Do you ever feel not good enough? Are you hard on yourself and feel a craving for acceptance from others? No one likes to admit it but this is, surprisingly, a very common human problem.
In this episode, we discuss the concept of Self-Acceptance and the best way to experience self-acceptance. This conversation is sure to fill you with inspiration to direct your destiny and accept your spiritual inheritance. We explore:
- Why do we need self-acceptance?
- Self-Acceptance in the empirical (ego) reactive Self
- Self-Acceptance in Non-Dualism
Welcome to Soul Sessions with CreativeMind with Debra Berndt Maldonado and Dr. Rob Maldonado of CreativeMind. Join us each week for inspiring conversations about personal development based on Jungian philosophy, Eastern spirituality, and social neuroscience. Spend each week with us to explore deep topics in a practical way. Let’s begin.
Debra Maldonado 00:00
Hello, welcome to another episode of Soul Sessions with Debra and Rob Maldonado and CreativeMind. Before we begin our topic today, I just wanted to remind you to join us and subscribe to us if you’re watching us on YouTube. There’s a little button in the corner, you can click on it to subscribe. If you’re watching us or listening to us on podcasts, Spotify, iTunes, don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss any episode of our podcast. Feel free to leave us comments, leave a review, we love the feedback. We are continuing our series this week on the Upanishads, our summer series, and today is The Best Way to Experience Self-Acceptance. That is such a big topic for lots of people.
Robert Maldonado 01:28
It’s one of those universal questions we all have to grapple with. Do we accept ourselves? Personal development is a big part of that. We’re always trying to improve ourselves.
Debra Maldonado 01:46
A lot of people think self-acceptance means I just have to learn to love myself, self-love. Which is a part of it but we’re going to go deeper with self-acceptance in a new way. When I first started doing personal development back in the 80s, the big thing was low self-esteem, you have low self-esteem. A lot of the work I did was trying to think positive. I’m good enough. I’m strong enough. A lot of people tie that to loving the human side of ourselves. Which is important, we all struggle with it, every single person, no matter how much you accomplish in life, there’s always that doubt we all have, whether we admit it or not, that it is not enough yet. It’s a natural human processing that happens with all of us.
Robert Maldonado 02:44
Because it is about Eastern philosophy, especially the Upanishads, let’s start by seeing what they say about the self. This is from the Katha Upanishad. It says, “know the atman to be the master of the chariot. The body is the chariot, the intellect — the charioteer, and the mind — the rains.” Let’s break it apart because it’s a short little verse, but it contains a lot. It says know the atman. The atman we can interpret as what in the West is called the soul. It’s the eternal divine part of our human nature. It says, know the atman to be the master of the chariot. What is the chariot? It says the chariot is the body. Then know the intellect. Intellect here is a translation from Sanskrit but what they’re getting at is this witness, pure awareness in our mind. In psychology, we call it meta consciousness or meta-awareness. It’s the ability of our mind to observe its own thoughts.
Debra Maldonado 04:26
We wouldn’t be able to examine ourselves or even hear our thoughts if there wasn’t another part of us that’s watching the thoughts.
Robert Maldonado 04:36
It says the intellect is the charioteer. Now this is in ideal situations. It says the mind, meaning the totality of our thoughts, our experiences, learning memory, are the reins of the chariot. We can learn through that higher intellect, through that meta-awareness, to drive our body in a meaningful way, by learning how to work with the mind.
Debra Maldonado 05:26
Moving toward what we want, moving toward things in our life we want to create.
Robert Maldonado 05:37
We ask “Who created the chariot? Where did it come from?” It says, it’s an aspect of the atman. This is very different than our conception in the west of the soul in the body. In a lot of spiritual Western traditions, the body was seen as very negative, something to get rid of, something to castigate. But here it’s saying, it’s a part of the soul, it’s part of the atman, it’s a manifestation of the atman. That’s why in some practices they say the body is the temple of the soul.
Debra Maldonado 06:31
I’ve heard this before, when I was going to massage therapy school, I was training to be a masseuse back in my early entrepreneurial journeys. They said the body is the part of the soul you can touch. It’s not separate, it’s your living soulful self.
