In this episode, we dive into the concept of the “Self” in Yoga Philosophy and Jungian Psychology. Continuing our series on Jung and Yoga, we explore the common threads between the two philosophies and how you can use this information to create a happier life.
- How do Jung and Yoga describe the Self?
- How Western Psychology’s use of the term “True Self” is limiting and based in ego
- What happens to someone who is Self-Actualized or fully Self-Awareness?
Debra Maldonado 00:28
Hello, welcome to another episode of Soul Sessions with CreativeMind. I’m Debra Berndt Maldonado, here with Dr. Rob Maldonado. We’re so excited to continue our series on Jung and Yoga. Before we dive into today’s topic, I want to remind you to subscribe to our podcast on Spotify, iTunes, or any other system you use to listen to your podcasts. If you are listening to us on YouTube, there’s a little button here in the corner you can click to subscribe to our channel. Please make sure you do that so you don’t miss another episode. Today we’re talking about the concept of the self in both Jung and yoga.
Robert Maldonado 01:13
We started out the series talking about the ego, which is not the true self in either one of those philosophies. Then we talked about the unconscious mind and especially the collective unconscious, which in yoga philosophy is the universal aspect of Brahman consciousness, pure awareness. Now we are getting close to the self, what Jung called the totality of the psyche, both conscious and unconscious. In yoga philosophy, the way it’s explained in the Upanishads, the self can’t be comprehended by the mind, it is beyond mind. How can we understand something that is beyond the mind? Let’s talk about that.
Debra Maldonado 02:08
When I heard the concept of the self, both in Eastern and Jungian psychology, I found it confusing because in a lot of personal development, they talked about discovering your true self, understanding your true self, expressing your true self. Eastern and Jungian concept of the self is a little different.
Robert Maldonado 02:34
Very different. If you do an internet search “What is my true self”, you’ll get pretty much answers that talk about this clean, polished up personality, who lives their full potential.
Debra Maldonado 02:58
There’s a perfection in you, the perfect person in you that is beautiful, rich, loves and adored by everyone. That’s your true self.
Robert Maldonado 03:14
There’s nothing wrong with that. It should be our goal to be all those things. That’s not the problem. But if we want to understand both Jung and this deeper Eastern wisdom tradition that comes from the Upanishads and yoga philosophy, we have to let go of those old ideas and delve a little bit deeper into what they talk about when they say “the self”, or “the true self”. Let’s look at Jung first. He’s more accessible, more recent. Like we were saying, Jung’s idea was that the self is the totality of who you are, both conscious and unconscious. But he’s saying a lot there because as we saw in the previous podcast, his idea of the unconscious mind not only included the personal unconscious, which was the Freudian concept of a closet that we throw all our junk into, but it also included the collective unconscious, which we identified as the realm of the gods, the deeper realm where everything arises from. What he’s saying is very similar to the Eastern concept of the self. It is a transcendental self, not only having to do with you personally, your body, your history, your personality, but it is an element that connects you to the universe and even beyond that.
Debra Maldonado 05:14
There’s a saying where he says “The unknown parts are experiencing me, and I’m experiencing that.” After the shadow work you get to experience all of who you are. Not you the little ego, but you as a being, there’s a being in you that’s aware. It’s beyond just your personal memories of “I had this happen to me in third grade, I had these parents, this is my relationship history.” It’s a universal history that we have, a universal self. But it includes the conscious self as well, it doesn’t discard it and say “This isn’t a part of you.” It is a part of you, the waking life is part of you.
Robert Maldonado 06:00
What most people call the self is the ego, or the persona. We can think of the ego persona as a complex meaning. The internalized part of me, the I that arises in me, or that I experience, that inner voice that tells me “You need to do this and that and achieve these things”, nothing wrong with that but that’s the ego. The persona is the way I present myself, the role I play in society, the way I think of myself in relation to others. That’s the persona. Again, nothing wrong with that. But that’s not the totality of ourselves, there are deeper elements. Just looking at dreams, we start to get a sense that there’s a lot more going on in my mind than just going to work and living a family life. That’s what Jung was talking about. There’s some illustrations of the self as the nucleus of the cell. Jung says you can think of the self as the organizing principle in the psyche. It is the center, which regulates everything else.
