Path To Self Awareness
I am told that Buddhist sutras open with the word Nyozgamon, which means ‘I heard it like this.’
What I like about these five words is that they make room for the listener to reflect back what was heard while still adding new depth and meaning.
Many years ago I heard a wonderful talk by the Buddhist teacher Joan Halifax on the ten steps toward self awareness. These steps are hidden from the eye but available to everyone. We can practice each step separately but when joined together, they become powerful tools for transformation.
The seventh step along the path of self awareness involves KNOWLEDGE.
What kind of knowledge?
The knowledge of impermanence. This is the knowledge that awareness of mental phenomena is continually changing, continually in flux. We may wish to cling to an idea such as happiness but if we notice what is happening inside us, happiness is not something solid, not something we can lock down. If we become aware of pain, even physical pain, that too is not something we can know with certainty. It shifts, ebbs, moves around, is felt slightly differently in slightly different places. The knowledge of impermanence allows us to liberate ourselves from clinging to fixed thoughts, emotions, and especially rigid ideas of self.
What is it about the nature of impermanence that is so important to self awareness? Self awareness is strengthened whenever habitual patterns of thought and fixed ideas are surrendered. We become more agile in facing ambiguity. We become more skillful at seeking clarity without the obstacles of existing prejudices. We become aware of the self that both creates and clings to form. We are better able to develop positive habits of letting go and letting come a new awareness.