In the Upanishads, there are three central, powerful tenants that lead to enlightenment:
- Self-Awareness – a constant awareness of what you’re thinking, feeling and doing, and why these thoughts and actions are happening
- Self-Remembering – reminding yourself that you are but a part of existence, rather than separate from it (and all the implications of this)
- Witnessing – the ability to watch your own thoughts and actions against a backdrop of self-remembering, without self-judgment about how far away from ‘enlightenment’ you really are
I began my efforts by focusing on awareness, and at some point finally understood the power of witnessing, but for the longest time I had never grasped why self- remembering was so pivotal. Only recently, when talking with a good friend who has been struggling with depression, have I understood it.
My friend talked about how awareness made her struggle more difficult – it was like seeing the blood gushing out of a wound that had until then only been slightly bothering her. I realized that she lacked a better story about reality – she knew that what she was feeling wasn’t quite ‘right’, but couldn’t see another way. Her method of solving it was action – she’d go for a run, sit down to get work done, and do things that made her forget about it. Though effective and healthy, these struck me as short term solutions, rather than steps that would confront the core of the problem.
In our efforts to improve anything, it’s important to have an example of what ‘right’ looks like. In a simple example, correcting a test is easier when we have an answer key. Grading an essay is easier when we know what good writing is. And thus, improving our state of mind is only possible when we know (or think we know) what our state of mind should be.
This then is the power of self-remembering – it is the answer key to which we can compare our thoughts and actions to (without judgment or regret when we are ‘wrong’) – the mold to which we can begin to model our minds after, with awareness as the chisel.