by Ann Purcell
This term “self-realization” is used and asked about quite often. I see no wrong answers to this question, however there are certainly different layers to its meaning and understanding. The term “self-realization” is often related to the concepts of self-actualization, self-discovery, self-reflection and self-exploration. In this article I will be expressing what I have experienced to be the core of this term Self-realization, which is to understand and experience our Self in a concrete way.
It is no easy task to have a discussion about Self-realization. The deepest values of the question above cannot be taught or intellectualized, but must be directly experienced. The Self by nature is an abstract experience—to understand and live with the awareness of this abstract Self through direct experience is Self-realization.
Please note the capital “S” in the word Self, which stands for the big Self, or the cosmic Self.
What do you mean by the “big Self” (with a capital S)? This is the next logical question.
I will use the ocean as an analogy. The waves on the surface of the ocean represent the small self (constantly changing and moving i.e. thoughts, feelings, desires etc) and the entire vast ocean, including its depth, represent the big, or cosmic Self.
Thoughts in our mind can be compared to waves on the surface of the ocean. In this article I am comparing these waves to our small self. When we experience the silent depths of our Self, it is like our individual waves settling into and unifying with the unbounded ocean. The wave and the deepest depths of the ocean are one and the same. The entire, unbounded ocean is our cosmic, big Self.
The big Self is not separate from our own pure awareness; it is a state of unbounded silence, which encompasses the small self and is simultaneously the abstract source, which gives rise to the small self. A wave on the surface of the ocean rises and is seemingly separate for a moment in time. However, the inevitable source, course and goal of that wave is to unify back into the vast ocean.
Realizing the Big Self
Techniques like Meditation allow the mind to travel from the surface level of our small self to deeper, quieter levels of self until we experience pure silence, or pure Being—a state of transcendence. When our awareness becomes conscious of its own inner silence, this is the first stage of realizing the Cosmic Self. We are for the first time realizing the whole range of mind—from the surface to its infinite depths.
The more we experience this inner silence in meditation, the more we draw upon all its qualities of peace, creativity, energy, and expanded awareness for practical use in daily life.
Can You Elaborate?
According to the Laboratory of Neuro Imaging, the average person has approximately 70,000 thoughts per day. These thoughts on the surface mind come and go. Naturally (without meditation), a lot of our attention is drawn to these surface thoughts and the fleeting stresses that occur from moment to moment. What makes meditation so known for its stress reducing qualities is that it reverses this process. Meditation makes it more natural for the nervous system to be drawn toward an aspect of one’s Self that is more holistic and peaceful (the big Self). Of course stresses still exist but become secondary, and in time begin to dissolve more and more easily due to the deep rest gained in meditation.
Meditation helps us to see the constant stillness and silence underlying all thought; the very essence of our being, the Big Self.
I practice and teach Transcendental Meditation (TM). My experience of TM is that it is a natural, effortless process, which facilitates this experience of the big Self. With an effective meditation technique we can effortlessly experience more and more of the big Self and bring all of the many benefits that come with that experience into our daily activity.
How Does The Big Self Find its Way Into Daily Activity?
Meditation allows the mind to experience the big Self as a constant, which underlies all moving parts (fleeting sensations, thoughts, emotions, desires etc). The mind is naturally drawn toward the power and infinite nature of our Big Self, which is not dependent on anything outside of Itself to experience Itself i.e. the big Self is always there whether it is realized or not.
Regular meditation habituates the nervous system to experience the big Self more and more frequently. Even in activity, outer experiences come and go, but the Self always remains a constant.
Alfred Lord Tennyson stated in his poem The Brook, “men may come and men may go, but I go on for ever.”
Any relative thing that is born and can die is considered fleeting to the vast and infinite nature of the Self. Thoughts, stresses, achievements, even our own physical body, as well as the earth are dust in the wind compared to the infinite nature of our Self. Self-realization is a complete change in self-identity. Typically the transformation changes, from I am… teacher, author, songwriter and poet to, I AM… Unbounded, Infinite and completely Self-Sufficient.
There is nothing like a cool refreshing dive into the ocean. I come out feeling like a new person, completely refreshed. When I dive into the silence of my own consciousness I always come out feeling renewed, expanded, and refreshed.
Do you have experiences of the fundamentals of consciousness? Do you have questions or contentions? We would love to hear them, please comment below!
Ann Purcell is an author and has been teaching meditation around the world since 1973. In addition, she has worked on curricula and course development for universities and continuing education programs. Her latest book, The Transcendental Meditation Technique and the Journey of Enlightenment was released on March 13, 2015.