The evolution of species has endowed us, the human species, the quality of developing a sense of individuality, the quality feeling ourselves as someone separated from the rest of our environment. At physiological level this ability is related to brain region called the neocortex, which also have all mammals, but in our species is especially developed.
From birth we have a potential for individualization, to be “someone” separated from the outside world. As the person physically developing from childhood, adolescence, reaching adulthood, personality is formed, that is, a psychological “construct“. Then the innate potential of individualization uses personality to create the illusion of the existence of a separate, autonomous individual, an individual separated from the external environment.
We say illusion because personality is a more or less unstable web of ideas and memories: the person is not really their personality, but has a personality. Clear here there is a certain contradiction in terms: “person” comes from the Greek próposon, and referred to the mask worn by actors in Greek drama theater; clearly this mask shapes how the actor is shown, the person is the mask, personality, his performance, but the actor is not any mask.
But what really makes us individuals is not any personality, but the ability to be individuals; we are individuals as we have the ability to be, the personality is built, and is renewed day by day as an expression of that innate ability.
Meditation on the ability of individuality
The mind has, among its many wonderful qualities, a particularly curious one: it is able to observe itself, as in a mirror, using the functionality we call attention, the ability to focus the mind on an object, whether physical either mental. Attention is usually either serving our thoughts or abroad if we are doing an activity that requires it. But we can train to serve one’s mind, delving beyond personality, reaching the bottom of the mind.
Level 1: relaxing body and mind
For a “standard” person, that is, a very busy one with an endless list of occupations, concerns, problems, etc., to divert attention from the thoughts can be difficult. That is why the first step must be to calm the mind, let her relax, but without losing the attention; thus we freed from his bonds attention. There are many useful methods to achieve this first stage, we will not talk about them here, just mention one of the oldest and most effective, besides simple: abdominal conscious breathing, which focus attention on the breathing process, to be be slow and relaxing.
Level 2: mindfulness
If we get some ability to stop the mind and yet maintain the active attention, without falling into drowsiness, we are ready to start the next most advanced stage: draw attention to the back of the mind, seeking to connect with our potential for individualization, trying to “see” with our attention without intermediaries. It is a process that can take months or years, but for us we have that possibility exists, and has been reported by numerous testimonies.
Even without fully complete attention-deep, the practice produces remarkable effects. When training such attention, we have the ability to direct or stop direct the focus at will, regardless of thoughts or external events. When we are able to direct attention at will, we can be aware of anything inside or outside, without thinking about it: is a state called mindfulness. There are currently a lot of literature about mindfulness, and mindfulness meditation, but indeed mindfulness is a state of the attention, not a meditation: you can reach the state of mindfulness through any meditation technique, once it has worked enough. We will not discuss here the benefits of such a state, because as we have already mentioned there a lot of literature. Mindfulness has also been described as an end, as a goal, but in fact it is merely an intermediate step in the process of self-knowledge and self-realization, a state that must be achieved before accessing deeper levels of self-knowledge.
Level 3: connecting with our deep self, self-realization
If the person really has a compelling need to know, to know himself until the very end, then he can continue working, deepening attention, looking for the source of the individual, seeking to live, feel, just the sheer ability to be someone, beyond any intellectual content. It is a very interesting process, because as we discussed is the mind itself that directs its focus beyond any object, whether physical or mental. A priori it seems a contradiction, that the mind is able to know a primary potential that is not related to anything, but with training and perseverance the goal can be achieved, and have done so many truth seekers of different traditions.
That ability to be someone is in itself a potential self, but a self do not leaning on anything, is a “self creator”, that from the experiences of life is surrounded by a personality through which it is expressed. But the inner self is not any expression, is no expression, is pure “selfhood”.
When the mind connects with the pure potential of individuality we gradually realize we are somebody regardless of external circumstances, need not identify with anything outside to be somebody. In fact, absolutely everything that exists becomes external to the self: the person focuses on the deep I, and from there she “see” both inside world and outside world. As a result, absolute freedom of thought and action is experienced, because by not identify with anything regardless of all is achieved. Also, you are somebody, and that somebody is indestructible, no matter what happens: an unusual mental and emotional stability is achieved. The mind is always calm, not only during daily minutes of meditation; as a result the emotions are soft and positive, negative emotions do not fit in a calm mind and a trained attention. Fears also disappear because the person knows she is indestructible, being someone beyond body and mind.