Common Self-Realization Difficulties

Self-realization is a slippery and unique subject, quite unlike any other.

The truth of self-realization is said to be plain to see and exceedingly obvious. Indeed, self-realization is exactly that: the realization of the true nature of the Self. In theory, it should be the simplest thing in the World. Yet somehow people can consume many decades seeking the truth and still find themselves frustrated. So, why is something so obvious so difficult to grasp?

Wrong Perspective

Successful embodiment of the truth of self-realization necessitates that you do not 'begin upon the wrong foot'. The mistake is assuming yourself to be a person, seeking for union with God, or enlightenment, or whatever.

Buddhism sometimes calls this principle, Right View.

The myriad teachings of self-realization are all telling you one thing:
You are It.

You are God / the true Self / the Absolute / Brahman (or whatever you choose to call it.)

At some point, you either have to a) hold a sincere conviction that you are That, or b) at least suspend your disbelief for a while whilst you practice and work through the various ramifications.

You are not a person. You are the one Reality seeking to transform the personal psyche into a more precise and poetic rendition of your true nature. That is the reason you are reading this now.

There are two factors which seem to make this proposal particularly troubling for some:

First, they do not (yet) recognise the degree to which their thinking (and feeling) is still heavily based upon the presumption of limitation. For example, the personal self is obviously bound in time and space. Yet you are never limited in this way.

Second, how to reconcile the fact that many (though certainly not all!) do not seem to be able to read minds, perform 'miracles', and so on. This is a significant topic which merits significant exploration. Though in practice, it turns out to be a lot less important than you might initially assume – again because you commonly begin with incorrect assumptions.

It is like you are trying to entertain the possibility that the person can be God, if only the personal belief would be strong enough. Yet the person is not real – the person is within you, and you are God. Because you are presently pretending to be a human being, and human beings have limitations, the flimsy human conviction that you are God will not suffice. You must hold a sincere conviction.

Moreover, the manifestations of God are effortless. As effortless as you raise your right arm, or look through the window. The fact is, if you actually wanted to read minds, or perform 'miracles', you would. That you do not means you do not want to.

In fact, the reason you are interested in these things at all, is precisely because of the belief to be a separate, limited human being. Under that belief, you crave relief from the feeling of limitation that goes with it. When you 'try' to do these things, you are merely witnessing the futility of the personal ego – itself a mere projection, a shadow, of your actuality. For the one who believes he is trapped, boredom and anxiety are a thing.

Right now, however, it would appear that your interest (as God) is in remembering within the context of this phony human body-mind that you are indeed God.

Consider also a group of small, adjacent windows. If you stand in the right spot, you can easily gaze through many windows simultaneously (although you get a different view through each.) This is roughly analogous to the situation for God, or the Self. Each supposedly discrete consciousness (or being) is like a separate window. Though in this instance, your view on Self (and reality) is more akin to the individual window's view, if windows could see. The analogy breaks down because there is nothing exactly analogous to God. You are that which looks through the windows, you are the windows, and you are that which is seen through all the windows!

The Agency Trap

Whenever you do anything through the person, you implicitly accept the limitations of that personal belief system. By contrast, when you work directly no such limitations apply.

In seeking self-realization, it is a common oversight to act as if one is seeking union with something other - with God (or the true Self). In so doing, it is like trying to walk through wet mud. Hidden yet implicit in every action is the assumption that you are separate.

There is no personal agency. It is an illusion. The only agency is the Self (or God.)

When you act through the person, you see traces of your activity within the psyche. There is the perception of effort. There is often accompanying thought. There are the phenomenal sensations of whatever it is that the person is performing (on your behalf.) Though the person is still a puppet, and you the puppet master. If you work this way, it is like using a puppet to remove hot cookies from the oven. It is both funny and awkward.

Acting in this indirect manor, you leave a kind of echo – a wake, like the disturbed water of a boat – as the mind-body moves through your manifest World. This is the 'ego' of spirituality.

When you act directly, it is spontaneous and part of the play of creation. If there is any trace within the psyche, it is merely a result of the later (in time) perception of the results of your action. The action itself is not accompanyied by thought, sensation or any phenomenal representation whatsoever. In fact, the entire World is a direct result of your manifestation in this manor – including the appearance of 'action through the person' (above)! Such action is so graceful there is no trace within manifestation of it having ever occurred, aside from the results themselves.

When Self, playing the part of the human, attempts final realization, it must always in that instant end in failure. A person is not God. The whole trap is that there never was any person. The person is not real. An illusion has no agency.

The sense of agency the person 'has' is like the toy steering wheel of a child in the backseat of his parent's car. Sometimes it just so happens that when the child turns the wheel left, the car actually goes left. Eventually, however, the child discovers that the wheel is a dud. It is not real.

