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Self-expression begins where self consciousness ends -Austin Hill Shaw
If you really want to have a rich and meaningful life, learning about Self-expression and how to do it is essential.
Think of a time that someone really captured your attention.
Perhaps it was the way a teacher spoke to you, or way a basketball player nimbly penetrated a gauntlet of defenders unscathed. Perhaps it was the infectious presence of an eccentric family member, or the hilarious mental agility of a holds-no-punches comedian.
Perhaps you witnessed someone courageously speaking out against an injustice or were moved by someone unabashedly weeping at a funeral. Perhaps you saw a chef reverently arranging a single piece of parsley on the pan seared salmon just before it goes out to the foodie seated at table number twelve.
In all these moments, there is on the one hand, the ordinariness of the moment, the so-called facts a journalist might write up in for the morning post. And, on the other, there is something much, much more, something inconceivably vast, something inarguably true, a ray of light emerging from the mysterious beyond, the beauty of perfection making a cameo appearance, your finger on the pulse of the universe for a instant, a single moment in time tethered to the cosmos.
The key to understanding the magic of these moment is first understanding the “Self” in “Self-expression”.
What is the “Self” in “Self-expression”?
Let’s shine some light on the “Self” in “Self-expression”.
In order to do so, let’s bring in the big guns. Aldous Huxley, a dedicated student of the mysterious and mystical, and author of The Perennial Philosophy, had this to say:
“Man possesses a double nature, a phenomenal ego and an eternal Self, which is the inner man, the spirit, the spark of divinity within the soul. It is possible for a man, if he so desires, to identify himself with the spirit and therefore with the Divine Ground, which is of the same or like nature with spirit.”
While our phenomenal ego’s primary role is to insure our survival, the Self is our bridge to the universe, connecting us to that which is unborn, unchanging, and unceasing.
In the words of Aldous Huxley, it is the source from which “all partial realities have their being, and apart which they would be nonexistent”.
Like the sun at the center of our solar system, the Self provides us with light, heat, and stability.
The capital “S” is there to remind you that this is not the same “self” that appears at the top of your checkbook; this is not your finite personality. The Self is what connects you with eternity.
When we are having an insightful experience, the Self is the glowing filament in the light bulb above our heads. When we are working to manifest a creative project, the Self is the fire in our hearts willing us, for some strange, unexplainable reason, to keep moving forward.
How does Self-expression work?
If you ask a neurologist, Self-expression is a decoupling of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, one of the last areas of the brain to mature and one that is responsible for impulse control.
In order to understand this, picture, for a moment, your first few awkward moments on the dance floor. Your body may feel stiff and you may find yourself feeling self conscious (or more appropriately for this post, awkwardly conscious of how you are being perceived by others).
But then, after a few moments (or perhaps another martini), you stop thinking about what other’s think, or what some critical part of yourself may think, and just start dancing. This is the finite you surrendering to the larger experience, in this case, all the sound and the energy of the music pouring forth from the speakers, as well as all the movements and enthusiasm of the other people enlivening the space.
While you may not necessarily enter into a deep flow state in such a moment, you get the point: Self-expression begins where self consciousness ends. The more you are able to let go, but still adhere to the boundaries of the creative medium you’re engaging, the more you experience “flow”. In other words, Self-expression isn’t like a casual day at the office gone south, where folks just do whatever the hell they want. Self-expression typically occurs when either an individual or a group of individuals, who (and this is massively important) are, first and foremost, WHOLEHEARTEDLY DEDICATED TO SOMETHING, then drop themselves fully into whatever it is that they do and, in doing so, blow our friggin’ minds!
Self-expression, the zone, and creative flow are all the same thing
Self-expression, therefore, is another word for “creative flow” and the experience of being in “the zone”. The term, Self-expression, however, allows us to better understand how it actually works.
Self-expression combines the passive experience of insight with the efforting of manifesting those insights at the same time.
Like a magnifying glass gathering the rays of the sun, when Self-expressing, the primordial awareness of the Self is channeled through the your ego , through discrete words, thoughts, and actions.
Such is seen in the power underlying a great speaker or performer, or the presence of a skilled and caring physician, or even the awareness and action apparent in watching a master mechanic troubleshoot a engine problem.
You can Self-express, too!
And best of all, you need not be Prince (though he was amazing), nor Joni Mitchell (though she is amazing), nor Muhammad Ali (though he truly floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee). You need not be an artist, or a performer, or an athlete to Self-express.
All you need to do is find something you love, dedicated yourself to the craft of whatever that is, and, when the moment is right, find yourself slipping into the Self-existing magic that is always already available.
Your consciousness will fall away and all you will be left with is a deep feeling of communion with a universe that loves you deeply as you actively as you feel yourself participating in bringing more beauty and goodness into the world.