To begin the journey of self-discovery is to discover the path of self-understanding, growth, and healing. It is a journey of unfolding what the poet Browning referred to as “The Imprisoned Splendour.
This is the splendour that awaits your willingness to step out into the great adventure of Companioning YOUR Greatness—W. B. Yeats
And you? When will you begin that long journey into yourself? ― Rumi
The journey of Self Discovery Menu
- What do You Mean By Self-Discovery?
- Which Self are You to discover?
- What is Discovery?
- Levels of Self-Discovery
- The Personal Self
- The Transition
- The Authentic Self.
- The Adventure of Self Discovery.
- The Challenges
- The Benefits.
- Begin Your Journey of Self Discovery
There are many definitions of self-discovery. I find many of them limited and even confusing. The journey of self-discovery is a journey of a lifetime. You are a multi-dimensional human being.
Let me begin this invitation to the journey of self-discovery by examining the keywords around this invitation which are:-
- Self and
There are many ways of taking this journey of self-discovery. My focus will be on the journey of unfolding what we refer to by names such as-
- The Essential Self.
- The True Self.
- The Soul.
The focus will be on inviting the experience of discovery.
You will not discover your Essential Self by thinking about who you are and why you are. This is the way most people explore this journey of self discovery but your personal mind is not the tool with which to explore the revelation of the True Self.
True self-discovery is the experience of revelation and insight. It is not learning more information about who you “think you are.”
Learning more about “who you think you are” can lead to the perpetuation of what the mystic Thomas Merton referred to as The False Self.
Your False Self is who you think you are. Your thinking does not make it true. Your False Self is almost entirely a social construct to get you started on your life journey. – Immortal Diamond – The Search for the True Self – Richard Rohr.
We all have a False Self. Another name for this False Self is the ego. This is not to be condemned or judged, but it is that sense of self that leads to most of our individual and collective suffering in the world.
Without a change of awareness as regards our True Self, the world will continue to be a place of division. Living from the False Self which is most people’s approach to life is living in a house divided against itself.
Here is the beginning of an audio series I plan to do around the journey of self discovery. This is recorded in my polytunnel with assistance from our cat Felix.
Recorded during lockdown re the Coronavirus 16th May 2020. Supported by Felix the Cat. Music by Tony Cuckson.
How I guide this Journey of Self-discovery is to make you aware of the full journey within one sentence. This is the fullest definition that you will ever need. If you understand this, even on an intellectual level, you have a map of the entire journey.
This is the definition of the journey of fulfillment and the path to finding genuine happiness and true prosperity.
Self-discovery is the journey from the self to the Self through the self – Sutras of Patanjali.
The first thing to notice here is that the word ‘self’ is used three times.
There is the word ‘self’ which is not capitalized—used twice. Then there is the word ‘Self’ which is capitalized and used once. The really important word in this sentence is the word “through.”
Through refers to the experience of revelation you “Go through.” This is the experience of discovery or more to the point uncovering the magnificence of what is already there.
The Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung said the same thing differently.
The first half of life is devoted to forming a healthy ego, the second half is going inward and letting go of it. – Carl Gustav Jung
The problem with many invitations to self-discovery is that they only invite you to develop a healthy ego or what Patanjali refers to as “the self.”
This is the invitation to the proper development of the personal self. It is referred to as self-growth or self-development. This is a necessary stage and an important stage of self-discovery.
However, this is where most people stop.
The result is that they remain totally identified with their personality and never take the journey beyond the experience of the separate sense of self. This is the reason for all loss of meaning and purpose in life.
Personal development is the 1st stage of a three-stage process.
This 3-stage process is the entire process involved in authentic self-discovery where you discover that you are so much more than the time-bound personality.
Discovery is a process. This process of self-discovery as taught in the Western world is to make this discovery through the process of thought.
Anxiety runs like an undercurrent through our daily lives. We often feel distracted and out of touch with our deeper purpose. These common feelings are the by-products of an exceedingly cerebral Western culture. – New Self-New World – Philip Shepherd.
You are encouraged to think about who you are and what you want to discover about yourself. This is the self you create from other people’s ideas and concepts that are part of the collective made up of family, friends, tribe, and culture.
You and I are mostly a collection of other people’s thoughts and ideas. In the 1st half of Life, we take these thoughts and ideas and we create what we call the ‘persona.’ This is the person we want the world to see and to love.
