Knowing ourselves

What do we really know about ourselves? The conversation was turning around this phrase from the Gayan, Boulas : He who realizes the effect of his deed upon himself begins to open his outlook on life. Voices in the group noted in one way or another that what we do affects not only those around us, but also ourselves. But in the apparent simplicity of this saying, there is a depth awaiting us: to really know the consequences of our actions, and therefore to open wide our outlook, we must become familiar with our self.

Suppose that two friends go for a walk in the forest. For one, it is the first encounter with this landscape, whereas the other knows it well. They will both hear the same birdsongs, see the same leaves and blossoms, feel the same earth beneath their feet, observe the same creatures, and smell the same traces and perfumes of life – but one will have much less understanding of this sensory cascade, whereas the other will feel as if conversing with a second friend.

A person who is unaware of their inner life will certainly experience the effects of their actions, but may not easily recognise them, whereas a person who has some awareness will see at once that a certain action produces light, while another makes a shadow.

The common condition is that we identify with whatever holds our attention: if there is a thought, we think “I am this thought – this thought is me!” In the same way, if we have a physical sensation, of pain or pleasure perhaps, or an emotional feeling, we believe that we are the sensation, or that the feeling is ‘me.’ But if the thought disappears, or if the sensation ceases, we are still present; therefore we are in truth none of these experiences.

When we recognise that we are not what we are experiencing, it becomes possible to observe our inner world with much more clarity. Then, as Hazrat Inayat Khan suggests, our outlook in life begins to widen toward the infinite.

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