Robert Maldonado 06:52
How can we make this wisdom practical for people like ourselves, so we can use it in our everyday life? Because we’re in sore need of good psychology that addresses these deeper questions without necessarily having to go to the Himalayas and shave our heads or to do all those radical things unless we have time. That’s our task, we’re looking at this ancient wisdom and asking, what’s the psychology behind this? Is it applicable to the way we live today?
Debra Maldonado 07:41
What does it have to do with self-acceptance? It’s a hidden double meaning, with self-acceptance, because the totality of the chariot, the reins, the driver, and the atman is the self, the big self in Eastern philosophy. It’s the totality, the wholeness of every aspect of ourselves, undivided.
Robert Maldonado 08:08
When in ordinary terms we say “Let’s move towards self-acceptance”, the way we hear it in the West and in most industrialized countries is that we should accept our human frailties or flaws, and say “Maybe that’s the best we can do.”
Debra Maldonado 08:34
Or even self-acceptance means I speak kindly to myself, I have good self-talk. I take self-acceptance as “I love that I tried”, “good job”, that positive reinforcement, almost like a parent to a child, as you accept the child unconditionally, that unconditional self-regard.
Robert Maldonado 08:57
In that sense, if we ask “Who is the self they’re referring to in self-acceptance?”, it’s the empirical self, meaning, the reactive ego self, that sense of I in the mind, very Freudian, Jungian. There’s this sense of I that’s arising in my mind in relationship to the world, if there is this world I am observing, there must be an I observing that world, and therefore it gives rise to that I.
Debra Maldonado 09:37
If the observer is in a body, we think the body is separate from everything else, we’re identifying our body, our eyes are seeing something, it’s my eyes, my ears, my sense of touch, my memory even, and the culmination of all our conditioned responses and reactions. The life becomes this ego self.
Robert Maldonado 10:02
In the formulation of the Upanishads, you would say “I, the chariot, am accepting myself as the chariot, these are senses, the horses, that are driving me. I’m experiencing external objects in the world.”
Debra Maldonado 10:30
Like a self-driving car, where you’re not taking the reins at all of your life, you’re just reacting and taking in sensory information, almost on autopilot.
Robert Maldonado 10:46
The meaning is very different, this idea of self-acceptance in the typical way we use it to the spiritual psychology of the Upanishads. There is an aspect of it in the sense that we want to be kind towards our own mind. In meditative practices, often the approach is “let’s take a gentle approach, let’s not try to control the mind and the I, or the sense of the ego, and force it to do the will of the higher self, but simply approach it with an openness, with a kindness, non-judgment, non-attachment.” In that sense, that’s a better way to conceptualize it, when we are talking about the small I, the conceptual I, the reactive, the limited I, the ego, we should accept ourselves in that regard. Self-acceptance, meaning, accepting our ego self as part of what we have to work with.
Debra Maldonado 12:06
Didn’t Jung say something about that you can’t change anything until you accept it? What we tend to do in personal growth — I’ve been through this, and I see many of my clients want to fix themselves, they don’t accept themselves, they’re judging themselves and judging the results, judging that they’re doing it wrong. That harshness doesn’t really lead to change, you can’t really have acceptance while you’re beating yourself up. If we beat ourselves up for making mistakes when we try to do better, we beat ourselves up for not doing better. It’s like a gerbil wheel of self-criticism. The opposite would be self-acceptance is understanding that most of what we choose is not our conscious choice. We’re on autopilot. Understanding that first and accepting that the nature of our mind is going to be reactive, it’s going to be led by the senses, it’s going to repress our desires and go to something familiar versus something challenging — that’s more the self-acceptance, not “I’m going to accept myself when I think positive, when I do the right thing, when I’m motivated.” It is conditional to ourselves, like disciplining ourselves to act and think correctly, then we get a prize.
Robert Maldonado 13:39
There’s great wisdom. That approach, that willfulness to fix, to make better, to control is itself an ego function. When we approach our own mind, our personal development with that sense of “I need to fix, I need to be better, I need to get this under control”, that itself is an ego function.