Debra Maldonado 07:18
I like the term “intelligence within us”, the body has its own intelligence, there’s different parts of our body, but there’s an intelligence that keeps everything flowing. This happens also in our life, beyond just the body. Our experiences in life, there’s an intelligence. Some people call it God. But when you think of God in the Western tradition and traditional religion, it’s always something outside of me, like a parent concept that is approving or disapproving of me and can welcome me into the gates of heaven. We feel like we’re not that.
Robert Maldonado 08:00
In some of his writings, Jung actually writes “God within self” because it is the transcendent part of our psyche, meaning, what connects us to the universe. That’s what people have called God from ancient times. It’s something that organizes life and the universe, the cosmos the way it appears, that’s got to be some kind of intelligence, therefore, we are connected to that. At the heart of our psyche is that self. It is very much who we are, it is the true self, the true awareness in us. Why we don’t experience it that way? Jung would say because you’re identifying with your persona, you’re thinking that little voice and the way I present myself to others is who I am. You’re reducing your awareness to identify strictly with that persona, saying “That’s who I am, this body, this individual.”
Debra Maldonado 09:16
Our limitations basically, because if we think we’re the persona, we can only accomplish from who we think we are and what other people tell us is possible. We carry with us all the experiences of life that we think defines us, we are defined by our past experience. That’s a very limited way to see ourselves.
Robert Maldonado 09:37
He developed a psychology of individuation which takes an individual through withdrawing their projections from the world. Instead of thinking “The world is holding me back, it’s mean to me, it’s hostile”, if you understand the deeper principle, you’re saying “These aspects of my mind are projected outward, I’m seeing them in others and in situations, but they’re really aspects of myself. If I want to transcend them, I have to accept them as part of me, then I’m able to move forward.” You notice that in his psychology, he’s not denying that there are obstacles, there are resistances in our psyche to become the self, to identify with the self, but working through them, staying with the very things that we’re running from, absorbing them into our awareness is the key to transcending that.
Debra Maldonado 10:45
Every conflict is reflecting back to us that ignorance that we aren’t the self. If we dig into the conflict and see ourselves in it, we start to realize who we are. If we run away from conflict, or judge things, think that one day this thing will go away, then I’ll be happy. No, these things are there as basically stepping stones for you to climb to a different vantage point and see who you really are.
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Robert Maldonado 12:11
The sense of self in the Upanishads and yoga philosophy is very similar but there’s some minor differences. There’s a beautiful term “Satchitananda”, “sat” is being, “chit” is consciousness or awareness, “ananda” is bliss. The Upanishads say that if you had to describe the self, and the self is indescribable because the mind can’t go there, it can’t conceive of it, but if you had to give it a definition, it says this is the closest you can come to define it. It says it’s not that the self is being, but it’s beingness itself. It’s what lends everything its beingness.
Debra Maldonado 13:14
Our beingness is the consciousness.
Robert Maldonado 13:18
That’s right, but also everything. This cup, the reason it is being in the world, the reason it shines forth in reality is that the self is giving it that. It is the beingness of things. Everything is shining forth because of the self because it’s emanating from the self. Ultimately, the understanding or the realization is to get to that, that the core of my beingness is the self. The other one, consciousness has the same principle. It’s not saying that the self is conscious, it’s saying the self is consciousness itself.
Debra Maldonado 14:11
A lot of people confuse consciousness — we get this question a lot — with being conscious and aware. This is consciousness meaning the formless substance that fills everything.
Robert Maldonado 14:26
Like a primordial pure awareness that allows all things to arise, to be. If we ask, what is the space in which we perceive and experience the world, that space is the consciousness, the awareness, but it’s pure in that if you remove all the things, all the objects, there’d still be an awareness there, a primordial awareness that is constant, never changes, is absent of objects, meaning nothing can burn it, cut it, destroy it in any way. It can’t be wounded. That’s where the idea of non-brokenness comes from in our practice, it is an impossibility to hurt the self in us. When people talk about the wounded self, or the wounded soul, they’re talking about some other concept, the ego, some temporary manifestation.
Debra Maldonado 15:49
The conditioning from the personal unconscious.