This is not your Essential Self. The word “personality” gives you a major clue. It derives from the Greek word ‘persona’ which means “mask.” It refers to the mask that Greek actors wore on stage when giving a theatrical performance.
It is the mask we wear to present our ideal sense of the separate self. This is the essential task of the 1st half of life. (Carl Gustav Jung) The problem arises when you lose yourself in the mask and declare, “This is who I am.”
This is the personal “I am” that is time-bound and limited and tries in various ways to find security and meaning in the experience of personal separation that is the prison it does not recognize itself to be in. To be completely identified with the personality, as most people are, is the equivalent of living in the basement of a Palace.Fear is the cheapest room in the house I would like to see you living In better conditions, for your mother and my mother Were friends. Hafiz Click To Tweet
A lot of the process of self-discovery called personal growth is sharing ways in which you can make the basement more comfortable and a less fearful place to live. However, the real journey of self-discovery is the revelation that you are not the personality alone.
As the Indian sage Patanjali and the Swiss psychologist, Carl Gustav Jung have each showed there are three levels of the journey of self-discovery. It is important that you are at least made aware of these levels.
- Personal Self–Ego–1st Half of Life.
- True Self–Presence–2nd Half of Life.
The above is the essential map of self-discovery.
Most people stay in the 1st Stage for all of life. They grow old and often bitter at the suffering they have endured, which they have not given meaning to. They have to use a mythological motif taken the Voyage and Return journey of life rather than The Hero’s Journey.
The Voyage and Return Journey is the journey through life where you have only ever experienced life at the level of the personal. This is who you think you are, and this is the self you identify with.
The Hero’s Journey is where you leave the known sense of self and take the challenging journey into the unknown. This is what the Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung refers to as.
… the second half is going inward and letting go of it.— Carl Gustav Jung.
Many, and even most, invitations to self-discovery keep you at the level of the personality.
The work of religion is to invite you to let go of the personality and allow the Divine to express through you. However, representatives of organized religion teach you only to believe in the possibility and have never journeyed beyond their own separate sense of the personal.
The personal self is where we begin. This is the journey of the 1st Half of Life (Carl Gustav Jung). It is the journey of creating the small self. (Patanjali).
This is the journey of creating clear boundaries with which we operate in the world. These are boundaries that are not too weak and not too ridged. However, most of us have some level of weakness or rigidity.
Do not judge this as wrong. This is often how we survive as children. The 1st Half of Life task is to heal and integrate those aspects of ourselves that we disown. We call this Shadow work.
If you have no sense of your Shadow, you will live as a victim. You’ll have no alternative because you will see the world from the position that everything is coming at you and you have no power.”
The work of the 1st Half of life is to create the ego. This is the sense of the personal self you present to the world. This 1st stage is learning personal empowerment. We need this for the later stages, which is the letting go of the self for the revelation of the Greater Self.
You cannot let go of what you refuse to acknowledge is your own. The energy required for letting go is the energy of trust. Your task is to trust all that is part of your experience.
I have given the term The Transitional Self to that part of the process whereby you are twixt and in between. This is where you have had some life experience. You are probably in your early thirties.
You have experienced the challenges of developing a career, raising a family, creating a relationship/s. You might have experienced the death of someone close to you. You may have experienced some serious illness.
The result is that it draws you to ask deeper existential questions. These are questions related to the reason you exist and the purpose of life and your part in it. This is the beginning of the Call of the Soul.
Some people experience The Midlife Crisis. This is where the energies of the personality become overwhelmed. There is the attempt to shift the personal sense of identity. However, the shift is into another sense of personhood rather than the deeper call to move beyond the limits of the personal.
This is a period when many people feel lost. However, it is as wisdom teachers advise a blessing, although it does not at all feel that way. To use a Biblical metaphor you have left Egypt (enslavement to the personal self) and are now in the desert (the unknown).
This is a necessary stage on the journey of self-discovery to the Promised Land (The Essential Self).
Authentic Self Level
The personal self is that aspect of you that is ‘human’ the Authentic Self is that aspect of you which is ‘Being.’
You cannot define being. You cannot improve upon it. It is that aspect of you that is not born and does not die. The personal mind can not understand or access it because this is the mind that understands only through separation and through opposites.
