“Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. (I am large, I contain multitudes.)” — Walt Whitman
Let me see if I can summarize everything I’ve introduced about self-awareness and the serpent devouring its tail.
- Self-awareness is one of our human endowments.
- It responds to and is activated by trust and engagement; persistent awareness requires engagement, but not necessarily trust. We choose to offer that when we are willing to include it in our actions, feelings and thoughts.
- Awareness is a dependency; we are completely dependent on how it manages and focuses our attention. That dependency, however, can be managed consciously.
- Awareness is always shared with the unknown; otherwise we are merely “re-discovering ourselves.” The unknown is a constant factor in the unfolding of the-here-and-now.
- Awareness expresses itself as a self-reinforcing and self-balancing system; the self reinforcing system accumulates and adds; the self-balancing system limits and discards.
- The self-reinforcing system shows us “the-game-we-are-already-in.” It reveals “the-truth-that-experience-teaches.” It accumulates complexity as we gain more awareness about the world.
- The self-balancing system shows us “the-impact-of-our-truth.” It reveals the way a single-minded faith distorts our perception. It discards complexity arbitrarily.
- The image of the serpent devouring its tail illustrates the action of endlessly discovering ourselves and the unknown; both are constantly present in our awareness.
- Awareness (as a dynamic) is the part becoming the whole. Experience conforms to a “truth,” or is rejected, only to then becomes part of some new truth (which is yet to be formed). Even meta-awareness conforms to this principle (we cannot be aware of what we are not aware of until the discarded parts are made into a whole).
- The self-balancing system develops awareness by transcending and including the beliefs that manage and focus one’s attention. To transcend and include means that later beliefs transcend and include their priors. The part becomes whole which then becomes a part to next whole. Values and beliefs are nested within overlapping experiences that support and give meaning to what we encounter.
- Transcend and include evolves and erupts but it never breaks the spiritual completeness that underlies our self-awareness; we become different but always with integrity.
- The mindfulness commands to “choose, respond, and change” help us to alter established habits. Change occurs when trust can be offered in new ways. We make the decision to include trust once we are engaged – not before.
- Awareness occurs developmentally in our bodies, in our environment and within our mental representations. That is why the serpent is so commonly associated with these three areas.
- The dynamics which implicate and involve the serpent are concerned with health, growth and fear as they relate to bodily integrity, mental integrity, and environmental integrity.
The negative associations regarding self-awareness and the serpent devouring its tail include.
- Self-perpetuating negative emotion such as anger, fear, defensiveness, criticism, contempt, and stonewalling.
- An inability to sustain awareness due to sleep or unconsciousness; bodily integrity, mental integrity, and environmental integrity become inaccessible.
- A failure of self-awareness is a failure to grow, change, and observe one’s body, mind, and environment. This type of failure can result in death or the permanent transformation of one’s awareness. The “death” feared most is the rupture of awareness that transforms one’s body, mind, and environment; yet that is exactly what change and the unknown always bring.
Self-awareness and the serpent devouring its tail are about holding and maintaining trust and engagement with the experience we take in. Life asserts itself without our involvement, but what we absorb and how we allow it to direct our attention – reflects growth and change. One character trait that Stephen Covey talks about is “Integrity.” Covey defines it as “the value we place in ourselves.” That’s an interesting definition. What value can there be … if we lack awareness? Who we are inevitably changes over the course of our lifetime. Much of that change can be observed in the way that we manage our focus and attention; in they way we attend to the world through self-awareness.
So integrity, like the self-balancing system described earlier, transcends and includes all the people we have ever been. No wonder Walt Whitman said, “I am large. I contain multitudes.”
Thanks for listening!