When his disciples asked how to attain Self-realization, Ramana directed them to meditate on a single question:. The deeper I pursued it, however, the more I realized that I could not really say who I was. It took me awhile to realize that being stuck was not a sign of failure.
See reality for what it is instead of what you think it is. Even though everyone around me seemed to think it was the best thing in the world, I never felt I could really take pride in having been born in this particular place. As a teenager, I constantly fantasized about other identities that could never fully be mine. I sported Che Guevara t-shirts and went to learn French in Paris, where I would always introduce myself as Americain and quickly follow that with malheureusement.
I took pride in being ashamed of my unchosen collective identity. At the age of 18, I quickly ran to the place I felt was most opposite my hometown. Colorado Springs was hyper religious, ultra-conservative, and xenophobic, but Montreal was a haven of multicultural, liberal permissiveness. I had cast off the old label and adopted a new one that I felt better reflected my values, closer to the essence of who I really was. In a smoky tavern in Old Quebec City, I stumbled upon a blues quartet whose music regaled me for hours.
At the end of the night, when I tried to convey my delight to a group of country Quebecers, they ruthlessly mocked my spirited attempt to make conversation with them in their own language. I began to wonder how many other Quebecers both French and English with whom I thought I had connected were thinking the same things in the back of their minds. My project of swapping one national identity for another was seriously thrown into doubt. Did it really make that much difference in my day-to-day life?
I slowly began to see that being American or Canadian or Quebecois was just an idea. Nations only exist in human minds, something that should have been clear to me looking down from airplanes on a borderless earth. When we identify as part of a nation, it makes us feel connected through time and space to others who are part of this extended family. But what basis do we really have for asserting continuity within a group of millions living across an entire continent over centuries? Pride, hatred, and all the other emotions that stem from national belonging are acquired over time from parents, history books, and patriotic festivals.
A solution to my national identity problem now became clear: just stop caring. Nationality is a sticker that, in some ways, diverts us from examining the vast and unspeakable mystery that underlies our existence. Police officers would likely be uninterested in hearing how the basic fact of our existence as human beings is unspeakably beautiful. Through poetry, meditation, and the enlightened gaze of people like Ramana, we sense this inexpressible reality at the core of our being.
This thunderous silence is not an object, but rather the infinitely profound and utterly obvious awareness out of which all thoughts arise and into which they dissolve.
Finding Your Self: Self-realization – Individuation Process
It might not be very satisfying to say that this truth is inexpressible, especially for the western mind. But there are so many essential experiences in our lives love, intuition, friendship, etc. Many times, the harder we try to grasp these things, the more we push them away. Perhaps the most we can do is resist attaching to easy answers and simply become aware and fully embody the mystery that we are.
As the Buddhist teacher Chogyam Trungpa put it,.
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Photo by Eugenia Loli. Visit his blog to read more of his ideas about philosophy, spirituality, and life. Have a comment? Sign In or Create an Account. I have the double nationality but yet i am not algerian or canadian. Cause not being used to asking such questions led me to fear and yet strange curiosity towards these questions.
If taken as a symbol of individuation, what is destroyed by the flood-waters the unconscious is the persona , that makeshift self-image with which one starts their adult life. This partial self must be dissolved to make way for the appearance of the whole self e. In some cultures there are myths of a diver who plunges to the bottom of the sea and brings up treasure. The story of the Frog Prince tells of a young woman who is visited on three consecutive nights by a frog. On the first and second night she is horrified, but on the third night she relents and lets the frog into her bed, and in the moment that she kisses him the frog turns into a handsome prince.
For Ernest Jones a follower and biographer of Freud the story is an allegorical account of a young woman overcoming her fear of sex. The frog, like the dragons and monsters, represent the dark and frightening shadow; the treasure is the true self. It is the world of water, where all life floats in suspension; where the realm of the sympathetic system, the soul of everything living, begins; where I am indivisibly this and that; where I experience the other in myself and the other than myself experiences me.
In order to reach the second stage of individuation one must resist two temptations. First , one must avoid projecting their shadow on to other people. One may therefore want to disown it, and one way of doing this is to make believe it is the property of someone else. The second temptation to be resisted is suppressing the shadow, which means ignoring it all together and letting it sink back into the unconscious mind e.