In today’s rush we all think too much, seek too much, want too much and forget about the joy of just being.- Eckhart Tolle
The True Self gives you the KNOWING of Oneness. This is the true meaning of the experience of atonement. The experience of atonement is not one of guilt (personal) but the direct experience of AT-ONE-MENT (transcendent and immanent).
It is the Authentic Self that Polonius refers to when he says
This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man. – Polonius in Hamlet – William Shakespeare
Stage 1 – Ego Development
This is where the challenge is to make conscious the unconscious within you. This is to have the courage to explore what we call The Shadow.
You bring what you keep hidden about yourself into the light.
The gold is in the shadow – Carl Gustav Jung.
This is the work you are likely to need help with.
This may be through counseling or some kind of psychotherapy. Different forms of bodywork rather than just talking about issues can support this.
This is what genuine self-discovery involves. It is not about creating the right self-image that you then present to the world. It is about creating safe boundaries within yourself that allow you to express the uniqueness of who you are.
When you establish clear ego boundaries (1st Stage of Life) to the degree that you feel relatively safe in your own skin, you experience expansion.
You are less defensive. You are less armored. You open up to how the higher energies of Being move through you.
This is a genuine challenge because most people do not understand what it involves. They are their personality. They may not like themselves but they are sure as hell not going to give up who they “Think themselves to be.”
Surrender to most is an uncomfortable idea. In Northern Ireland, I was brought up in a cultural dynamic where the collective mantra was, “No surrender.”
A more inviting word is the word “Trust.” This too is challenging, but the entire journey of self-discovery and Self-revelation is the journey into trust. Another word for trust is the word ‘faith.’ However, this word ‘faith’ has erroneously become attached to that other word ‘belief.’ One is related to the personal sense of self (belief) and the other is related to the transitional sense of self (faith).
The journey of self-discovery is the journey from belief through faith into KNOWING.
For many, the process of self-surrender goes against all that they teach us. This is especially the case in the U.S.A. where the focus is all about achievement and success. The mantra is, “Just Do It.” If you don’t do it and achieve the cultural demands that determine success, then you are labeled a loser.
The mystics of all times and traditions will tell you that the only way to genuine happiness and success is to leave the do-do of your life and learn how to trust Being done through. You now enter the dimension of genuine SELF-discovery.
If you get to this 3rd Stage, the challenges are to remain open to the guidance that now comes from within you.Listen to your #being. It is continuously giving you hints; it is a still, small voice. It does not shout at you, that is true. And if you are a little #silent you will start feeling your way. ― Osho Click To Tweet
At this stage, it is harder to return to the way you lived your life with your focus on personal identity and achievement. This does not mean you are not achieving anything by world standards. The likelihood is that by such standards you are achieving more. This, however, is real prosperity.
You are in the world but not of the world. Your primary focus has moved from a sense of personal purpose to being in alignment with Love’s purpose. In this way, you are less the doer of your life and more the receiver of Life.
At this stage, you are being thought through. You are being done through. You are a unique flow of Creation. The Universe has your back and you KNOW it. There is nothing to be achieved other than to be open to the gifts being poured through you. Your genuine happiness is to pour away what is being gifted through you.
This is the experience of living as the TRUE SELF. You are still a person living within the realm of time and space, but you KNOW that you are so much more. You are an eternal expression of Divine Love.
The benefits of self-discovery are many even though the challenges are great. These benefits I believe are cumulative and include:-
- Increased Well Being.
- Genuine Happiness.
- Authentic Meaning and Purpose
- Increased Prosperity.
I list the above as experiences from my life which has been a continuing journey of self-discovery.
Increased Well Being
Your sense of wellbeing increases when your energy system aligns with Being rather than from identity with the persona or mask.
You attune to Source energy which created you and KNOWS how best to maintain the health and wellbeing that you are.
Because you live in alignment with Being, which is your primary and true identity, there is less stress and conflict. You are not a house divided against itself.
Rather than live in the equivalent of the basement (personality) you live in the Palace of Presence. We recognize wellbeing as our ability to commune with Divine intention.
The experience of genuine happiness arises from the energy of the Divine flowing through you as a surrendered self. This is hugely different from the pursuit of happiness which is always personal and has a personal agenda.
Genuine happiness is the experience of flow arising from fulfillment. In Ireland, we represent this experience as the Fourth Treasure of Ireland. This fourth treasure is called The Cauldron of Plenty.
It is a magical Cauldron because it is always empty and always full at the same time.
