"There are three extremely hard things: diamond, steel and knowing yourself"- Benjamin Franklin
"Self awareness" is a catchy word these days. Everyone sees the benefit of knowing oneself better. It helps with everything; career, relationships, self improvement, productivity and overall happiness.
A personal coach recently suggested an exercise on how to become more aware of ourselves. He suggested to ask 20 questions about our life and belief system. Here are some of them:
What am I good at?
What am I bad at?
What’s the most important thing in my life?
What stresses me out?
How much sleep do I need?
What’s my definition of success?
What do I think about myself?
Then he suggested to answer each question with the first thing that comes to mind, but not to answer with ‘don’t know’.
In Zen we take the opposite approach. Don't bother with branches. Instead, go for the root.
10,000 small questions return to one big question: What am I?
The more we ask this one question, the more "don't know" becomes the answer.
In the beginning, this doesn’t make any sense, right? Logically. We may doubt that this is not practical, especially if the answer is "don't know". How can "don't know" help me understand myself?
This is in fact the shortest cut to self awareness. When we truly ask ourselves, “What Am I?” what really happens?
Eventually, we return to this state of “don’t know”. When we can keep this true "don't know", our mind transforms. Our mind becomes clear and we don’t hold ideas and opinions. When we are clear we will understand what we are really good at, what makes us tired and what is our dream job. Our answers won't be shallow that "first just pop up". Instead, they are deep and lasting insights that can truly benefit ourselves and others.
Clear meditation practice means understanding our direction, and Just Do It .