Usually, the first encounter with the shadow leads only to a partial acceptance of it, a mere acknowledgement of its existence. Acknowledgement awareness is only the first step. For a man this is the anima ; for a woman, the animus. The anima is the feminine aspects of a male psyche : e. The animus is the male side of a female psyche: assertiveness, the will to control and take charge, fighting spirit, and so on. A mythological example could be this: When Theseus needed to enter the labyrinth in Crete in order to slay the monstrous Minotaur, the fair Ariadne, with her thread, enabled him to go in and find his way out again.
The slaying can be accomplished, however, only by love Ariadne — the feminine — only by accepting the neglected thing, and welcoming it into our unconscious. The soul-image , then, is a mediator — a go-between or middle-man or middle-woman — who establishes communication between the conscious ego and the unconscious and reconciles the two. An example of this could be in religion. In the realm of religion there is the psychopomp , the one who guides human souls safely into the underworld; or — in some cultures — the shaman , who not only leads the souls of the dead to the spirit-world and makes the necessary introductions to spirits who will take proper care of the newcomers and get them ready for rebirth, but also carries the souls of sick people to the spirit-world for healing.
The underworld or spirit-world is the unconscious. The unconscious has healing powers and by descending into it the conscious self can attain new life. In dreams Jung said that the animus is more likely to be personified by multiple male figures , while the anima is frequently a single female. With the exception of the mother figure, the dream symbols that represent the soul-image are always of the opposite sex to the dreamer. Some other symbols of the animus are an eagle, a bull, a lion, and a phallus erect penis or other phallic figure such as a tower or spear.
The eagle is associated with high altitudes and in mythology the sky is usually ancient Egyptian mythology is the exception regarded as a male and symbolizes pure reason or spirituality. The earth is seen as female Mother Earth and symbolizes sensuous existence — that is, existence confined within the limits of the senses — plus intuition. Some symbols of the anima are the cow, a cat, a tiger or large feline, a cave and a ship. All of those are more or less female figures. Ships are associated with the sea, which is a common symbol for the feminine, and are womb-like insofar as they are hollow.
Caves are hollow and womb-like. Sometimes they are filled with water, which — as we have seen — is a symbol of the feminine, and are the womb of the Mother Earth or vaginal entrances to her womb. Here a recurring theme is that of the hero rescuing a beautiful young woman and some cases marrying her e. In a folktale variant of the same theme, the hero wakes a maiden from the sleep of death with a kiss Sleeping Beauty.
The rescue or kiss of life means that the man has now lifted his femininity out of its dark imprisonment and welcomed it and submitted to it as an indispensable factor in his life and happiness. After the prince has succeeded in waking Sleeping Beauty, all the other people in the palace — who have also been asleep for a hundred years — wake from their sleep. Another anima figure is the seductive nymph. Ondine Undine in alchemy is one such nymph. Ondine has no soul, and can gain one only if she can get a man to embrace her.
The Existential Necessity of Midlife Change
There are many stories of mermaids who lure sailors to their underwater beds. Here we have a two fold message: Man, give life to your anima; but take care you do not drown in your unconscious depths. Find the treasure that is there, then surface again. In other words, maintain conscious control. A folktale animus figure is the dwarf. This illustrates the way the animus, if cared for and nurtured by a woman as Snow White looked after the Seven Dwarfs , will bring up from her unconscious many valuable things that will serve her well in her daily life and her quest for self-realization.
Incidentally, marriage or sexual intercourse or a kiss or embrace symbolizes the union and intermingling of conscious ego and unconscious soul-image. It may also symbolize that complete union of the conscious and the unconscious which is the final stage of individuation. This means that if, instead of acknowledging and becoming acquainted with their own soul-image, one will project it on to members of the opposite sex, and then may be led into disastrous relationships.
For example, an emotional man may choose a blue-stocking for his partner; or a sensitive woman may be irresistibly attracted by bearded intellectuals. If, however, one accepts and integrates their soul-image, it will make up deficiencies of their persona and will help one become a fuller and more balanced person.
Debunking the Myth of Midlife Decline
These archetypal images are symbols of power and wisdom. Mana — is the impersonal supernatural force which certain primitive cultures attribute good fortune, magical powers, etc. Best applied here as intuitive powers or symbols of power and wisdom that reside in the depths of our psyche. When properly integrated the conscious and unconscious complement each other and unfolding of the wise self arises harmoniously. For example, a woman who allows her conscious mind to be invaded and subdued by the Great Mother will begin to believe herself able and destined to protect and nurture the whole world.
Similarly, a man who allows himself to be taken over by the Wise Old Man same as the Great Mother but in masculine form is likely to become convinced that he is some sort of superman or great guru, filled with heroic power or with superior insight into the meaning of things.
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