This is a metaphor for the person who has integrated the personal and transitional Stages of Life. They are empty of a personal agenda and as a result, are open to the fullness of Creation pouring through them.
Authentic Meaning and Purpose
When you move beyond the 1st level of self-discovery, you come into alignment with the purpose of the Universe.
Being aligned with this purpose is your primary purpose. This is everyone’s primary purpose. The secondary purpose is how that primary purpose is expressed through you.
As the sage Patanjali declared in the quotation that opened this article, this is the equivalent of the Self-being expressed through the self (personality).
Most people when looking for meaning and purpose in life give their energy to finding such meaning and purpose within the level of the personal. Many find that at the 2nd Stage of Life they have not found such meaning and purpose.
The modern mystic Eckhart Tolle states the primary purpose as follows
You are here to enable the divine purpose of the Universe to unfold. That is how important you are! – Eckhart Tolle
The spiritual teacher Guy Finley states this primary purpose:-
Your purpose is to serve Love’s purpose – Guy Finley.
This is the proper task of self-discovery. At the level of personality, there remains a sense of separateness. This is the primary cause of most unnecessary individual and collective suffering.
We will not find the primary meaning and purpose of life and our place within it at the level of the personal.
The experience of true prosperity is the experience of flow. The mystic Joel Goldsmith writer of The Infinite Way refers to this as “Supply.” This is not the prosperity promoted in the popular New Age teaching called The Secret based around The Law of Attraction.
The real Law of Attraction is your ability to allow the energy of the Divine to express through you. This is always available to you. You do not have to earn it. You have to remove the blocks that keep you from being gifted with this supply.
Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. ― Rumi
We educate most people to feel unworthy.
We could sum the whole of Western culture up in the mantra “Never enough.” In the Western tradition, it is reinforced by the collective idea that we are born into original sin.
Because of such erroneous teaching, most people find it difficult to imagine that the Universe created them to pour through them for its delight. The Divine is an infinite supply. The problem is that you spend much of your life dictating your personal purpose to Life.
An analogy would be a wave on the ocean dictating to the Ocean how it should work singularly to benefit the wave. The mystics and the surrendered ones all delight in the freedom of being expressed through. Their only agenda is to be in service for the highest good of all.
You are in the ocean and the ocean is in you – Rumi.
The culmination of self-discovery is when you KNOW that you are the infinity of the Ocean expressing as the limitation of a wave but you also KNOW that you are both the Ocean and the wave at the same time.
As with any journey you take it is best if you have a map of the territory that you are visiting, especially when that territory is unknown.
In this respect, I share original maps of this journey of self-discovery. However, most of these maps take you through the following stages.
- Life Stage 1—Personal Self-Discovery
- Personal Power.
- Life Stage 2—Transitional Discovery
- Life Stage 3–Transpersonal SELF-Discovery
This is the whole of the journey of self-discovery that is being human.
Most people remain at Stage I for most all their lives either from ignorance of the territory or fear of the unknown. This is why this journey of self-discovery is also called The Hero’s Journey.
The invitation from this website is the invitation to enter Life Stage 2 through practices that strengthen your sense of personal self. When you enter Stage 2 which is about moving into your heart Life Stage 3 opens up to you.
These various maps of self-discovery are unique in that they focus on the language of mythological storytelling, mystical poetry, and modern song lyrics.
This is the language of transmission. It is the language of the heart. It is the heart that KNOWS the way to guide you in revealing the Secret of Secrets which you are here to KNOW and live.
At whatever stage you are at the essential ingredients of the journey are.
- Discipline and
These are the KEY attributes required for the glorious journey that is the journey of self-discovery.
As of May 2020, I am sharing with visitors to this site the map of this territory of self-discovery through the poetry of W. B. Yeats and others so that in his words you might discover how to.
- Companion YOUR Greatness.—These are the Clouds
- Learn the power of the Mind.
- Know that You are Blessed and Can Bless—Vacillation
- Discover the Power of Embodiment.
- Arise and Find Freedom to be You—The Lake Isle of Innisfree
- Commit to following Your Heart’s Desire
- Come to Your Senses—The Stolen Child.
- Honor the Child within you
- Light a Fire in Your Head
- Learn the Power of Creativity.
- And more.
I use the language of storytelling, poetry, and song lyrics because this is the language I love. It is the language of transmission. It transmits the KNOWING of the glory of who you are destined to become.