Debra Maldonado 14:07
The word that I want to pill out is control. We’re trying to control our life. We’re using spiritual principles to control an outcome in our life. That is the root of an ego attachment.
Robert Maldonado 14:26
We’re reinforcing the ego by taking that approach to letting go the ego, to working with the mind.
Debra Maldonado 14:35
“I’m not spiritual enough.” I used to think that. I did that wrong, I must not be spiritual enough, I have so much more to grow. Instead of just saying “This is the nature of my mind.” It’s accepting that this is the nature, we all have this nature to react.
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Robert Maldonado 15:50
The work actually gets easier when we start to understand this more subtle approach to working with the mind. There’s nothing wrong with the idea of trying to improve yourself and trying to make your personality better, and your ego be a better ego, I guess.
Debra Maldonado 16:16
Even just attain goals, have a goal and want to achieve it: improve your health, run faster in a marathon, those challenges we put to ourselves, want to write a book, find a true relationship, start a new career. All those things are good, but you can’t do it if you don’t accept yourself. You’re putting your self-acceptance on hold until you get those things.
Robert Maldonado 16:43
The approach is one of openness, of nonjudgment. We’re not approaching ourselves with that intent to fix, to control. The intention is to become more aware, to give it space, to give it plenty of room to breathe. We’re letting our thoughts and emotions be themselves, instead of making them right or wrong. Often we’re taught to try to get rid of toxic emotions and thoughts, and focus on the good ones.
Debra Maldonado 17:23
Or toxic people in our life, push them away, avoid certain situations, then feel you’re always on edge.
Robert Maldonado 17:31
That’s because that plays back into the dualistic self in the universe. I am separate from the world, it is out there, I am in here. That’s a false assumption. It simply arises from our perceptual system, the way our senses have set up. They’re very good at helping us survive in the natural world. But they’re not really helping us understand the true nature of reality. A lot of these deeper psychologies, like the psychology we find in the Upanishads, are simply pointing at how we can get back to understanding the true nature of our mind, so that we can perceive reality in a true way.
Debra Maldonado 18:26
The question we’re trying to answer for ourselves is “Who am I? Am I the ego? Or am I the bigger self?” So what is the bigger self in non-dualism?
Robert Maldonado 18:42
From the Upanishads, we see that the self, the atman — we can think of atman the way it’s explained in the Upanishads, the psychology of it, it’s saying: Who you are is an individual embodiment, at the core of that is the atman. That atman is identical to the universal awareness, to brahman. What it’s saying is that at at the core of your being, at your awareness, is the self, the universal self.
Debra Maldonado 19:24
The universe within, the core of who we are is connected to everything.
Robert Maldonado 19:33
It hides in plain sight because of that tendency to misperceive the objects in the world, in the universe. We assume that because I’m perceiving an object, they’re separate from me.
Debra Maldonado 19:51
It’s physically apart from you. A person is another person, they have nothing to do with me, and it’s random that they are acting a certain way toward me.
Robert Maldonado 20:03
That’s dualisms. Essentially, the dualism is born from our perceptual system from the get-go. Therefore, most of us just assume that’s reality. But the Upanishads — this is interesting — the Upanishads say, that is an apparent reality. It’s an appearance. The is question: Is there evidence in science to support that idea? Yes, there is. Perceptual science, even quantum mechanics is coming around to the idea that the right understanding is that things are appearing in a field of consciousness, in awareness. Both the observer and the object are identical. They’re both appearing in that field of consciousness.
Debra Maldonado 21:04
The object doesn’t appear separate from an observer. The observer has to be there to have an object be there.
Robert Maldonado 21:13
Both the observer and the object are made out of the same substance, which is awareness, which is a very different reality than our perceptual dualistic sense of “I’m in my head, observing some external objective reality that has nothing to do with me.”
Debra Maldonado 21:35
It’s that idea of oneness, that interconnectedness. Even though it feels separate, it’s all part of the same system, we are one with everything, it just appears separate.
