“In any moment, you are either in control, or not in control of yourself.” – Colin Turner
Self Mastery yields both liberation and fulfillment. It comprises a mixture of things.
Mentally, it requires conscious free will, exercised consistently, with responsibility. It also involves an awareness ability to catch any Shadow influence as it arises as personal inner conflict.
Emotionally, it first requires the wisdom to allow uncomfortable emotions to be welcomed, which is made possible by the insight that they all bring truths which guide us toward our true and authentic self – and therefore toward both freedom (liberation) and fulfillment.
And physically, it means harnessing, allowing and respecting the flow of the energetic qualities of one’s own body.
The one thing which underpins all of this is the authentic sense of self which comes from pure wisdom.
Wisdom and The Ego
Whilst we can all use the word wisdom to mean all manner of various different attributes, in its pure and true sense – according to the wisdom traditions, wisdom means ‘the capacity to understand emptiness’.
To understand what ‘emptiness’ is, we must first understand a bit about The Ego and The Witness. It may also help to think of emptiness as the opposite of ‘form’, which is things that have either physical or non-physical form (so a thought counts as form).
We start by thinking about who we are. We have a subjective self, which is aware of objects. I am me, and I am aware of various objects, such as the table, the chair, and so on.
We may think of ourselves as our body and our mind; our thoughts, emotions, fears and desires, all wrapped up in a bundle of physical flesh. However, we can soon realise that it is possible to observe that these are things – they are objects! So if they are objects, they are ultimately not our final subjective self… !? Who, or what, is observing these objects?
Our mind-body axis is nicknamed our ‘finite self’, and in spiritual terms, the Ego is that part of us that wishes to identify our ultimate subjective sense of self with our finite self or with other finite things. This is where suffering comes in, through our attachments, because all finite things will eventually die – they cannot be infinite. So the ‘trick’ is to be the observer of them…
When we identify as the observer of them – as ‘the Witness’, we are free to enjoy the finite things as they come and go. We find joy and happiness through them, rather than as them. And we find true, lasting peace because we are no longer desperate for these finite things to live forever! This frees us up to live with authentic purpose and passion.
Emptiness is the formless, witnessing quality of the infinite consciousness that we are all connected to, and moreover, is our actual primordial self, a very real and literal part of each of us right now – hence why wisdom is defined as ‘the capacity to understand emptiness’.
“I am not the body, the body is in me. I am not even the mind, the mind is in me.” – Deepak Chopra
Each emotion we have brings us a gift – either of joy, or at least of useful feedback. However, if we feel threatened by what that gift is bringing us, because we have a sense of self based on falsehoods, then it is likely that we won’t even be willing, or even able to look at it.
If our self-worth is outside of ourselves, in possessions, achievements or other people, for example, then we will be tossed around like an ocean going ship in the storms of our emotions. However, when we, in our growing wisdom awareness, remember who we fundamentally are, our sense of self, happiness and self-worth does not depend on finite, changing things. This makes it possible for us to be comfortable about looking at information when that information suggests that things may be changing, or may wish to change. And so from that we have the basis for receiving all the information that our senses are giving us about the unhelpful personal beliefs we may have which constrict us and hold us in fear.
When we are aware enough to catch ourselves whenever our emotions are uncomfortable because we are identifying with finite things, and we seek to engage those emotions and change our beliefs accordingly, we are on the path of Self Mastery.
When we identify with finite things, everything that is there is seen as something that can fix us, or complete us, or threaten our sense of self. And so, neediness and false-self follows us and engulfs and consumes the good – the wisdom – which cannot come through. Self-sabotage and turbulence abound, as we can see in society every day.
“We’ve been taught to think that everything we need is outside of ourself, as opposed to inside of ourself.” – John Christian
When we identify as the Witness we have right relationship with everything. Right relationship to thought. Right relationship to desire. Right relationship to people. Right relationship to money. Right relationship to right action. Why? Because we are relating to all these things whilst knowing exactly who we are. We don’t need any of these things to complete our sense of self, and we don’t need to fear these things threatening our sense of self.
So this really is what pure wisdom is; the quietening of the Ego voice that allows the true expression of the real self through, rather than temporarily pacifying the Ego’s false sense of self and perpetuating our lack of peace.
“Show me your original face – the one you had before your parents were born.” – The Wisdom Traditions
Transformative Practice – Wake Up!
So the enlightened, or ‘Self Mastery’ approach to life and to things is to enjoy them not as what we are, but as a joyous expression of what we are. Otherwise, if we identify our sense of self with these finite things, or our finite self, they become the masters of us, and we their slaves!
This transformative process of recognising the Witness element in oneself is known as ‘waking up’, also known as spiritual awakening. It is the fundamental, fundamental principle for both the individual and the collective to achieve liberation and harmony.