Do I pay attention to myself to recognize myself or to discover my ignorance?

Contribution by Isabel Hernández Negrín, Las Palmas, Canary Islands, Spain.

Sometimes some people become interested in some form of mindfulness practice.  Lots of us start by approaching it with a utilitarian goal, that is, to feel better or to obtain some kind of social kudos.   In either case we continue to be bound to a state of interest that is almost exclusively focussed on ourselves, seeking the “pleasure” (personal fulfilment) of feeling better, of reducing our anxiety, or even unconsciously seeking to feel special by doing something exotic.  In either case we do not tend to progress much beyond using certain techniques, because we continue to be the same, perhaps more relaxed, but with the same basic beliefs, our usual reactions, our worries, our …of whatever kind.  There are others who, perhaps carrying on from the previous example, by paying attention to themselves deliberately and regularly, discover aspects of themselves that, despite disconcerting them to begin with, enable them to learn to behave differently.  We gain clarity about ourselves, about our mental processes, little-known beliefs, defensive impulses, egocentric attitudes, automatic thoughts and fears and we learn from ourselves as we realise the lack of awareness with which we lived previously.

It is possible for all of this to happen.

And the most important thing is the self-awareness gained, something that frees us from the chains of ignorance, because when we do not know something, we cannot act with true freedom, as we operate within the foxhole of our fears: the fear of being attacked in some way, humiliated, not accepted, or of uncertainty, of loneliness, illness or death. 

Our ignorance of everything that exists in our inner selves makes us just react to life spurred on by it.

Observing ourselves kindly, gives us the flexibility to choose something that goes beyond our usual reactions.

And that is the beginning of a more fulfilled life connected, moreover to everyone else in a calmer, more open and generous way.  All of this may happen when, after observing yourself, you abandon self-defence and are not afraid of being vulnerable.

It is worth escaping from ignorance.