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The art of remembering who you really are

In Insight and Experience by A.C PingLeave a Comment

Throughout the ages, shamans and spiritual teachers of different lineages have proposed that we come into this life with a specific purpose; one that we conveniently forget as we incarnate.

In Greek mythology there are five rivers that flow through the realm of Hades, the God of the dead. Before reincarnation souls are made to drink from Lethe, the river of forgetfulness, thus preventing them from remembering their past lives and their current life purpose.

Throughout history many spiritual teachers and philosophers have proposed that the key to finding meaning in life is to ‘remember who we really are’ – that there is in fact a part of ourselves that is somehow hidden from our conscious mind.

Martin Heidegger, the German ontological philosopher, used Lethe to symbolise the ‘concealment of being’ that he saw as the major problem in philosophy. Heidegger believed that everything had essence but that essence was concealed from humans. Our task is to bring forth out of concealment and into truth.

Rudolf Steiner went further when he wrote,

“It is often asked why we do not know anything of our experiences before birth or after death. This is the wrong question. Rather, we should ask how we can attain such knowledge.”

Many of us feel like we have ‘been here before’ and it is quite common for travellers to experience a déjà vu when visiting a place for the first time. Even more of us have felt the need to experiment with plants and other psychoactive substances. Is this yearning rooted in the deep-seated knowledge that there is more to life than this physical reality that we can see, touch, smell, taste and hear? Does some part of us desire to reconnect with who we really are and to experience dimensions far richer than the current reality?

If this is truly the case – that we are here with a specific purpose – and that the key task to beginning the journey is to remember – then how would we do it?

Step 1 – You can’t ‘work it out’

The first step in the process is to acknowledge that it isn’t something we can ‘work out’. In fact our rational mind may well be the thing that keeps us trapped within the limitations of our current reality. This is because of what Heidegger termed the ‘concealment of being’.

Modern neuroscience reveals to us that the conscious mind is only able to process about 2000 bits of information per second whereas the total mind – subconscious and unconscious is processing something more like 4 billion.

What this means is that what you perceive reality to be creates your reality. So, the existential philosopher Descartes actually had it wrong I think when he wrote, “Cognito ergo sum” – “I think, therefore I am”. In fact it should be, “I believe, therefore I am”.

By believing reality to be a certain way, your subconscious mind actively filters out anything that doesn’t fit. So the 2000 bits of information that your conscious mind gets will neatly reflect your fixed view of the world.

This is something that shamans of various traditions have alluded to – the most well known of which is probably Don Juan, the Mexican shaman Carlos Castaneda wrote about. In those books Don Juan repeatedly tells Castaneda that, “Everything in sorcery rests on the manipulation of the assemblage point”.

Step 2 – You can’t understand where you are going

So, now you have released the belief that you can ‘work it out’ the next step is to become ‘Comfortable in Uncertainty’.

The spiritual teacher Gurdjieff wrote, “There are things for the understanding of which a different being is necessary.”

Meaning – understanding is linked to being so you won’t even be able to understand certain phenomena until your being has shifted.

The paradox here is that your being won’t shift until you let go of your grip on the rational world and give yourself permission to become comfortable in uncertainty. In other words – the world is a mystery and we cannot hope to possibly comprehend it, but we must not stop trying.

There is more to the world than you know – so let go.

Step 3 – Act courageously

Intuition is stupid and irrational; it makes us do silly things BUT – and here’s the key – its tapping into a deeper knowledge than the rational mind and allowing your to listen, and most importantly to ACT, can connect you with a deeper life path.

Life unfolds as we go along and it is only with the benefit of hindsight that events reveal their true meaning.

If you reflect now on the key events in your life that have led you to where you are now you may be able to identify three or four major turning points in your life.

Now ask yourself – did you plan for these events to occur?

Considering where you are now, could you draw a line through time back to these events, opening up the possibility that where you are now created those events in the past not vice versa?

If so, could you now find the courage to let go of how you think things might turn out and instead embrace the moment and act courageously on your intuition?

If you can do these three things –

  • let go of the need to ‘work it out’
  • embrace uncertainty
  • act courageously

then you are well on the way to remembering who you really are and open to walking a sacred path though life.

About the Author
A.C Ping

A.C Ping


Dr A.C. Ping PhD is an existential philosopher specialising in self-mastery, leadership and ethics. His books have been published around the world and his current work is focused on helping organisations embed ethical systems. www.acping.net


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