The Self and the self - understanding the different eyes of consciousness.
Who am I? What is the essence that forms me as a human being? Why am I different from those around me? These are questions asked by all, as we try to find our place in the world and understand our purpose here. We understand what it is to be conscious, but what do we mean by that? Do we mean our conscious ability to interact with the world? Or can there be a more subtle interpretation of the word, some deeper awareness of the aliveness of ourselves and the beings around us?
When we are asked to describe ourselves as entities we inevitably come up with labels that help us to define our place in this life. We might begin by talking about our personal data, calling ourselves male or female, young or old, a sister or a father. Perhaps we describe our talents: creative or logical, a leader or a team player, a musician or a sportsman.
Perhaps we call ourselves funny, quiet, kind or extrovert. What are we doing when we paint ourselves in this way? We are using our mind to analyze our skills and characteristics in order to paint a picture of us as individuals. We are placing ourselves in one box after another, trying to understand what we are by examining the things we bring to a situation. But do these words describe who we are? Do they give the whole picture?
The mind is an essential survival tool with the unique ability to assess situations. Its tendency to measure and reason enables us to find food and shelter, to match our own attributes to tasks and to effectively measure a situation before we step into it. When we see something, our mind instantly refers back to a library of memories, seeking out a match that will help us to recognize things and seek out what we need. In the same way, we find ourselves describing our consciousness as a series of features, just as we would describe something else we see.
We use our mental body to protect our physical body in all situations. It takes in information about the outside world and stores it. It cross-references against previously stored material. It draws on memory and it creates fantasy, and in doing so creates a sense of self that is separate from all others. My senses might take in the same information as you but my mind will process it in a different way, for example a particular smell might call to my mind an unpleasant memory of being made to eat something I didn't like as a child, creating a feeling of anxiety inside me. The same smell for you might recall memories of your grandmother's kitchen and evoke feelings of love.
The mind is a unique combination of what we have learnt and seen throughout our lives - it is our mind that is responsible for different reactions to the same event - thus it is the mind that forms a personal window on the world, separating us in a container of individuality. Our mind is our ego, our idea of ourselves. But we are not JUST our body and mind. There is a part of us, an essence, that cannot be described by adjectives or nouns.
We may experience this other consciousness in unexpected moments, during events or practices that pull us sharply and completely into the present, where we do not think and are able to experience what it is to simply exist. We are still conscious, but this is a different consciousness, a subtle awareness that seems to be more whole, apart in a sense from the individual container that the mind represents. We feel somehow connected, sharing this subtle consciousness with the rest of the universe.
When we release the hold of the local consciousness, the mind, we find ourselves immersed in a formless, unbounded sea of universal consciousness. It is as if the mind is a kind of glass vase, keeping our consciousness separate from the greater sea of being. Meditation simply removes the glass walls and allows the what is within us to join back into the infinite sea of consciousness, unshaped by the individual experience that the mind creates.
So we see that we have two different ways to experience the world; through our local consciousness, or ego, governed by the mind, or through the universal consciousness, governed by something that is at once a part of us and something much bigger than our individual selves. We are both our self and our Self.
So why do we practice meditation? Because it enables us to choose between these different viewpoints. The local consciousness is a survival tool that serves our body and our mind. Without it, we would not be able to live in this world. But all too often we become ruled by this logical processing of what we see. To identify with the ego is to be limited by our own experience and ideas of how things are or should be. To identify with the Self is to be unlimited, infinite, and pervaded by an understanding that we are the same as everything.
When we lose our self, we find our Self. From this position we can observe local consciousness and know that we are more.
When we practice meditation, we practice watching our thoughts. We try to steer our attention away from the mind. We tend to follow anything that moves - not only in the physical world but in our mental world too - so if we are not careful, our attention follows thoughts to the extent that our heads can become crowded and frantic. We can lose sight of the clarity that comes when we take a step back away from our ego.
In order to know the Self we must release from attachments of the ego - physical (possessions), mental (ideals, beliefs) and emotional (relationships, causes). At a certain point, when we become disinterested in our mind, it falls away, and we realize we are seeing with different eyes. We connect ourselves to a source of wisdom to which every other being is connected, which contains the experience of everything that has ever existed.
Jiya is a deeply connected leader who roots her teaching in the healing energy of nature. Her teaching invites students to explore their own, unique unfolding, through profound awareness and trust in the wisdom of the Self. Through her studies with teachers and shamans across the world, Julia has developed a powerful sense of energetic connection and a strong set of philosophical and intuitive teachings, which she shares through creative hatha and yin yoga, sacred fire and medicine ceremonies, kirtan and healing therapies. Jiya is also a talented musician and sound healer, who seeks out native chants and medicine songs from around the world to complement her work.
Jiya is YA-certified at the ERYT-300 level and has facilitated both intensive and module-format teacher trainings at RYT-200 and RYT-300 levels for several years, through multiple schools. Following her degree in Physics at Imperial College, London, Julia worked as an Energy Consultant and part time copywriter and editor in London, UK, before moving to Central America in 2009 to pursue a life centered on yoga and holistic health. British by birth, Jiya is now based in Bali and teaches in Thailand, Australia, Mexico, Greece, USA, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Peru.