Robert Maldonado 15:54
The wisdom of the Upanishads say very clearly, the self can’t be damaged by experience, by the objects that arise in that primordial awareness. Finally, my favorite is ananda, which is bliss, happiness. It’s the happiness of being alive. We’ve all experienced this. We just wake up one day, and we’re just happy. There’s no particular reason. There’s nothing going on, nothing that we can say “This happened, and I’m happy.” We’re just content, happy, and blissful out of our own nature.
Debra Maldonado 16:38
This morning, we have trees because we live on the East Coast now, so lots of trees, it was raining a little bit, and there were little lake drops falling on the trees, and the leaves were just bouncing. It just gave me the sense of bliss, that pure joy of the nature, of being, it was so peaceful. We have those moments when we watch nature, when we hold a newborn child, when we have a newborn child, or we have something beautiful in our life, looking at beautiful things, and feeling love. Underneath that we think the source is somewhere in that person or that object, but the source of bliss is actually within ourselves. We’re just awakening our own bliss that’s been unconscious.
Robert Maldonado 17:34
This pure being, consciousness, bliss is our true self. We can’t get at it by insight because insight is trying to understand, trying to figure it out. We do need some insight, we need this higher knowledge. It begins by hearing it. The Upanishads say, everyone starts with hearing this truth. It enters the mind somehow, we start to think “Is that possible? Could we really be this bigger, larger, expansive self that is pure awareness, pure consciousness, pure bliss?” Then it says “You have to contemplate it.” You have to get to the point where you’re asking, you’re struggling with it, you’re wrestling with that information. Is this really possible? You’re contemplating it, you’re thinking about it. Then it says that you meditate on it because meditation is really an altered state of mind which focuses on something and becomes one with it, being absorbed by it. Imagine focusing on this truth.
Debra Maldonado 18:57
Versus being absorbed in a problem that you have, you can be absorbed in the truth.
Robert Maldonado 19:02
Reaching that focus, constant flow of awareness, that you are this universal self, that this is true, this is you. That’s the purpose of meditation in the Upanishads, any yoga philosophy. It’s the release from the personal constraints of our false identity as ego self.
Debra Maldonado 19:31
But without pushing it away. We accept that it’s just realizing its nature. Working with people over the years, they start judging themselves for having misaligned thoughts or ego thoughts, they want to get rid of the ego, they want to judge themselves harshly for not acting out of the bliss. It’s about accepting its nature, we do have a nature that is ego that arises because we have a body, understanding that it’s just part of our nature, but it isn’t who we are. As soon as we can understand that the mind has a tendency to think like an ego and have an I that emerges, but there’s also the truth that we’re one with everything. We’re constantly trying to come back to that truth. Seeing the opposite is the only way we can see the truth. Because if we’re in the truth, there’s nothing to reflect. That’s not the truth. That’s how we realize it. It’s a beautiful system that self has devised on a level. What does understanding the self really give someone? There’s a lot of people that want to make money, take all that life has to offer, there’s nothing wrong with that. But what is the benefit of this self-inquiry, self-worth, self-reflection, self-realization? What does someone get out of that?
Robert Maldonado 21:15
In simple terms, in a nutshell, if you want to go beyond suffering, and who doesn’t, if you want to go beyond fear, beyond a sense of meaninglessness, which are all aspects of our ego. Sooner or later, if you identify with ego, you’re going to be in trouble. Because this body, this individual formulation of our persona is impermanent. Sooner or later, you’re going to face its desolation. If you are not prepared, if you don’t understand the deeper aspects of your true self, it’s going to feel like you’ve been betrayed by life essentially. Because everything you’ve worked for, everything you’ve been given, everything you’ve experienced, is gonna go. If you don’t have anything else, that’s an empty feeling of what was it all for?
Debra Maldonado 22:26
There’s this mystery, we all have this big dream that one day everything’s just gonna line up for us, we’ll have the perfect relationship, the perfect career, the perfect health, the perfect job, being able to have as much money as we want. There’s some state that everything’s going to be perfect. We know that even if we attain everything, all our heart’s desires, it’s temporary. Not only because we’re going to die, but the world is in constant motion. You have a child and say “All I wanted to do is be a mother” but then that child grows up, it’s not a baby anymore, it’s an adult, you can’t hang on to that little baby anymore, your little child is now going to college. If we just cling on and hang on to those moments as defining us, there’s going to be a moment that lets us down because it will pass. But the good news is that not only the good things shall pass, but the things that are stressful for us will also pass.
