If your spiritual search does not focus on Self-discovery, Self-Realization, your search will never end, or will end in a dull culdesac of being only an observer.
Zen and Neo-Advaita, Emptiness and empty mind, can only take you to the Void, to clear and lighted inner and outer spaces, the containers of all inner and outer experiences, which will result in peace and an uncluttered mind, but your life will slowly be snuffed out by lack of love for objects (including others), a dry witnessing of emotions, and a disappearance of your identification with your humanity, with your body, emotions, and love.
Life will lose both its bite, but also its juice.
Ditto Jnana Yoga which will leave in as That which lies beyond Consciousness, witnessing Consciousness. This is even further removed from Life than is Zen's Void and empty mind, which themselves are still observed phenomena, observed by 'That' standing at the source.
If you follow the way of power, Kundalini, Raja Yoga, Kashmir Shaivism, or and many similar paths, you follow energy, bliss, and control which will lead you down a path of no rest, just more and more energies, powers, and bliss. It is not balanced and the Self is difficult to discover among all the masculine doing and effort.
I am afraid that even though many Kundalini and Shaivite gurus talk about Self, it is quite unclear what they mean by Self, and they may mean either Shiva, the watcher, of Shakti, the Power that knows the way as Robert put it, or the Life Force. Neither are the Self of which I speak, which uniquely belongs to sentience itself as its essence.
My own teacher, Robert Adams talked of the Self, but by Self he meant remaining as the witness of Consciousness, and sometimes that Witness was taken as being separate from Consciousness, and sometimes he meant it as being part of the totality of Consciousness.
But all of these Eastern-Oriented paths seem to miss the point of real Self-Realization, looking within with loving acceptance of all that arises through introspection, thereby gaining a clear seeing and feeling of that which I call Self: the divine source within, Sentience itself, knowingness itself, and the Life divine!
By Life I mean the sense that you know you exist, are a discrete and separate entity that is human, possessing a body, and also an energy body, a sense of presence as an energy being, with a layer of human emotions all who have bodies should feel from joy, happiness, excitement, to depression, grief, loss and fear. And behind this entire wholeness lies the divine--that which is greater, that which is the source and essence of sentience.
How the Self is experienced and how one gets there is the whole story of Self-Realization. The Self cannot really be described in normal European languages. The Self can only be hinted at.
My hints are that it has an inner physical light in one's subjective awareness of one's inner space, and that light is associated with an inner awareness of itself. Self is aware of itself reflexively. Once it is aware of itself, it cannot look aware because it finds itself the greatest fascination.
This Self is initially found in weakness--in emotional vulnerability which is often shunned as weakness, thus I use that term deliberately to get us past that term of degradation by feeling your reaction to that term, because a negative reaction is built into so many of us.
Besides light, weakness, vulnerability, the Self has a form that is ever changing in appearance and outline. It is like an inner brook of cool energy tumbling over a waterfall of delicious nurturance inside. It cools the soul, gives peace, and its lights one's heart-sense with Love and Life. With the finding of Self comes a roaring from within: I Am Alive! I Am Self!
Imagine looking within one's own innerness, with the Third eye of introspection serenely looking within. Deep within, like looking down from just a meter under water, one sees far deeper aa brilliant white light, at first like a ball, which arises within your inner emptiness, grows a thousandfold when it nears your heart, and then explodes with an overwhelming feeling of happiness, joy, and bliss, and the absolutely certain knowing that you are alive and you are this wonderous lighted power-source within yourself.
Usually this experience of the appearance of Self as light, power, presence, and bliss, is accompanied by the feeling of the descent of grace in you, making you clean, pure, a receptive channel for the divine.
After having this experience just once, you begin to know with every fiber of your being who and what you are: A human being in a physical body, accompanied by an energy body, accompanied by an intelligence that has nothing to do with words or concepts, but is a direct intuition into the nature of the world, your self, and God. You and God are one in the sense you are discrete,. but also one within. You are an incarnation of God (or Christ Consciousness) in human flesh, as are all other humans, as are all other animals and sentient beings, from angels to earthworms.
All of Sentience is the same across quintillions of life forms covering trillions of planets. God is in all of us, experiencing other sentient beings alive and sensing throughout the universe.
And, each week, month, and year that passes after that original Self-experiencing, the Self grows more clear, more powerful, more spontaneous, more vulnerable, and ever more knowing what it is.
But this way of direct realization of Self is not open to all. It opens only to those who are emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually open to all experiences that arise from within, and all inner experiences that arise from interactions with the external world. For this reason a foundation in psychological introspection is essential. This is a spirituality that walks hand in hand with person-centered therapy, Self-psychology, and object relations schools of non-analytic introspection to be covered in future writings.
This path requires a radical honesty and openness to everything within you. It feels like the Self is pulling at your heart before you have even seen it and felt it, relentlessly drawing "you" towards itself. In a sense you are chosen by Self to seek It and It alone, and not powers, or Emptiness, or Empty Mind, or Kundalini, or Bliss, though all such usually comes during the process of knowing the Self.
And, as I discovered early on, you don't become self-realized without teachers or the presence of Self-Realized persons. You discover the Self in them which leads you to discover it within yourself. It is the physical presence of other self-Realized, or nearly realized beings that enables your awakening and flowering. That is called Satsang. Online Satsang is great, but being in the actual physical presence is even more powerful a stimulus for Self-Realization.
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