The entire practice of embodiment thorugh heart-centred meditation is actually a practice of moving spontaneously, as the Self (or God), rather than through the prison of the person. The surrender of this practice is a surrender to yourself. Likewise, genuine understanding (not simply memorisation of facts) will only occur in the relaxations – the gaps – when the mistaken attempts to run the show through the person are in temporary abeyance. You already run most of the show this way. Why not run all of it like this?

You are the Self. Only seek to develop the conviction that you are the Self. Effortlessly you will find that you take care of the rest. You do not know how you do it, you just do it.

Confusing Technology with Truth

Science and philosophy, indeed the entire domain of human knowledge is a mostly irrelevant aside to self-realization. This kind of knowledge is the technology of the mind. It is intertwined with language, culture and society, and with the physicality of the human organism.

A difficulty can arise if you feel it necessary to try to integrate this knowledge with your self-realization, or if you find the apparent contradictions between the two disturb your contemplation. The difficulty arises because you have not yet recognised a key difference between the knowledge of truth (of Self) and the knowledge of technology – of language, art, culture, science and society.

Knowledge of the truth is like falling in love. It is something you are. The words come later.

It is actually quite unnecessary (and impossible) for you to integrate these two animals. Knowledge of truth is fundamentally about clarity, the true nature of all things, and consequently it is the for-all-intents-and-purposes true 'technology of intimacy' with life, and of emotional and moral regulation. It is the most true technology of meaning. It is also the most pragmatic of perspectives, by virtue of being intrinsically peaceful and fundamentally undivided.

By contrast, the knowledge of humanity is dualistic. It is intrinsically divisive by reliance upon dualistic representations in mind and language, and fundamentally because it makes facts by ignoring the underlying assumptions. It is not that there is anything wrong with this kind of knowledge. Far from it. It is just that from the perspective of Self, all of it is self-evidently true – so the whole edifice is essentially meaningless.

In the domain of human knowledge, from the perspective of the personal, 'knowledge is power' and 'ignorance is blind'. By contrast, in the domain of truth, from the perspective of the Self, human knowledge is impotence, while not knowing is omniscience and omnipotence. The two are complimentarities – two sides of the same coin, so to speak. The human being is unusual in that it is one part divinity and one part mortal, and it has the capacity to realize it.

The point is that there is no inherent conflict between these two fundamentally distinct types of knowledge.

Base your contemplative practices on the for-all-intents-and-purposes practical truth, in so far as your own 'inner' sight can take you. Leave the realm of human knowledge out of the quest for self-realization. It is something that will continue to function, and like everything else you will discover it takes care of itself.


There are many exotic tales of Buddhas, incense, flowing robes, crashing symbals and bellowing horns, or ancient stone temples and caligraphy, and of crucifixion, ancient languages, bleeding statues and other such 'miracles'.

Tales of Enlightenment are often as grand as they are exotic. Such tales tell of brilliant lights, or of the World suddenly receeding into the darkness of the void, and of becoming transfixed by the beauty of the most ordinarily mundane things. The images are many. They vary as much as the variance between peoples in temperament, persona and spiritual or religious affiliation.

These kinds of expectations can delay the search for truth. Revelation can be and often is quite ordinary.

Self-realization is just that. It is the realization of the true nature of the Self (and reality.) This is necessarily significant, particularly when you have been living a certain kind of self-deception for a long time. Nevertheless, the reality of Self is that you are always free to do as you please. In this way, often you find things quite sufficient as they are. The most significant changes then, are 'internal' to the psyche of the person – an abiding effortlessness and peace, and an ever fresh appreciation (indeed love) for life.

Of course, if your conviction is sincere, deep and all-encompassing, there is no reason why one day this person would not simply cease to exist (to disappear suddenly.) That is certainly an option! Though generally that does not seem to be the game being played, by most.

Holding expectations is a function of ego. Expectations conceal truth. While you hold to the false as if it were important (real), you cannot see the true. You will miss that which is self-evident in the here and now.

Relinquishing your expectations of self-realization will enable you to focus on actually (re)discovering your true nature. In the end, you will find that infinitely more satisfying than a time-bound spectacle, no matter how long it lasts.

Another more subtle form of expectation is the idea that an intellectual grasp, or even a significant experiential grasp of the truth will immediately render indelible changes upon the quality of the human experience. It may, but it is unlikely.

An on-going period of reconditioning can readily be anticipated post-realization – this is the embodiment of Heart that I refer to in my writing on meditation and on the homepage.

© Copyright 2020 Joshua W. Hawcroft