Robert Maldonado 21:50
If we read self-acceptance as acceptance of that reality, of that oneness, non-dualism is the way it’s expressed now as a non-dualism, or as a non-dualistic universe. That makes more sense at the higher level. We are moving towards accepting and understanding that it is the true nature of our mind, of our experience in life.
Debra Maldonado 22:22
Self-acceptance wouldn’t be “I like my bad qualities, I’m okay with it” but more accepting our true divine nature as this vast, powerful, universal self. When we accept that is who we are, it’s hard for us to put ourselves down. It’s hard for us to look at our little human self and say “You’re a terrible person”, or “You screwed that up, you’re never going to make it.” When you accept your spiritual divine nature, you naturally have confidence, you naturally feel powerful, you naturally feel at peace with yourself and with your whole system: the little ego, the individual soul, and then this connectivity. I remember one time you said to me, we were talking about this, and I said “It’s weird, everyone’s looking for the magic in the spirituality, ‘I’m gonna have a magical, spiritual moment.’” You said, just being alive in this body, conscious of ourselves, is a miracle in itself. We’re looking for this crazy out of body experiences, but just being in the body, having a conscious experience of life — even those of you listening that are thinking “I’m conscious of myself, while I’m listening.” — this is a miracle we can actually have this experience. To see ourselves as a miracle, is mind blowing.
Robert Maldonado 24:01
If you think of all the implications, we’re searching for this experience outside of ourselves, in plants, in drugs, in sensory experiences, instead of understanding that we are that already, there’s nothing else that we can be. If you’re aware you are the self, the objects appearing in your awareness are the self as well, there’s nothing to attain, nothing to run from, nothing to fear. But we understand it’s a process of purifying our mind from the past conditioning of duality.
Debra Maldonado 24:46
That’d be learning to not let the horses run wild and drag your life around, which is how we all start out, just reacting, no direction, it feels like life is carrying us versus we’re directing our life, our destiny. We feel everything’s predestined, we don’t have a choice. But when we start to bring in that intellect, that witness, to hold the mind, hold the reins, direct the body, the chariot, and the senses, we start to be able to reclaim our power. We can only do that if we realize there’s something besides this ego. Because if we only think we’re the ego, it’d be hard for us to think “I don’t have a choice. I don’t have this other, deeper aspect of myself, I’m just a body. One day it’ll die, I better get the most out of my life.”
Robert Maldonado 25:42
It’s terrifying, to believe you are only the body is an existential dead end. Because what would be the meaning of it? It would be meaningless, because you simply lose everything you think you possess, and then lose your body as well. Why would you do anything at all?
Debra Maldonado 26:07
Also you think about the risks we take in life: should I leave my corporate job and start my own business? Should I open my heart to love again? Should I try this new thing that I don’t know if I can do, like a new craft or a new skill that I want to try? If we see ourselves from that greater self, these little tiny ego problems, or these ego challenges seem so small, we become braver and less attached to the outcome, it becomes playful to be in life: Let me try this, let me have this experience. We’re less fearful, because only the ego can feel that fear, only the ego feels that threat to lose the body or lose social survival, where the self is — if you’re connected to everything, there’s nowhere to fall.
Robert Maldonado 27:06
Often the question of what’s real and what’s unreal comes up when looking at Eastern philosophy because they’re presenting this bigger picture and saying “Of course, you are this self and the body is part of the higher self as well. But the pure awareness in you is the universal God, divine-like element in human nature. From the Western perspective, that’s a weird statement to make because we’re used to thinking of material as reality. Everything else is not real, it only exists as imagination or thought. But there is a science to the Upanishads, and you can apply this science yourself. It’s not verifiable in the sense that the scientific method is verifiable, I can’t show another person, for example, my awareness because it’s not an object. That’s the difficulty. Whereas Western science is always looking at objects, let’s measure the object, let’s measure the current, the intensity of electricity, or the weight of an atom or something like that. There’s nothing wrong with that. But there’s another way to verify things. If I say “In meditation, if I meditate a certain way, I can reach a certain state of mind. I can certainly teach you that.” You can learn it and experience it for yourself or not, and say “That’s verified or not.” That’s an empirical method right there. We can teach internal states of mind and internal experiences to each other, then verify them for ourselves. You can try these things out, you can ask yourself, this is a simple thought experiment. If you look at objects, any object, let’s take that lamp right there in the corner. You can choose any object you see in the room you’re in right now and ask “Do I ever observe that object without awareness being present?” It’s a simple question. It’s verifiable. You can test it. I’m aware that I’m seeing that lamp. Now, does that lamp ever appear to you in your mind without awareness?
