It is every year I wake up bit by bit. Each year comes by and I wake up more, and yet I still slumber deep in my sleep, deep in my hibernation. When I look back at my behaviors back years ago and I find them strange. What was I thinking? Why in the world I would do those things? It was as if those years in the past, I was asleep somehow, never fully awake, never fully alive. Everyone looks back in time, and they find themselves strange, as if they are looking back at a stranger, except that stranger is their old past self.
I predict that in the future I may find the thoughts and beliefs that I hold now, and my feelings, concerns, and my actions to be so odd and out of place as to be somehow erratic, as if I was driven by a nematode with no conscious thought and control. In the future, I may be sighing again, what was I thinking? Why in the world would I do those things? It is as if my life now would seem to my future self to be on autopilot, as if I were in a coma, but happened to have the freedom to move around and act.
Everyone is partially asleep and you are partially asleep too. To say that you are wide awake would be presumptuous—you may feel wide-awake but your future self would laugh at that notion like you are a little naïve child. Progression towards consciousness goes back and forth in life, as there are times in our lives when we regress. As we start out our lives as children, we are very much unconscious—you look back at those years and it seems like back then you were even living in a dream. Slowly you start to become more aware of yourself. As a child you are a seed, an unrealized flower. Yet the plan for realization lies within the seed, and it takes a lifetime for the seed to figure itself out, to gain full consciousness of its reason for being—to realize it is to become a flower. To gain full consciousness does not mean denying the value of the unconscious, but by having consciousness and unconsciousness work hand in hand, for there are treasures in the unconscious for consciousness to realize.
Be forgiving of yourself. Whatever wrong you commit you commit out of ignorance, out of a lack of consciousness. This does not mean that we do not have responsibility—it actually means we have a big responsibility. That responsibility is to gain full consciousness, full understanding, and to fully realize the effects of our actions on ourselves and others. It is a responsibility of learning life’s lessons. Full consciousness and understanding are things we cannot claim to possess, but they are things we keep our eyes focused on the path towards attaining. We expand our consciousness, and move up toward our own awakening.
It is believed shame should act as the primary motivator for people to do what is good and avoid what is bad. I believe guilt can be a motivator albeit not a very healthy one; it should definitely not be the primary motivator. It is a natural emotion to experience, as animals are seen to experience guilt, and it is okay to allow yourself to experience guilt. However, it is unnatural to let it fester, and that will be terribly wounding and will leave a scar, therefore tiring us in the effort to reach consciousness. Allowing guilt to take over entices the ego to defend itself against its invasion, and the ego will even deny faults in order to save its own face. Much more energy would be preserved and better used if we can recognize our weaknesses plainly for what they are, and directing our energies towards becoming conscious, which is a more positive process. Manipulating our self-esteem is wearying and self-annihilating, and this is a negative process.
In our relationships with others, the use of shame causes others to resent us, and they may in reaction become more trenchant in their beliefs as an ego-defense. Understand that we are all learning from each other, and each of us, given our natural abilities, possesses potential to achieve certain wisdoms or knowledge in avenues in life that others lack. The fact that one is wise or knowledgeable in regards to one facet of life does not make one superior. There is a diversity of wisdoms that come from a diversity of facets of life.
I am not saying guilt has no place, since it can serve as a starting point for institutions that are so caught up in the ego to realize the harm they are causing. This is the case if anything affecting their ego is the only thing they will respond to, and guilt hurts the ego. But shame and guilt are greatly limiting, and can quickly turn sour even in their use against such institutions. The generally better approach is to appeal to everyone’s natural need to strive for the Self, a source beyond the ego. Working towards the Self is much more satisfying and feels much healthier than ego-depletion. It appeals to everyone’s instinct for individualization and Self-realization, and there is abundant and revitalizing energy found in this instinct.
If we view ourselves as to-be flowers that are blossoming towards full consciousness, we can see learning from our mistakes as a constructive process of becoming, rather the destructive process of Self-annihilation. Allow shame to come, but allow it to pass to make way for our responsibility for Self-awakening. I think we should help others to avoid mistakes much in the same way—not by shaming but by educating, not by guilt but by leading the way towards personal discovery.
Be forgiving of yourself but don’t dwell in self-forgiveness. Dwell instead on meditation. You were a seed, and now you are a bud, on its way to realize its full self as a flower. Meditate over and over: How do I awaken and become that flower? A problem-solving approach may arise as an answer, but sometimes a flash of intuition and knowing out of silence may come. Trust it. Whatever you come up with is not the absolute truth of who you are, but are working hypotheses.
There is a wondrous journey of Self-development waiting to unfold, and the treasures of Self-realization and awakening lie ahead of you. Right now you are slumbering, and asking what was I thinking? But be hopeful and patient, and remember you are just on the process of realizing yourself and awakening yourself to full living, and you are not going to “get it” and be enlightened right away. The flower of Self-realization does not unfold overnight—it takes each bad day or day of trial, like a drop of rain, to slowly bring it to open.