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Self Mastery and the Witness

Updated on December 22, 2010

In my last post we dealt a bit with the concept of self-mastery, as illustrated in the epic tale of Ausar, Auset and Heru. This concept is, to me, the whole point of the teachings. Sure, ultimately one could achieve "enlightenment" by studying the wisdom teachings, commune with the divine and gain entry into Pet (heaven) having resolved all of one's meskhenet (karma). But that is a lofty goal to say the least. Let's say we'll work our way up to that place of ideal spirituality. Even if that is your goal, you have to start somewhere.

For me, the starting point is self-mastery. It is a goal I can gauge, plot and eventually attain. I can tell when I'm succeeding based on how I react to others (especially when they really tick me off). It's like, the more I focus on my own self-control, or as I like to call it, my own sense of "self-awareness," everything else becomes muted and I can see myself as a causal force in the center of events.

If you want to kind of play around with this idea of self-awareness, here is an exercise I do often. It is based on a simple combination of fasting and meditation.

(note - only fast after consulting with your physician)

1st Guideline: Eat only fruit in the morning and then for at least 7 hours eat nothing, drink only water. After the 7 hours, you may eat fruit again.

2nd Guideline: Ignore your TV, phone, friends etc and sequester yourself in a quiet and private place where you won't be disturbed. For the 7 hours you may read wisdom texts and meditate on their meanings.

3rd Guideline: To strengthen your self-mastery, recite hekau (mantras) to focus your mind while you breathe to a specific rhythm. I use "pot belly breathing" also known as pranayama.

Pot belly breathing method:

-Breathe in deeply, pushing the breath down into your stomach. Allow the stomach to expand outward with the breath.

-Then hold both breath and stomach as you recite your hekau mentally.

-Now contract the stomach as you release the breath, holding it in once the breath has emptied. Recite your hekau again here.

-Repeat the process by bringing in a new breath and so on.

I use a hekau that is 12 syllables long, so I hold my breath for quite a while on inhalation and exhalation. Try starting with something simple like Aung, or OM, you can repeat it as many times as you like before exhaling or inhaling. Using mall beads may help with keeping track of your breaths. Remember, there is no need to force the body. Just give it a gentle nudging.

What you will be doing is forcing your mind to focus on the hekau you have selected, and on the breath. Did you notice how your thoughts seemed to stay steady, rather than jumping all around? That is a direct result of breath control. Breath control and hekau recitation have the direct effect of stopping thoughts. You may recall how you sometimes hold your breath while concentrating on something important, i.e. sports, painting, etc. For self-mastery we use this to collect ourselves, to keep from being swept away by run-away thoughts and emotions.

This exercise will help you to develop what many call the "witness" consciousness. During this acute self-awareness you begin to notice each stream of thoughts from your mind, not as the thought creator but as an actual witness. Sometimes I am amazed at how my mind says something like, "Okay, I'm hungry, just go eat some granola. My body needs the sugar." Or, "I'm anemic, I can't keep this fast going all day. I HAVE to eat." What a manipulative little mind I have. Each time, I've learned that that thought is coming from a place in me that feels afraid or anxious. So, I ignore it. I'm not gonna keel over if I don't eat, no matter what the voice in my head says.

So, basically, I've learned to face that fear, anxiety or anger at the root of the thoughts. The more you practice this technique, the more you will experience the "witness" during everyday situations. You'll start to see that your reactions to people and events come with some pretty hefty baggage. And that's the stuff that gets in the way of your self-mastery. It weighs you down. It clouds your perception. And most of the time the thoughts generated by that baggage are downright lies. In a sense we begin to slay these apparaitions. We chip away at the excess to reveal a better version of ourselves.

I like to focus on this type of work during the new moon. In the next article I'll share my experiences with the goddesses of the various moon phases as they relate to life, death and renewal.

Aunkh, Udja, Seneb,

Sekayi Khita Hetep

Nice intro to conscious breathing


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