Debra Maldonado 30:27
I don’t know. Because if I wasn’t aware, I wouldn’t know it was there.
Robert Maldonado 30:33
Awareness and the objects never appear separate from each other. Which, by pure logic — and often science uses this kind of logic — by pure logic, it means it points to the fact that they’re one thing I’m looking at, although it may appear as separate, my awareness is separate from the object, and the object is separate from my awareness. But there is no evidence of that. We’ve never seen it, and we never see it. Therefore, the conclusion must be that both the object and the awareness I’m using to perceive it are one and the same. That’s a scientific approach.
Debra Maldonado 31:22
The question is, if there is an awareness, does the object exist at all?
Robert Maldonado 31:28
Some of the quantum mechanics is pointing to this observer reality or appearance of reality.
Debra Maldonado 31:45
Everything appears in this substance of consciousness as pure possibility. When we observe it, it collapses into what we think we’re looking at. We look at the light, we know it’s a light, and it becomes a light, because we’re observing it, it doesn’t materialize before at the same time. It’s interesting to know that, we’re really getting into self-acceptance is that we are one with everything, we’re not seeing as separate worlds from ourselves. Here’s another thought experiment, think about someone you admire, who has all the things you’d want. Someone famous, or someone who has all the results. You say “I wish I could be like that person.” Can you accept that that is a part of you, that you are seeing your own potential? When you see that person, you and that person are made of the same stuff. They’re just expressing it differently, or you’re not accepting that that’s who you can become? It appears that those other people have what I have, but not me.
Robert Maldonado 32:52
Anything you can point to or observe, even something in the imagination, you can ask “Does it exist outside of awareness?” You’ll find it doesn’t. Which goes back to this point, that your little awareness that’s coming from your brain is not that at all. That’s the atman, that’s the piece of your awareness of the universe, expressed in your individual self, at the core of you. But by extension, everything you observe, including those far-off distant galaxies we just saw through the new James Webb Telescope, the furthers galaxies way out at the edge of the universe, those objects are part of your awareness because you’re aware of them. Any object you’re aware of is part of the self, is identical to the self.
Debra Maldonado 34:11
If you feel low self-esteem, or you’re not enough, do that experiment. Think about those pictures from the Webb telescope, billions of beautiful galaxies. If you can say “I’m looking at my true self, this is who I am, this amazing, universal, brilliant, unlimited self,” how could you not love that? How could you not think that it’s enough, you’re more than enough? It’s just that we’ve been conditioned by the ego and the senses to base who we are on our body and our past experience. We think we’re defined by our degrees, or what other people say, how people treat us, how many friends we have, what kind of relationships we have, how much money we have, what our credit score is, what we’ve accomplished in our life, all those things, we think that’s who we are. But we’re so much more than that. We’re trying to improve this little ego and make it better, so we can love ourselves, when actually, we’re so much more than this little body.
Robert Maldonado 35:25
A lot of has to do with what we pay attention to. We know in psychology about focus and attention. What we do typically, as human beings, is we narrow our attention to personal things. For example, if I focus on a personal problem, it seems to fill my whole mind. The whole world is filled with that problem for me, because I’m focusing on paying attention to the problem in this particular way.
Debra Maldonado 36:00
If you think about money problems, everything you see is a reminder: you get an email, you hear about a bill, or you get something in the mail, you hear someone talking about money, you see someone on Instagram dancing on the beach, and you’re saying “How come she has that but I don’t?” Everything is going to fill your mind. Love too. I see a lot of single people, everything is about “how come I don’t have that person in my life yet?” It’s constant, I got a wedding invitation, it’ll feel like your whole world. If I just get that result, the mind will quiet, everything can relax, then I could move on to the next thing. It’s like your life is on hold. Awareness is like a flashlight on to the problem.
