The duty we owe to our personal development is to honestly know who we are and how we pitch up for ourselves in every moment. I believe this inquiry rests at the centre of our Being. In turn, our response to this inquiry is the seed of our reality. It is for this reason that I have integrated this inquiry into my mindfulness practice. That is, in every mindful moment, while I connect with my breath, I ask myself: Who am I? What do I want? What do I fear?
Putting it into practice
Before we explore the power of my practice, why not connect to your breath while offering answers to these three prompts in the comments below:
- who are you right now?
- what do you want right now?
- what do you fear right now?
For example, right now, I am an influencer. I want to have a positive impact on my community by sharing my Truth. I know that Truth is a deeply personal experience, and therefore I fear my community may not welcome my Truth.
Earlier today, I went to the gym. I was a Warrior. I wanted to be grounded in a strong, confident and healthy body. I not only feared the uncomfortable feeling associated with exercise, but I also feared the impact that exerting myself could have on my energy reserves.
Later today, I will be a homemaker. I want to create a calming, nurturing and inspiring environment for my partner and me. However, I fear that my desire for “more” will limit my ability to have gratitude for what I already have. Furthermost, I fear that my efforts may go unnoticed by my partner.
Connect with your breath
Let us now explore my practice. My mindfulness practice always starts with a breath. Our breath is one of many gateways into the present moment. Enter the present moment using whatever gateway works for you.
Who am I?
After connecting to my breath, I decide how I want to show up for myself and others in the context of the present moment. Making this decision is the purpose of the “I am”-statement. It not only grounds us in the present moment, but it also provides a lens through which we experience the present moment. For example, few will dispute how affirming “I am a consensual participant” can radically change our experience in a sexual encounter. The “I am”-statement allows you to hold space in a very deliberate way.
Putting it into practice
Getting back to my earlier examples, when I affirm that “I am a warrior”, it invites into the present moment my masculine energy; it establishes me as someone that wants to express my physicality. The affirmation “I am a homemaker” calls into the present moment my feminine energy. It recognizes that I am someone that wants to nurture and care for others. It also allows the elements of me that crave order. Finally, when I affirm that “I am an influencer”, it invites into the present moment expansive energy. It establishes me as someone that seeks to direct change beyond my inner world. It also brings to mind a sense of responsibility for my outer world.
Understanding and working with your ego
The “I want” and the “I fear”-statements serve to acknowledge and work with your ego. Before we explore how these two statements engage the ego, let us take a breath to examine what the ego is. While a complete illusion, my ego is the framework of reference that gives me a Past (through memory structures) and a Future (by extrapolation from memory structures). For example, while at school, I was bullied a lot by my male peers; today, while at work, by default, I make myself small when confronted with masculine energy expressed too assertively. I also experience more anxiety leading up to interactions with male colleagues than future interactions with female colleagues. The ego provides the rich history that I carry from one present moment to the next present moment.
Furthermore, my ego is that which yields a personal meaning as well as an emotional response in each passing moment. For example, I may experience a specific event as unfavourable based on my ego, while you may experience the same event as favourable based on your ego. Trauma that we encode into our self-concept has a material impact on the emotions we experience in the present moment.
Rather than demonizing our egos, we need to embrace our ego as a necessary part of our human experience. When we practice mindfulness, we train our ability to fully experiencing every moment (through the ego) while limiting the unnecessarily bias that the ego adds to the moment.
My mindfulness practice has shifted from seeking to transcend my ego to learning to co-create more mindfully alongside my ego. Understand me: transcending the ego is a transformative experience worth seeking! It is a beautiful experience that elevates you to a place absolutely at peace with itself, a timeless place, and a formless place. In technical terms, a place where duality does not exist. But transcendence is a translucent and opaque experience. Eventually, you have to come back and wash the dishes building up on the sink.
You cannot focus your whole life around the pursuit of transcendence. When you do this, then transcendence becomes an identity in itself. This is a sneaky loophole that the ego has used to rob many wise people of their precious human experience. The alternative is to use the wisdom gained “in transcendence” to work more effectively with the ego “outside of transcendence”.
To work with the ego, you have to communicate in a language that the ego understands: desire and fear. Instead of avoiding these, we can lean into desire by asking the question, “What do I want?“. Similarly, we can lean into fear by asking the questions, “What do I fear?“. By doing this, we allow ourselves the opportunity to mindfully accept or reject the ego’s contribution to the present moment.
What do I want?
Your “I want”-statement establishes your intent. Why did you come into this moment? What are you trying to achieve at this moment? Consciously setting an intention is the difference between being “awake” and being “asleep”. It is key to the art of mindful living. When you are “awake”, you set an intention for every moment in your conscious mind. When you are “asleep”, your intent is set by the protect-or-pleasure instinct of the ego. The intent we bring into each moment, in turn, directs our actions.
Most of our actions flow from our subconscious/unconscious mind. Therefore, we shape our reality by being clear on our intent and allowing actions to flow freely from that intent. We crowd out our egoistic desires with intent by consciously asking ourselves what we want from the present moment.
What do I fear?
Nobody likes to be tricked into cooperating - especially not the ego! The “I am”-statement and the “I want”-statement coerces the ego to direct action in a particular direction. When compelled to do so, it is only natural for the ego to respond with fear. The “I fear”-statement recognizes this and seeks to mitigate this egoistic behaviour proactively. It serves to short the egos natural tendencies by inviting fear into your mindful moment where you can consciously dissolve it. The Work method by Byron Kattie is an excellent way to transform fear once you become conscious of it.
Putting these questions to myself several times throughout the day has accelerated my personal development, and I offer them to you as a development toolkit. These three prompts have helped me understand who I am and how I pitch up for myself. I hope they will help you better understand yourself and your relationship with the world.