In my own experience, I find a couple of different ways to be self-conscious…
First, the conventional one, where I am aware of a discrepancy between a story of how I should be and how I am, including how I am in the eyes of others. I have a belief in a separate self, and am aware the contrast between different images of this self.
Then, the contrast between Ground and a sense of separate self. The Ground is inherently free from a sense of a separate self, yet with a sense of a separate self superimposed on it.
In both cases, there is a consciousness of a separate self in a way that is slightly uncomfortable. And this is an invitation to examine what is happening more closely.
In the first case, I can…
- Try to make these two images of the self match up more, by changing one or the other. (But life may have other plans, triggering stories that again are at odds with each other.)
- Tell myself the discrepancy is OK, finding some peace with it by creating a third story bridging the two previous ones. (This is a precarious peace since I still believe the first two stories. All I am doing is creating a battle between three stories instead of just two).
- Be with the experience and allow both, reducing an identification with resistance to one or the other and the tension between them. (This allows us to find ourselves as the space all of it arises within.)
- Explore what is really going on, finding what is already more true for me than the initial beliefs, through for instance The Work. (A more thorough letting go of attachment to the initial stories, and any story we may have attached to in trying to resolve the initial tension.)
In the second case, I can…
- Investigate this sense of a separate self and see more of the mechanisms of how it is created. Through a more clear seeing, the identification with these mechanisms and processes is lessened and gradually released.
- Be with the sense of a separate self and its contrast to the Ground. This allows for a disidentification with content of awareness, including the sense of a separate self, the stories creating it, and its effects. And this in turn allows for a noticing of Ground, and also of the mechanisms behind and within the sense of a separate self.