Robert Maldonado 36:49
Very much like the camera aperture where we narrow down the focus to just a small little piece, we focus on our human problems. Whereas if we open it up, if we expand it as much as possible, we can practice this opening up, expanding your awareness to where it’s infinite. You will know that it has no edges, your consciousness doesn’t have a limiting point, it will go on as far as you let it go. You can open up that aperture of awareness and start to see things in their true perspective. A lot of meditative practices are working with that focus of the mind, instead of just letting it do its thing and focusing on the problem at hand. Opening it up, letting the mind expand into its true nature, which is infinite, again. It just starts to open up and to relax and feel more expansive.
Debra Maldonado 38:09
It’s not that you ignore problems but when you’re focusing on a problem, you’re also having a lot more space around it versus micro heaviness of that problem. It’s expanding, opening it up, and letting it move. That’s the way they actually train horses, they start off right with that big wide space and move them in slower. That’s how we’ve been conditioned. If we want to be able to roam more, we keep moving the edges out of what’s possible for us. That’s what we want to do, the beginning of life is like collapsing into conditioned response for survival. The second half of life is us becoming aware of our true nature and our potential that we have, expanding that field outward. When we think of a little tiny problem, we’re so much bigger than that, it’s such an amazing experience. Sometimes I do this meditation where I have the client think of the problem they have, and then float up above their house, then float up above their city and just see that little tiny them having this little problem and keep going out into the world, then out to outer space, looking at that tiny little human having that problem, and you’re this universal self. That’s another way to expand, you’re giving a lot of room, you’re not ignoring the problem, but you’re seeing there’s a lot more to me than just this little thing. That’s the way we really solve it, not by worrying about it, obsessing over it, white-knuckling ourselves through life like you were saying before, trying to control it. If anyone’s ever rode a chariot before, you know if you hold the reins too tight with the horse, it’s not the best way to steer. You have to have it not too tight, not too loose to work with them. If you are too tense, the horse picks it up. It’s intuitive, not too tight, not too loose, guiding and being open and not forcing something to happen.
Robert Maldonado 40:23
Keep in mind, all of these are possibilities within our human experience, all the way from focusing our ego mind on our small human problems and having them become huge, fill our whole mind, to this freedom that exists within our minds, to be able to identify with the higher self in us. That’s the human experience we have, this huge range. But most of us, because of conditioning, because society doesn’t acknowledge these deeper aspects of ourselves, we tend to stay within our small human problem life.
Debra Maldonado 41:19
For some of you, this may be the first time you’ve heard it or hard concept to grasp, it does take a while, so don’t feel overwhelmed by it. Understand that there’s more to you than meets the eye. In every situation, there’s more to any result that meets the eye, there’s so much more behind the curtains that our ego’s covering over. Be open to whatever shows up in our life, don’t have a harsh judgment on ourselves, or the events, or the people that come into our life causing conflicts, have more openness, trust that there’s something bigger within us that we’re connected to. I think that helps us really deal with any problem that arises in life if we realize our true nature.
Robert Maldonado 42:09
The aim is to take the reins of the mind, so that we can direct our life, the way our bodies exist in this world, we can start to direct it from the inside instead of letting the external circumstances condition us. We become the drivers from the inside, the higher self in us is able to use our life in a creative way.
Debra Maldonado 42:38
To direct our own destiny. Great topic. Next week, we have another fantastic episode wrapping up our series. It is the question of can the soul be wounded? Continuing this conversation of the soul, what happens to the soul, and what doesn’t happen to it. We’ll see you next week. Don’t forget to subscribe if you’re on watching us on YouTube, click the button below. Or if you’re listening to us on Spotify, iTunes, or any podcast service, please be sure to subscribe, leave a comment, a review, we love to hear them. We’ll see you next week in another Soul Sessions.
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