Know Thyself

_MG_1741A long standing quest of all spiritual traditions is to ‘know thyself’ – to gain insight and understanding into one’s own way of being in the world, one’s own deepest self.

Sometimes life offers us moments when an experience or encounter reflects us back to ourselves, like the reflectiveness of water in a lake. Sometimes we notice aspects of our selves through attentiveness, mindfulness and self-awareness practices. Always there are depths within us that take a lifetime to reveal.

The more the question of who we are is explored, the more layers we discover. 


Concentric Circles Exercise

Draw a circle in the middle of a page.
Draw three more circles around it.
Using four different colours,
label each circle according to
the following guidelines:
(Adapted from Silf, 2010)


Outer circle – Circle One: Where Am I?
What are the  circumstances of your life at this moment? What is beyond your control and within your control? What might be the result of decisions made previously? What is your current situation – such as education history, work arrangements, living arrangements? What is your family context? What is your health and wellbeing like?

Next circle in – Circle Two: How Am I? 
What is your way of way of being in your life? What is your persona? Do you have different selves you present? Who is the person that shows up as you each day…in different contexts? What do others see? What are you aware of and what you might be unaware of? How are you living out your daily life?

Next circle in – Circle Three: Who Am I? 
A deeper question…takes more reflection to make notes about…
Are there ways you would describe your deeper self? What is non-negotiable for you? What moves you? What really matters to you? Do you have a sense of your core traits? To what are you really committed?

Innermost circle – Circle Four: I Am…
This deepest place within us is often called the soul. It is the place of our spirit. We may explore our spirituality from here. How would you describe this place for yourself? Do you have a sense of any thing beyond you? A sense of a call on your life? Do you believe in an energy beyond us that is also within us? What words might you use?

As part of exploring these circles, we considered some imagery for how we express or name the deeper parts of our selves. There was the opportunity to use art as a means of exploring this. We shared poetry and stories together. We discussed how returning to the questions in the Circles Exercise might be a useful tool for living, a deeper way of paying attention to our experiences…

Shared Story
Our story this session was ‘Sad, the Dog’ (by Sandy Fussell). Through the tale of a small dog, this story offered us scope for reflecting on how we get our sense of ourselves, our sense of our name, our sense of who we are. It invited us to consider how we allow circumstances to define us for good or ill and what experiences and relationships enable us to be changed and our lives transformed. We also commented on the power of being noticed, seen, heard by others.


The words of poets can give us new insights and perspectives.
We shared the following writing/poems:

‘The Way It Is’ by William Stafford
Leunig describes the symbol of the duck, by Michael Leunig
(in Introduction – A Common Prayer) 

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