Is Self-Discovery Selfish?


The struggle to know who I am, in truth and in spirit, is the spiritual quest.” ~Ravi Ravindra
I know people who find what they call “navel gazing” distasteful because of the apparent emphasis on “me, myself and I.” What they don’t realize is that self-discovery is often a response to problematic relationships that pays off big time by creating healthier ones. As J. Krishnamurti has said, “Self-knowledge is obviously a process, not an end in itself; and to know oneself, one must be aware of oneself in action, which is relationship.  You discover yourself, not in isolation, not in withdrawal, but in relationship, in relationship to society, to your wife, your husband, your brother, to man…”
We all contain a drive for self-preservation and a drive for species-preservation. Finding satisfaction and pleasure in life is a function of developing both. The drive for self-preservation motivates us to maintain and promote our individuality in ways that make our lives safer and more comfortable. The drive for species-preservation motivates us to care about others and connect with them in ways that maintain and promote the survival, rights, authority, creativity, individuality, well-being, and prospering of others. In essence, it enables us to create and maintain relationships.

Because of women’s ability to give birth and nourish new life, the drive for species-preservation is universally associated with the irresistible and magnetic, yet deeply feared, anima archetype. She is our inner “sacred feminine,” for whom the consummate accomplishment is to become completed through intimate, loving relationships which enable us to experience ecstatic union with otherness.
I believe our failure to bring the sacred value of the anima into collective awareness is the underlying reason for today’s most pressing problems in every institution of society. In families it is the reason for the lack of love, compassion and understanding which typifies difficult relationships. In education it is responsible for our failure to nourish original, creative thinking. In business it explains the prevalence of greed and the lack of integrity and moral conscience in Wall Street, advertising, banking, and many large corporations. In government it is responsible for dominator political systems and divisive polarization. In religion it causes dwindling memberships and global strife.
Self-discovery does not create these problems; it resolves them. As anyone who persists on the spiritual path of self-exploration can tell you, as you learn more about yourself you increasingly experience reconciliation: reconciliation between self and others, between heaven and earth, masculine and feminine, and God the Father and God the Mother.  In short, this path ultimately leads to meaningful and lasting relationships with everyone and everything.
The only danger of a spiritual path that emphasizes self-development is the tendency to isolate ourselves and withdraw from relationships. In essence, this is tantamount to aligning ourselves with the masculine drive and keeping our distance from the feminine. We might be making good progress with accepting our shadows, discovering our passions, healing ourselves, and creating spiritual meaning, but if we are not also actively working to reconcile ourselves with others in healthy, love-filled relationships— especially those others with whom we are most intimate—we have a way to go before we can hope to approach psychological wholeness or spiritual maturity.

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0 Responses

  1. dear and divine Jean ….. you must have been a spiritual scientist in your past life ….always your article full with wisdom and silence and inspire me to write ….so it is magic of your words of silence ….
    head is the center of logical mind …… heart is the center of feminine mind but naval is center of divine mind …… head is cold ….heart is warm ….. naval is natural and neutral zero …..
    in mythological story of Hinduism ….. which was a way by the spiritual scientist to spread the scientific wisdom ….. the final fight between the lord Rama and demon Ravana ( basically the symbol for mind ) ….. fight continues for long days so finally lord Rama been asked to target naval where the juice of eternity is hiding …..
    in Atom also ….nucleus is neutral like divine spirit we may refer as God ….attached is positive proton like our soul and circling are negative electrons like our body … when we are confused we hold our head ….what it means is center of our gravity is in head …… when we are creative or in love we put our hands on heart …..what it means is our center of gravity is in heart …..but when we are natural and neutral like a child …..what is means is our center of gravity is in naval …… the source of eternity …the fountain of happiness …..
    naval gazing is very common in small children and if one want to be with divine one must fold or bring both palms together as namaste …. namaste is a scientific wisdom which balances head and heart for a neutral gut feeling …
    to remain with the gut feeling is true spirituality … and naval gazing from inside …..a true meditation all the time ….an effortless effort ..
    love all.

    1. Dear Ram,
      I’m so glad this post inspired you to write! It’s wonderful to hear from you: a true spiritual scientist in this life! I’m very moved by your compliment. Thank you.
      Thank you also for sharing your fascinating associations with the navel as it’s viewed in Hinduism, a religion so rich in symbolism. I didn’t realize the term navel-gazing had spiritual meaning in your tradition: the natural, neutral space between the opposite energies of life; the juice of eternity, center of gravity, fountain of happinesss, true spirituality! I love it!
      Unfortunately, this term been used in a disparaging way in my tradition, but that seems to be changing now: I see much overlapping of Eastern and Western philosophy here today. We appear to be growing more comfortable with the idea of a common connecting space between us—a psycho-spiritual navel, if you will!

      1. dear and divine Jean ….. we are in a age of true creative vision enlightenment …… eastern and western philosophies are like two eyes ….and as dimension of depth emerge out of fusion of both eye fields so is with the philosophies ….. so a simple and scientific as well as spiritual thinking is emerging ….. for better understanding ….. love all.

        1. I agree with your estimation of this age. I think we are creating what I think of as “mandorla consciousness” (as illustrated by the art on the cover of my new book) : an overlapping and merging of two realities that have been separated for far too long and will ultimately result in a healing new vision for both. Jeanie

  2. Another brilliant work, Jeanie. The more familiar I become with your work, the more conscious I become of the value of my own journey. You have a marvelous way of phrasing the worthiness of our search and the benefits that not only accrue to the individual, but all of humankind. We need more like you.

    1. Charlie, I’m so pleased to know my words touch you this way. Your work of connecting and reconciling through story and music is an amazing spiritual practice that benefits everyone who knows you. I can’t read one of your posts without being deeply moved. Thank you. We need more like you too.

  3. Wow, you really laid it out. I tend to wish I could do the spiritual work and call it a day, but that is never enough. The relationships are essential, but fortunately, life is so much more satisfying in relationship than alone. Thanks for putting this in front of my face!

    1. I suspect many, if not most spiritually-oriented people feel the same way. It’s easier to think of yourself as spiritual when you don’t have anyone else around to reflect your shadow! Relationships are hard!! But they’re also excellent teachers, and yes, ultimately more satisfying than being alone.You’re very welcome. Thanks for stopping by. Jeanie

  4. This post is rich with its wisdom for troubled times, and its many ideas to inspire conversation.
    And how true — the attenuated anima, the subprime debacle, corporate greed, material excess and a failing global economy are our wake up calls, telling us that this way of living is not working. We are a world out of balance.
    As you’ve beautifully said, that consciousness has to reconcile self, but in context and relationship to others. There is a vast difference between self discovery and self absorption. In our search for awareness may we find the right path.
    You are a wonderful teacher.

  5. Jean, you are a great teacher and healer. I was struggling, and then I crossed paths with you. Thank you for helping to comfort my heart.

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