One of the principal reasons that I meditate is to develop a lookout for the person who is meditating. My last yoga teacher, Rod Stryker called this “witness consciousness.” I expect my witness to be able to discern whether my querulous internal search is drifting away from self-awareness towards self-absorption. I trust it to tell me when to give it a rest. If there were no witness, I’d be subjecting myself to haphazard analysis with a risk of becoming too self-important.
When one is self-aware, it typically conveys a better effect on relationships. For a seeker, mental and emotional agility are paramount. In the words of singer Kenny Rogers, “You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em…Every gambler knows the secret to survivin is knowing what to throw away and knowing what to keep.” Beyond being sage advice for poker players, these words are acutely applicable to communication. Knowing what not to say, when to punch the pause button, and when to change the subject are essential communication skills.
The effect that you have on others will vary widely if the line blurs between self-awareness and self-importance. Self-awareness fosters kindness towards yourself, In turn, you are more likely to behave kindly towards others. If you delude yourself into an impression that you have the answers, then your interactions with others will suffer. People won’t want to be in your company. No matter how much you know, what you don’t know is infinite.
Every circumstance and relationship we face requires its own, independent, sometimes unclear challenges. It’d be much easier if our circumstances were only a matter of following simple rules. For example, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor (don’t lie).” Most of our experiences fall outside of the simple rules, requiring a weighing of the risks and rewards from what gets expressed. Royal Air Force fighter Douglas Bader said, “Rules are for the guidance of wise men and the obedience of fools.”
Singer songwriter Ben Lee may have been right when he said, “Awake is the New Sleep.” There isn’t proof that we’re going anywhere. If, as David Byrne sang, “We’re on the Road to Nowhere,” then I’m glad to know those whose ambition is just to have fun rather than diving too deeply into the morass of self-searching. While we’re so desperately looking for where we’re going, the joke may be that nowhere is the destination.