Actually knowing yourself is not only the beginning of all wisdom, but also an end in itself. Not knowing yourself is being like driving a car without knowing how to drive and without any destination in mind. And most idiots live their lives in this way.
These idiots or morons remain busy about knowing others and also try to find themselves in others that is why they are always going round and round in circles without any progress or advancement.
Usually we pay less heed to our inner world (practising mindfulness) and more to our outside world and events and that is why we mostly remain confused and directionless.
Outside world or reality is just an image or sign of reality and not the ultimate truth. It is like a drama being played on the stage of the world. Thus our real world is our inner world and when we start paying attention to our inner world we start gaining wisdom and that is an end in itself.
Sociologist Erving Goffman believed that when we are born, we are thrust onto a stage called everyday life, and that our socialization consists of learning how to play our assigned roles from (or with) other people. We enact our roles in the company of others, who are in turn enacting their roles in interaction with us. He believed that whatever we do, we are playing out some role on the stage of life. However, we shouldn’t and even can’t remain on the stage for eternity playing ours social roles and also need to retreat to the backstage of life to recharge ourselves and have some insights about our inner self.
As author Humanenrich puts it “our body and various roles are the stage, our soul and the inner world are backstage and the consciousness is the uniting cord.” He further postulates that consciousness mistakenly takes the character on the stage as the real person. This leads to a feeling of helplessness and causes pain. Once the consciousness discovers and gets connected to backstage, it finds a path to reach there and identifies itself with the real person backstage, all the sufferings come to a stop.
Again, as Goffman further explains, during our everyday life, we spend most of our lives on the front stage, where we get to deliver our lines and perform. A wedding is a front stage. A classroom lectern is a front stage. A dinner table can be a front stage. Almost any place where we act in front of others is a front stage. Sometimes we are allowed to retreat to the back stages of life. In these private areas, we don’t have to act. We can be our real selves. We can also practice and prepare for our return to the front stage.
In this context, we can say that the secret is to maintain a balance between front stage and back stage. We can’t always remain on front stage as we will get tired and lose all the energy as well as interest, in addition to becoming a nag for the audience too. And we can’t also always remain confined to the back stage as we are social animals and not superhumans or divine beings.
Thus once the journey or self discovery begins you will find your treasure soon and will start enriching yourself (and others too) without limits.
Now I shall give you a real life illustration of how the journey of inner world is full of positive potential and vista of new creative ideas.
It is a story about someone who was teaching “meditation” or mindfulness in prison. It was not specifically a Buddhist, just mind relaxation. He was dealing with the hardened criminals; people who were already in for life and who continued to kill each other while in prison. One of them, gang leader also became interested and started taking part in the training just because it was something new to try. He said at one point during that training — — it happened in a very dramatic way — — that it was if a wall had suddenly collapsed. He realized that until then, he had been functioning only in terms of hate.
Previously all his relations with others were about hate and domination, and that suddenly disappeared. That says a lot about the plasticity of the brain and potential of your mind (and/or heart as well) to create a space for new ideas and starting a journey of self-discovery, instead of blaming everyone and everything else about your conditions. Thus knowing yourself is the best way of learning wisdom and that is also the ultimate purpose of your life.
In short, knowing yourself is the crucial step toward taking control of your life and to steer it in the right direction. It also means you must be mindful of your actions and thoughts. Lying to themselves is the worst thing one can do. Embrace your fears and weaknesses, they’re perfectly natural and everyone has them. Remember, nobody is perfect in this world. But, in order to improve, you first have to accept that there is plenty of room for improvement. Self-awareness is one of the keys to growth. A deep understanding of yourself is what makes you stand out and helps you achieve your goals.
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