritual teacher, as a fresh, new child of God, you don’t know what to do next. So your “former life” comes crashing back, the box is quickly rebuilt, or, worst of all, you are reborn back into the same old box!
Quite possibly, no one ever told you that Jesus had smashed the box forever and that you have entered a process of transformation.
In fact, you might have been told that you were going to be a new person but that you weren’t actually going to get a new life. Instead of getting a new life, you get lots of head knowledge about the history of Christianity, and a rather complicated “Christian identity” takes shape. Perhaps you become a church member and learn how to adapt to church culture. You learn the church words. You begin to believe that being a church member is your new life. Maybe you believe that going to church is Christianity itself. For some, that’s just a new wall of the same old box called self. So you’re just a revised self, and many people are happy with that. They can live a better life with their revised understanding and their ability to connect with God through prayer and worship and community, all good things that enhance life, but not the whole enchilada.
2. Stillness. There is a vast space within each of us, the landscape of the spirit, or, if you prefer, the ocean of consciousness. The stillness within can be experienced through meditation and contemplation. Yes, it’s that simple. The true self is found in the stillness within. It’s the you that has always been connected to God.
You may recognize and connect with your true self suddenly, easily, naturally, or it may take a ton of effort. It just depends on how solid and stubborn those walls of your old self-box are; but, they will come tumbling down eventually, but not by your own effort to kick them down. It’s a process. Meditation is the process of moving effortlessly deeper within your own consciousness where your true self simply “resides”. Those old walls will crack and crumble as you spend more and more time with your true self within. As you do, your understanding will unfold, and it will transform you and impact your life.
The question you have to ask yourself.
The big question you have to ask yourself, whether you take the Jesus route or the stillness route, is whether or not you can live without your old self-box. Maybe you love that box, maybe you’ve learned to deal with it, maybe even feel safe in it, because it’s all you know. It’s become a dependable old friend, and you don’t know how to say goodbye.
And maybe you’re afraid of what your true self will require of you.
The “hybrid path” to finding your true self.
When you plumb the stillness within, you are connecting intimately with the consciousness of the universe, you are entering the “spiritual realm,” the spiritual dimension of reality, where the pervading consciousness of God is immediately accessible. (God is also accessible without meditation, in the here and now, but our awareness of God’s presence may be slim to none, prior to experiencing your true self anew.)
God has also become accessible in Jesus, in fact, that’s why Jesus is Jesus, to be God-made-accessible in the form of a man and a spiritual teacher. So, if you really search, you’ll meet both God and Jesus in the stillness.
God said in Psalm 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
Jesus said in John 14:6–7: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
In the stillness within, we find the reality of God and Jesus, and we meet and know, and learn to love, the true self.
This is great news, because as natural, intelligent, and loving as the true self is, experiencing the plane of inner awareness would be a lonely experience without the intimate, natural connection to the pervading consciousness of God or the humanized experience of Jesus, who calls us “friend.”
Jesus says in John 15:15: “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”
My hope in writing this is that everyone will seek their true self within, and that everyone will come to know God and Jesus intimately within. The search for spiritual reality is a natural part of experiencing life. It’s the only way to have the fullest experience of life, in my humble opinion.
It’s only a question of how diligently we seek spiritual enlightenment. Once you begin to diligently seek your true self, the whole of life begins to be transformed.
The transformation must start inside your consciousness before it manifests newness of life all around you. Pay attention to your inner life, your inner sense of self, and enlightenment will unfold for you in a natural process of self-discovery.
The Theory of Everything & Beyond
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About the Author:
John Leslie Butchart attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he studied psychology, philosophy, anthropology, Southern literature, creative writing and filmmaking.
He and his family own and operate a motion picture production company, Highway 29 Motion Pictures, in Greensboro, North Carolina.
John is also the founder of MoviesAmongFriends.com, a social network for filmmakers and actors.
Author of more than twenty screenplays, his film credits include Lake of Fire, a Southern Gothic motion picture which he wrote and directed, and The Hive.
In addition to The Music We’re Born Remembering, he has authored a book of short stories and poetry entitled Home Movie; an apocalyptic thriller, Sons of Noah; and an Appalachian novel entitled Elyana.