MetaSelf We are tightrope walkers on a beam of light
How to use MetaSelf
<< How MetaSelf is Built >>

We all want lives that are very rich and yet also balanced.

When life feels fragmented and off center, you may find it helpful to have a model of the self. A good model can do two things. First, it can display the parts of something and how they fit and work together as a whole. Second, it can serve as an ideal -- a guide or tool to be used in making improvements. MetaSelf does both: it helps you understand how parts of yourself fit into a picture, and also how to bring greater unity and balance into your life.

In building a model, MetaSelf starts with familiar spatial figures of speech, such as "the back of my mind," "straightforward," and "an outside observer." Taken by itself, any one of these phrases may seem trivial, but when you bring many of them together, it becomes clear that they are thoroughly grounded in our bodily experience of space and still manage to describe very important abstract aspects of the self: the mind, virtues or morality, and spirituality. MetaSelf reveals that these phrases actually constitute a naturally organized model. This model is not only a philosophical approach to the self based on recent advances in cognitive science; it is also a practical tool for doing an inventory that will help you identify problems and find solutions that unify and balance your life.

THE FUNDAMENTAL METASELF IMAGE:
TWO PEOPLE FACING EACH OTHER IN A ROOM. (fig. 1)

public image, shame
memory, the unconscious, and hidden potentials
honest, frank and sincere
empathy, compassion
communication and interaction
treated equally with
a perspective from outside a system
infinity, divinity, ultimate values, etc.

In the fundamental MetaSelf model, two people stand or sit upright, facing each other in a room. This is a strong spatial structure: each body is upright in gravity and has three axes -- front/back, left/right, up/down. To this we add two more contrasts: the inside/outside contrast (inside and outside the room, inside and outside the body) and the light/shadow contrast. As you will see, this bare-bones structure supports an enormous amount of abstract meaning conveyed by figurative spatial phrases. The examples in the illustration are just a few of the ways English has elaborated the meaning of space metaphorically. Together, the structure and spatial phrases add up to a model that gives us an image of the mind, the virtues and the spirit.

Just two of the ways such a model helps us:

First, MetaSelf reconnects several things that can seem very separate from each other: our bodies, our language, our minds, our virtues and our spirits. It shows that we can think about these aspects of the self in a unified way, instead of feeling split into several alien parts. Just by itself, this brings a very healing sense of integration that is at once psychological, philosophical, ethical, spiritual and aesthetic. That's a lot to claim, I know, but check it out as you learn the details of MetaSelf.

Second and more practically, when you want to get an overview of your life or of a challenging situation you are facing, MetaSelf provides a natural way to organize a calm, methodical inventory. Doing a Metaself inventory has many benefits. It can get you back on track by highlighting conflicts and pointing to solutions. And it gives you the assurance that you have looked at things in the light of your most important values and from many points of view. An inventory also creates an opportunity for growth, which we can define as knowing more about yourself and your world while keeping it all working well together. In other words, growth creates a more integrated diversity. A MetaSelf inventory is fairly easy to do, because it's based on familiar, non-technical language and your upright bodily structure in gravity. What other organizing principles could be both so simple and so richly detailed?

Hierarchy of Needs

We can get some perspective on how MetaSelf works as a model by comparing it with Abraham Maslow's famous Hierarchy of Needs,* which is organized spatially as a pyramid. In this pyramid, physiological needs are at the bottom, building up through safety needs, belonging needs and esteem needs, to a need for growth at the peak. The basic spatial metaphor here is "Building a complete life is (like) constructing a building; each level of functioning supports the ones above." Explanations of this model give a very good description of the self. And the pyramid displays a few summary phrases in a memorable spatial form.

Maslow's Hierarch of Needs

MetaSelf reflects our language and thinking better than the Hierarchy of Needs. First, Maslow's pyramid is too solitary an image; it lists social needs but does not show them spatially. MetaSelf, by contrast, has social interaction built right into its main image. The space between people is where meaning, language and morality are learned and generated.

Second, the MetaSelf model draws on actual spatial phrases that English speakers use to understand (or create!) abstractions like the self, the mind, virtues and the spirit. It relies on the fact that real, literal, bodily space has been elaborated in English into very familiar metaphorical spatial language. And, once MetaSelf has made you freshly conscious of that, you can always return to the vivid bodily origin of your language and thinking. Unconscious, half-dead metaphors will be given new life as powerful, conscious tools.

In these ways, MetaSelf reflects the important "cognitive revolution" in linguistics, psychology and embodied philosophy that occurred mostly after Maslow's death in 1970. This profound and exciting change in thinking was spurred along in 1980 by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson's Metaphors We Live By, which has a short chapter on spatial metaphors. Their Philosophy in the Flesh (1999) spells out the implications in detail. MetaSelf is partly a layman's attempt to adapt the lessons of the cognitive revolution in order to create a psychological and spiritual model of the self that is less abstract, more embodied, than Maslow's, one that is handier and more effective as a tool for self-reflection and growth.

Look Deeper...

Five big clusters of metaphors that shape how we speak and think: Structure, Vision (light/shadow), Balance, Location and Locomotion.

MetaSelf is focused largely on Structure and the cluster of metaphors that extend the meaning of the three right-angled axes of the body in space and gravity. But MetaSelf also uses other clusters, including Balance (the upright human figures), Location (the bounded space of the room), Locomotion (stepping forward, stepping back), and Vision (which represents consciousness, knowing and understanding, as in the light/shadow contrast, I "see" what you mean, The Enlightenment, etc.).

A REVISED METASELF IMAGE

Look Deeper...

Peter Carleton and a Box Frame
About the Author

Before doing artwork, Peter Carleton was in private practice as a counselor for twelve years, having received his M.A. in Humanistic Psychology (Clinical Emphasis) at California State University Sonoma in 1972.

He received his bachelor's degree in Sociology at Columbia University, and studied philosophy at the University of London.

Born in Manhattan in 1940, he became a Californian in 1966 and now lives just north of Berkeley, California. In 2008 he was able to marry his beloved partner of 34 years, Prof. Simon Karlinsky. Simon died in 2009.

Peter Carleton and a Box Frame
In order to highlight the spatial structure of the MetaSelf model even more clearly, we can remove the distinguishing characteristics (sex, clothing, etc.) of one of the people in the illustration above. What remains are the bare bones of our body's schematic structure -- three axes (front/back, top/bottom, left/right) plus the inside/outside contrast. One way we can choose to represent the structure is to use the kind of deep box-frame in which art or other three-dimensional things are commonly displayed (Another way, concentrating entirely on front/back axis, appears below in figure 3A and 3B.). I was using a box-frame like this for my fiber art in the 1980's, when it dawned on me that, just by itself, a box-frame could serve as a model, a visual reminder of many spatial phrases describing the self and its world. The details of a standard box-frame's construction also give us a clear way to represent the "front" or "mask" someone puts up (Carl Jung's "persona"), the idea of a personal "boundary," and the "shadow" at the back of the mind (Jung's term for repressed problems and hidden potentials that are mostly unconscious).

Woman facing Box FrameMetaSelf, Figure 2
A PERSON FACING A BOX-FRAME ON THE WALL OF A ROOM
(mouse-over image for exploded view)

Why is this schematic structure so very important? Because, if you want to have an integrated sense of your self, you have to describe abstract things like "mind," "virtue" (or morality) and "spirit" in metaphorical terms that are clearly grounded in bodily reality and intelligible to other people. Otherwise, they can be dismissed as "mere abstractions." The spatial/structural regularities of the human body are shared by all users of the language, making it possible to have something like a geometry of the self -- a structured, fairly consistent set of phrases that describe the self, including the mind, the virtues and the spirit. After all, though we are born with many bodily variations and sometimes with anomalies, we never have legs protruding from our head, a left hand on the right arm, or nipples on our backs! That would be confusing! So there is a regularity that is reliable enough to "constrain" (to use Lakoff and Johnson's term) our spatial metaphors for the self and that helps make them mutually comprehensible from one person's mind to another.

The mind, therefore, can be understood as a figurative space that extends bodily space and bodily structure by means of metaphor: thinking deep thoughts, my innermost thoughts, the back of my mind, broadminded, narrow-minded, high-minded, low-minded, etc.. The box-frame illustrates this fit between the body and the mind by using the wooden board at its back to represent the human body with its three axes, while the five-sided clear acrylic cover represents a mental "space" that is built onto that board, adopting the same three axes. When you also remember how many ways we organize our thinking in terms of space, the fit between bodily space and mental, metaphorical space becomes an overwhelming fact. In MetaSelf, the mind and body, which have sometimes been split in Western philosophy, are presented as co-existing on the same level and fitting together.

Because this model is based on spatial phrases and they, in turn, are based on our bodily structure in gravity, MetaSelf simply reveals what is already there. MetaSelf is not a new creation; it records some things that are implicit in our speech and thought as they have been elaborated out of our bodily experience. And because spatial structure does organize not just the mind, broadly conceived, but also some of our specific concepts of virtue and the spirit, we should not be surprised, as we proceed, to see all three of these ideas start to blend, becoming intertwined manifestations of the self.

VIRTUES or MORALITY

I said at the outset that a model can serve as an ideal, a guide for making improvements.  So, what spatial, bodily terms does the MetaSelf model use to represent ideals such as ethical values, virtues and morality?

Let's start by looking at the metaphorical meaning of the three right-angled axes of the body.

The words "upright" and "upstanding" are spatial and metaphorical; they mean honest, strictly honorable and respectable. Their power is deeply rooted in our bodily experience of the vertical, y axis of gravity. As Lakoff and Johnson point out, "other things being equal, it is better to be upright and balanced."  Moral strength is partly a matter of maintaining this upright balance in the face of outside forces, a great achievement of human development. The box-frame embodies virtue by being mounted upright on the wall and not tilting; compared to the human figure in the room, however, the box-frame falls short symbolically, since it is not free-standing like a sculpture.

"Facing a problem squarely" and "confronting it directly" are ways to speak of the virtue of courage, while turning away can suggest fear or deviousness or, in special cases, a discreet indirectness. The box-frame embodies courage by facing directly and squarely into the room, with its z axis at right angles to the x axis and the plane of the wall. Correspondingly, a viewer typically stands directly in front of a work of art which is centered in a display case.

The virtue of good judgement is described as the ability to "strike a proper balance" between the right and left hand on the x axis, as in the scales of justice. We have an impulse to be sure the box-frame, like any frame, is level (horizontal) on the wall, which seems to come from our strong bodily orientation in gravity. This standard position represents the virtue of making good decisions after weighing things evenhandedly.

Social equality, fairness and justice are often spoken of as a "level playing field," which is shown by the angle of the z axis between people. In the basic MetaSelf illustrations, this "level field" is represented by the floor as well as the line of sight.   Just as considerable effort is required to level an actual playing field, so it is not easy to change a whole social system to make it more fair. But, on a smaller scale, if we see two people in a relationship as being on a seesaw and if things are too tilted toward one side or the other, then one or both parties can adjust their positions on this z axis --  negotiate -- until there is a better balance. The idea of balance, as Lakoff points out in Moral Politics (p. 55), is central to accounting ("balancing the books"), and accounting is a major metaphor for morality. More generally, balance means the proper relationship between multiple factors, such as the balance of powers in government.

Empathy and compassion are central to the meaning of MetaSelf.   The complex spatial way we conceptualize empathy is very interesting. Partly, one keeps a certain distance or even steps back along the z axis to a position outside the situation or system; note the stylized eye outside the room in both Figure 1 and Figure 2. But one also steps forward to put oneself in the other person's shoes, imagining the perspective from that place on the z axis. Both of these steps are necessary; if one only steps back, one remains too remote, too detached and even judgmental. And if one only puts oneself in the other's place, one is excessively sympathetic, identifying with them too much. Our spatial language -- "stepping back" and "putting oneself in the other's shoes" -- prompts us to make these imaginative leaps of empathy.

The stepped-back position of the outside observer is one place we can metaphorically locate the Soul, the "Witness," and what Lakoff and Johnson call the Subject, i.e., individual consciousness. (A vertically oriented system is likely to place the eye of consciousness at forehead level or just above the head, within the body's aura.)  The Subject is the locus of "subjective experience, moral judgment, reason, will, and most important, one's essence, that which makes a person who he or she is." (Philosophy in the Flesh, p. 563.)  I suggest that we sometimes locate our essence "outside"  (instead of in our heart, for example)  because our essence is made up of the fundamental values, rules, laws and principles that we "stand for" beyond ("outside") everything else. These values, etc., are "larger than," "bigger than" the individuals in the room, who exist within the category to which they apply, and they are therefore placed "outside space and time."

Alternatively, there is the concept of "Self in Presence" used in the body awareness practice called Focusing. This is the term used by Ann Weiser Cornell, my Focusing teacher. Presence is the sort of loving, nonjudgmental consciousness that can be with whatever is happening inside us, rather than being overwhelmed by it or exiling it. In Focusing, sometimes these two extremes are described by the spatial terms “too close process” and “too distant process.” In the first, one identifies with a problematic part of the self; in the second, one dissociates. Both of these processes make it harder to for us to grow and develop, because we are stuck repeating a partial experience of our lives.

From an outside position, one can observe and also project consciousness into places all along the front/back (z) axis, including various parts of oneself and of others. Thus, one can observe one's own feelings in one's body, or simply be "immersed in them."  Also, one can be aware of the back of one's mind (our "shadow," hidden agendas, background issues, etc.), or simply be in its control. And one can examine the protective "front," mask or persona one has put up, or be consumed with pride or shame. In addition to all this, one has to take care to imagine or inquire about the corresponding spaces in the other person. This separation between the Subject and the other self or selves is fundamental to self-consciousness, and MetaSelf helps us diagram it.

Integrity is a consistency or unity among the inner spaces of the self. It's a match, or, in geometric terms, an isomorphism or congruence between what is in front and what is inside or at the back. Integrity maintains this congruence in the face of temptations or strains exerted from outside. Sincerity, a related virtue, has especially to do with saying what one genuinely believes, which one cannot do with assurance unless one has considerable self-knowledge; two synonyms for sincerity are straightforwardness and openness, which are both spatial terms. Self-knowledge means being able to see into yourself, to have in-sight into the depths, whether one is "looking" from the point of view of the ordinary conscious mind represented by the contained space at the front of the box-frame, or from the "outside" viewpoint. Two related visual metaphors are Carl Jung's Shadow, his term for the hidden, hard-to-see aspects of the self, and what the humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers called "transparency," the ability to disclose oneself to others in a way that increases the possibility of growth.

Because, according to Lakoff and Johnson and the cognitive revolution, the mind is largely made up of metaphorical extensions of bodily experience that operate unconsciously, part of the task, then, of philosophy, psychology and spiritual thought is to make these extensions explicit so that one uses them as consistently as possible and with awareness of the logic they imply. That is part of what self-knowledge, sincerity and integrity mean.

The Horizontal Emphasis of MetaSelf

Classic X, Y, Z Axes

Classic X, Y, Z Axes


Figure 1
Woman facing Box Frame
Figure 2
Classic X, Y, Z AxesIt is clear even in Figure 1 that MetaSelf emphasizes the front/back axis of the body. The box-frame has a similar front/back axis, while its four other sides are indistinguishable and could be rotated without disturbing the function of the frame.  In Figure 2, this axis stretches between the person in the room and the schematic image of a person. They face each other along the z axis of geometry, at more or less the same level. Positioned this way, the human figure and box-frame evoke a number of things: (a) face to face social interaction and communication (what goes on between people); (b) compromise, giving and taking; (c) two-way streets; (d) mutual respect; (e) equality; and (f) fair trade, fair exchange or fair competition on a level playing field. This is also the space where, according to Martin Buber, the immanent God appears in genuine human interactions between I and Thou. How different this axis is from the vertical y axis, which can have connotations of superiority/inferiority, egotism, unequal status, rank and power!  The z axis will also be the chief one along which you will organize a MetaSelf inventory.

The left/right axis of the body gives the box-frame image its other horizontal dimension.  It's as if a person's two arms, instead of reaching forward to a single other person, have opened out to join hands in a wider circle of relationships, a larger social system. This enhances the social dimensions of the MetaSelf model even more, complementing Maslow's pyramid, which is an image of a solitary self and its internal organization. With MetaSelf, you can interpret the figurative space of the room to represent larger social systems, and it can nest inside still larger social and natural environments, even the natural universe.

These two horizontal axes make MetaSelf a valuable counterweight to vertical models that emphasize such things as solitary power, dominance and authority over others; obedience; and social class (high, middle, low and under-class). The contrast between the vertical axis and the two horizontal axes is similar to George Lakoff's contrast between Strict Father Morality, which emphasizes authority and obedience, and Nurturant Parent Morality, which stresses empathy, nurturance  and inclusiveness (Moral Politics). Lakoff believes we all use elements of both kinds of morality, which, as MetaSelf shows, means we need to think of the self in all three dimensions.

CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE SPIRIT 

Our ideas about consciousness and the Spirit are often extremely abstract and disembodied. This is a very contentious area, but let me lay out my thoughts, as tentative as they may be.

How do we in fact express the idea of consciousness in spatial terms?  We have already taken two big steps toward answering this question.

