Over the years, I have been encouraging you to establish the habit of self-reviewing. This is because the ability to look into oneself is essential for growth. Self-reflection is an important way to conduct a self-review.
Self-reflection involves looking back to see what happened in the past, including the decisions we made, how they were made, the thoughts we had, the actions we took, the reactions we had, and their outcomes. The time span we look at can be as long as the whole life, or as short as the past moment. Looking back does not mean fixating on the past; rather, it is a way to make the unconscious conscious. Through self-reflection, thoughts and actions we produced on auto-pilot can be laid bare. We can see where they came from and what they have done to our life. This way we become more and more aware of our thoughts and actions and how to direct them. This is how it is possible to become the true master of our own life.
While all this may require the consciousness to recall past happenings, the most important player for self-reflection is the heart. This is because self-reflection is not meant to be an analytical exercise of the brain. Rather, it is using the wisdom of our heart and Shen (True Self) to make things clear. It is as though we are shining the light of wisdom on the object of our attention. When it shines on a thought or reaction we have, we can see with clarity what it truly is – what patterns are behind it, what motivates us to have it, what we try to achieve with it, the chain reactions it has caused, the good or harm it has done. All this will become clear as the light of wisdom expels the dark.
To make self-reflection effective, the heart will need to be in the right place for the wisdom of the True Self to come through. The right place is where the 5 essential heart qualities are present. The heart needs to be trusting and open so it is honest and non-judgmental. It needs to be loving so self-blame and regret can be avoided. It needs to be grateful so everything can be viewed in a positive light. It needs to be Gongjing (truly respectful) so nothing will be taken out of the context of totality and continual growth. When these qualities are present, the heart is in a pure and natural state and can connect with the wisdom of the True Self. Self-reflection will not be daunting because it is not a self-disparaging or shaming act. Rather, it is a creative process of being intimate with oneself and discovering oneself.
Self-reflection can take many forms. It can be a formal practice such as a Tong Yuan, Ling Yuan or Ming Yuan practice. It can also be done in a casual way. However you choose to do it, self-reflection will require some internal awareness or even focus. It is unlikely to take place when we are busy focusing on external activities. Making space for it is therefore necessary. If you have been hiding behind the busyness of life or distracting yourself with all sorts of activity and reluctant to reflect on your life, my advice is to slow down and give yourself some time and space for it. Your body, heart and Shen will be grateful. This is a great way to love yourself.
Enjoy your self-reflection!