The other evening at dinner, a friend was talking about her own process of self-discovery and used the phrase “getting to the bottom of myself.” I perked up and warmed to the phrase immediately, sensing some richness to be teased from it. So here goes!
The process of self-discovery can be a lifetime process. Examining oneself in earnest can be a never-ending path like hiking in the mountains. Just when you think you have reached the highest peak you see another even higher one off in the distance.
Shifting from mountain peaks and climbing higher to going deeper, as in the case of tunneling down to the underground, those of us who have been constant seekers of self-actualization often hear both these metaphoric references.
In this case, I envision an exploration to find one’s core, one’s essential self, stripped of all social adaptations, idiosyncrasies, quirks and personality traits. Ironically, one may find this essential self on an actual mountain top, as many who have explored the Himalayas have done.
As I look at my own process, every once in a while I think I have discovered that “bottom of myself.” Then, after a short time, almost as if some “jokester in the sky” is playing games with me, I see the silliness in the thought that I had “arrived.” My ego is embarrassed by my arrogance as I notice there’s another tunnel to explore and so I move on.
For me, my soul seeks transcendence, self-actualization, the deepest parts of myself, my true nature, my core essence. By itself, my soul would hang out in this elixir of spiritual adventurousness forever, and I would probably die of starvation or exposure if that occurred. Thank God my ego knows to stop for a meal from time to time, and remembers where I live and what time I should go to bed. My soul and my ego have this really neat relationship, mutually dependent on one another to consciously function in the world – well, at least some of the time.
One of the best explanations I have read about this synergistic relationship comes from a new book by Alan Seale. Here’s what he writes:
Ego understands how the physical world works. It knows all about the rules and structures of daily life, because all of those rules and structures were designed by egos to create a space in which egos can live together in relative accord. However, ego knows nothing of the vast, unseen, nonphysical realms of Consciousness. In fact, it has a great fear of those realms because to ego, they are completely unknown. Soul, on the other hand, knows nothing of the rules and structures of daily life, yet is totally at home in the vastness of possibility, in the incredibly expansive realm of Consciousness, and with exploring the unknown. Without ego as the physical component of being, soul cannot have a life in the physical realm. And without the expansiveness of soul, ego lacks inspired direction. So soul needs ego in order to have a physical world experience, and ego needs soul for its big-picture view.*
Getting to the bottom of myself is not a blip along the continuum – a weekend workshop or a new book to read. It is closer to a personal lifestyle where one is always open to deepening one’s understanding of one’s true self, one’s essence, one’s source.
*Alan Seale, Create a World That Works, Weiser Books, 2011