There are two ‘temporal levels’ of self-actualization. The ‘overview’ level is the one where one projects into the future and decides the kind of person, the talents, achievements, the goals and accomplishments one desires for oneself. These are related to the ‘what’ of self-actualization, issues of self-esteem, contentment, safety.
The second is the more important and the more immediate level. It concerns the how of self-actualization. While the first is a vision, the second is a strategy, one that requires constant attention and effort. It is here that the real change occurs. Change on the immediate level, moment by moment, day by day, requires effort because the ‘self’ is of a conditional nature, conditioned by habituation, belief systems and attitudes and the expectations about present and future reality that are predicted by one’s conditioning. Conditioning creates mental boundaries that tend to be static and resist change, yet change is exactly what one is attempting to institute. Within this conditioned set of beliefs and expectation is a sea of habituation within which you are attempting to navigate to more expansive or at least newer states of awareness.
This requires a focused awareness of an immediate kind. By that I mean that within each moment that comes along, a moment filled with who you are at that present moment is the key to specific aspects of your present identity. Now that seems rather obvious, doesn’t it? That who you are at any one moment is who you are. But how many of us take notice of who we are being from one moment to the next as differing moods and outside phenomena impinge upon, and alter the content of our awareness? By carefully observing the content of each ‘personality moment’ you can come to know yourself more fully, and in knowing yourself, realize how and why you may want to change yourself.
What is it you observe within that timeless ‘character moment’ you are forever within? The train or chain of thought, in which each momentary segment is causally connected to the previous segment in a chain of meaning bounded by who you are at that moment and each succeeding moment. Who you are is an ever-changing flux of attributes governed by past inclination and present circumstances. There is a constant ‘screening’ process going on within you orchestrated through mind and emotions. This screening process is a process of rationalization in which you rationalize the qualities of each ‘character moment’ in terms of how you wish to see yourself. The constantly fluxing result of this ‘screening’ process finds expression as experience within your awareness, your consciousness, and that is who you experience as me.
Consciousness expands or contracts in response to the valance of the experience. Expanding consciousness is an experience of increased well-being and levity, of bliss and happiness, of opening to the world around oneself. The opposite, a negative or difficult valance, is experienced as a diminution of awareness, a contraction of consciousness, a closing up to ‘outside’ awareness and perception. In expansion is found increased freedom; in contraction is found one’s own personal prison. The art of self-actualization is the art of expansion, of taking each moment and using what’s there, whatever it is, to become more expansive, more engaging with the life around oneself.
As you engage more deeply with whatever is in your environment, you may begin to find life where you previously thought there was none. As you hone and enhance your perceptions by approaching everything out there withoutexpectation you begin to perceive it unrestrictedly, allowing it to fill you with its real essence, not the essence you have imposed upon it previously through your own conditioning. In knowing others, one expands oneself through taking in and understanding more deeply the essence of another. This is what all of us have been doing from the beginning of our existence as physical beings on this planet. We are constantly reaching out with our perceptions and inculcating some of what we perceive in another to be part of our own nature, our own character. This process is innate within us, first as an automatic function, but later, as we become more skillful at being a human being, a more intentional exercise. It is this level of intentional self-actualization that we must now hone to perfection as a strategy for becoming more expansive inside. It is the tool by which we may fulfill our greatest aspirations toward becoming more accomplished beings physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. May you expand forever; and remember, the only constraints upon consciousness are self-imposed.
For further insights into the 'self' and self-actualization see: