It’s always confusing to me when people are proud or evangelistic about general self improvement. I mean, I can understand that it’s a positive mindset to try to be better, but what self are we talking about?
Before you wander the self-help aisles in your local bookstore, I have two questions for you:
- What’s the self in self improvement?
- Haven’t you ever heard of Amazon?
Are you trying to improve yourself financially? Physically? Emotionally? Psychologically? Intellectually?
None of these areas regard your actual Self – you aren’t your bank account, your body, your emotions, or your mind. All these things arise and subside, and some day not too far off they’ll fade into meaninglessness for you. All the forms dissipate eventually – whether you let go gently, or you cling as they’re torn away.
And, of course, your real Self – that awareness that is the base of your consciousness – does not change. It’s outside of time, and so it can’t be improved. It’s perfect, whole, wondrous – a miracle. You are a miracle of creation, before and after everything else.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of self improvement. I enjoy providing for my family. I like the feeling after physical exertion. Emotional stability and psychological wholeness are the very foundations of our baselines of happiness. Learning and education are, to me, very enjoyable. But none of these things are of the higher Self; they are all of the lower self – the ego, which is your collection of identifications and an utter fabrication of consciousness.
The lower self, being merely transitional dents and dust on the mirror of mind, can surely be improved. But not by increase – no, by cleaning it away.
We can clean our financial endeavors by bringing creativity, human connection, and enthusiasm into our work – not merely by always seeking to earn more or work harder.
We can clean our bodies by eating wholesomely and seeking physical labor that positively changes our environment – not merely by dieting and cursing in the gym.
We can clean our emotions and psychological state by meditation, realizing the need for counseling or support groups if it exists, and above all remaining fully aware and present in the current moment so that we properly bear witness to these floods that rise in us. Being seen, they subside and we are lighter.
We can clean our intellect by simply forgetting that we supposedly already know so much. Become curious about every little thing, and everywhere is a classroom that also happens to be a gorgeous ocean of grace. With beginner’s mind, everything is astounding and everywhere is adventure.
All this cleaning is merely polishing the mirror free of the self; true self improvement always points to the abolishment of the self so that the Self may shine through, receive love, and give love. Having improved yourself away to emptiness, the Kingdom becomes available to your perception.
When we choose the illusion, the self in self improvement is the illusion we build. When we begin to awaken, the self is the veil we’re tearing down.