Robert Maldonado 23:44
This pure being, consciousness, bliss that we are is obtained through self-realization, the realization that that is who you are. It’s not really rocket science because it’s very simple. It’s simply saying, if you ask “Who am I at the core, what makes me think, what gives me the ability to perceive, to see the world, to feel the world and experience all its beauty and terror?” It says it is the self that is asking that question, that is the self, pure being, consciousness, bliss. The reason we don’t believe it is because the senses are overwhelmed by the experience of the world. We think the appearance is the reality. The Upanishads say this very clearly. “You mistake the real for the unreal, and the unreal for the real.” You think that the color, the form, the shapes of the world you’re perceiving are real, when in reality, they are appearances. Even science verifies this, perceptual science understands that the colors you’re seeing in the sky, they’re not out there, your mind is creating them, your mind is absorbing the light, but then it’s creating those colors for you, giving you that experience of red, blue, yellow, all this incredible color. Same thing with the meaning and forms of life’s experiences, it appears to be out there, the goodness and the badness appears to be inherited in the situations of the world. That’s an illusion, your mind is creating that meaning from within. If you think the reality is out there, you’re living in a delusion, you’re living in a matrix, you’re hooked up to this artificial experience, you’re thinking “I’m living a real life out there.” The reality is that self, that pure awareness is the one that’s constant, stable, always there, you can stand on it. If you understand the principle and realize the self, you realize the true nature of yourself. That’s your ground of being and that’s the rock that you stand on. It’s immovable because it will never change, it’s permanent, it’s infinite, indestructible. Now, what is the nature of the world? Completely the opposite. It’s continuously in flux, in constant change. Therefore, where does insecurity, anxiety come from? From depending on what can’t be dependent on, putting your hopes and dreams on something that is going to change.
Debra Maldonado 27:27
It is groundless. There’s nothing, there’s no form, there’s no foundation to it. It’s like a dream in a way, it falls apart when you wake up. This world is a waking dream. But it feels real. If you haven’t seen The Matrix, it’s a perfect metaphor for what this is about. They studied Eastern philosophy, this is where they got a lot of their work from. It’s that idea of waking up, but what it does is it doesn’t take away the joy of the world and the beauty of relationships and having children and going for goals, but it actually makes it more enjoyable because you’re not putting everything on the ego, this little tiny bubble on the top of the ocean, to work your life where you can rest in the self, which is the entire ocean. You are working with a greater force, you feel connected to everything. There can be no lack, there can be no separation, there can be no loss, nothing to gain, which makes things fun, it makes things creative.
Robert Maldonado 28:32
One last thing we’ll leave you with is that a lot of people think this is very difficult. When they read yoga sutras or look at people who do this work, they think “Maybe you can do it, but it takes so much time, effort, intelligence, I can’t do it, I don’t have the time, energy, or effort.” But here’s the reality of it, you are already that, there is nothing else you can be but the self. There’s nothing to acquire, achieve or get to, it’s already been given to every single thing that exists and every person that’s alive, they already are the self, you are the self. It’s simply the realization of that. It’s like the removal of the blinders, like taking off the blindfold and realizing “It’s been me all along, doing all this stuff.” Do not let that stop you, do not let your ego mind deceive you into thinking it’s too difficult, it’s not for you, etc. You are already that, your inheritance is the self by simply acknowledging that, saying “I’m ready to accept that.”
Debra Maldonado 30:07
When people think about their true purpose in life, that’s really the purpose of life. It’s not to find the best career for you. That’s also great to understand your sacred duty while you’re here but to realize you’re the self is really the most empowering thing. What I love about what we do when training coaches, is that we help people realize who they really are, their true divine nature, that’s such a beautiful gift. Those of you who are doing coaching, especially Jungian, or teaching yoga, you are doing a great service to humanity by helping people realize who they are. We will continue next week for another episode. We hope you enjoyed today.