Knowing ourselves would appear to be something natural, and to an extent something that we can take for granted. From the moment we are born, every single second of our life is spent with ourselves. We are raised by our parents and are surrounded initially by immediate family. Thereafter, as we grow up, we attend school and meet childhood friends and teachers. As we experience it through all of its facets, we do so by coming in contact with different people and their thoughts, ideas, knowledge, and actions. But inevitably, we are at all moment with ourselves.
If we spend so much time with ourselves, would it not just make sense to say that we know ourselves better than anyone or anything else?
As logic as that may seem, throughout our lives we find ourselves trapped in life experiences where we are not in control of ourselves. For example, we get sick. We also react to certain situations with attitudes and emotions that surprise ourselves and people who surround us. We develop likes for activities that we did not previously enjoy, and lose interest in subjects that we felt passionate about in the past. And it is through these behaviours that we understand that, perhaps, we do not know ourselves as much as we thought.
Unfortunately, no one in our life provides a recipe or formula to get to know ourselves and enable us to predict our every reaction, feeling, and ways of thinking. No one can tell us the way we will behave and the decisions we will be making as we experience the different circumstances that we will face in our lives. No one except, of course, ourselves. And it is exactly at this point where we face a great paradox: On the one hand, we humbly acknowledge that we do not inherently know ourselves, but on the other hand no one can know us better than ourselves.
The solution to this paradox resides in opening our minds, but not in an ideological way – but rather in a physical and spiritual fashion. To really know and understand ourselves, we need to have the willingness to learn about ourselves. This willingness takes effort, practice, and humility above anything else. Humility to acknowledge our physical and spiritual limitations, and our humility to accept inside and outside knowledge in order to develop a better understanding of who we are.
As we partake in the journey to discover our most basic nature, we do so with full awareness that we are beyond simple physical entities. Indeed, there is a physical aspect in us: We all have a physical body which is our vehicle to navigate the physical world. However, we must also be aware that we are not limited to only our physical nature – we have a powerful mind which serves as the bridge between our physical being and all other parts of ourselves that are not tangible, like our thoughts and our consciousness.
Through embarking in various experiences in life and constant meditation, we have the potential to discover much about ourselves: Things we like and we don’t like, talents that we had no knowledge about, interests, ideologies, emotions, and interests. However, these experiences are not lived in a single day, nor it takes a few meditation sessions to really understand our thoughts. It is almost needless to say that unearthing these discoveries takes many years of diligent willingness to discover, in a rather neutral mindset, secrets about ourselves.
Knowing and understanding ourselves is like building a house: It will take more than just putting a few bricks together to call it “a house”. It takes hard time and detailed work to achieve a final product that we can call a house, where all pieces -every brick, every nail and every wood stick- fit together to create a magnificent building. Likewise, to truly know who we are it will take a lot of introspective work to discover more about us. And the more we know about us, the better we will understand the much we can give to others and help them come closer to their own self: At the end of the day, the moment each individual understands themselves, they will also understand the mission they are accomplishing in life and the role they are playing in helping achieve the large universal goal that we are all collectively pursuing – whatever that may be.