In the first big step, we gave a metaphorical location for consciousness of self, placing it on the z axis, at some (variable) distance outside the room in the position of an outside observer. And second, we noted that empathy and compassion involve imaginatively moving our consciousness along this same axis so as to understand how other people see things and how they feel in their shoes or "places" (their positions, roles, situations and stations). Individual consciousness, although commonly thought of as disembodied, is still embodied enough to have a point of view and a metaphorical location, and it is able to move and change its location.   (In a more vertical model, a bird's eye view or transcendent God's eye view from above might be invoked. Here in the MetaSelf model, the distant, transcendent God can be thought of as looking into the world from all angles around the room, something infinitely beyond any individual consciousness.)

Both Figure 1 and Figure 2 show a stylized eye in this outside position on the z axis. It represents such ideas as the Soul, the Witness and the Subject (that is, the individual consciousness). This position gives it some "distance from ourselves" and from the system within which we are acting; if consciousness were figuratively located within the wall, however, it would only be adopting the perspective of the system and only critiquing the self in terms of its role in meeting system norms. By locating consciousness outside the wall on the z axis, we are able to see it as both disembodied and yet still metaphorically located relative to bodily space.

The phrase "distance from ourselves" is striking. Lakoff and Johnson call this "The Objective Standpoint Metaphor."  For example, "You should take a good look at yourself."  They point out that the use of vision as a metaphor for knowing and consciousness creates a distance or split between what is called the Subject (a disembodied consciousness) and one or more selves. They note that this split occurs in cultures across the world, because there is an actual separation between, on the one hand, the eye and vision centers in the brain, and, on the other hand, what one is seeing and, normally, paying attention to.

The MetaSelf model, by locating self-consciousness in a place one imaginatively steps back to, allows us to picture self-awareness as escaping the attachments and the forces exerted by what is going on in the self or selves. These forces include: the feelings and emotions going on in one's bodily self;  the feelings of prideful display and shameful hiding experienced in the front one puts up; and the deep, mostly unconscious material at the metaphorical "back of the mind" where the mind merges with the bodily drives. In this outside position, the Subject may also be able to disengage a little from the entanglements and repetitive scripted dramas of its relationships; it can extend compassion to the parts of the self (to various of its "selves," in Lakoff and Johnson's terms), and to other people in the situation, as well. This is, as it were, the home base from which imaginative empathy operates.

The Subject is sufficiently outside the system to look around and notice other systems, imagine other ways of doing things and ask, "What if...?"  This wider awareness opens up the possibility of making another choice or acting according to different principles, that is, the possibility of having free will. (One can also imagine stepping to a place outside the room that is not on the z axis but, rather, to one side of it, in order to view the situation from a position equidistant from the two people inside.)

In sum, we have seen that individual consciousness (also the Soul, Witness or Outside Observer) can be represented as an eye that is (a) disembodied,  (b) locatable (at least sometimes),  (c) movable, and  (d) as sometimes having the power to see -- that is, understand things -- from other points of view in the world, thus perhaps making the individual more empathetic and compassionate. (I say perhaps, because this knowledge could enable one to be manipulative and malicious, too.)

Consciousness and the soul can be located at some distance, metaphorically, from the rest of the self, outside a system or even "outside" space and time. We speak of coming into existence, coming into the world (into the room along the z axis, as it were). Exactly when the soul comes into the body is a disputed question, of course, but in general we can speak of this direction of movement along the z axis as incarnation, while movement in the opposite direction, toward eternal things outside the world of the room, can be called the direction of transcendence, dis-identification with the body and the world, and death.

 

Consciousness as a Tightrope Walker. 
It is very clear that in describing the MetaSelf model, we have now expanded our metaphors of the self to include far more than those that cluster around the idea of spatial structure, which was our main starting point. But the idea of Balance was in fact present from the very start in the upright bodies maintaining their physical balance, and this idea became explicitly metaphorical with the virtues of Honesty and honorableness (the upright y axis of balancing on one's feet), Judgment (weighing things on the left/right x axis), and Fairness and Social Justice (the angle of the see-saw or playing field of the z axis). The light/shadow contrast turned up early as the Jungian Shadow (the hidden, repressed issues and potentials at the back of the mind), and we now recognize it as part of the whole cluster of Vision and Light metaphors in which Seeing represents knowing, insight and consciousness. The cluster having to do with Location was present in Figure 1 as the inside/outside contrast: the two figures found themselves inside the bounded space of the room, which represented a relationship or system. The space outside the room signified a number of things, including a framework of eternal values.

We have now introduced the idea of motion from one viewpoint to another, which is only suggested by the stylized eye in the original drawings, but how are we going to represent this additional complexity?  What image fits? Years ago I stumbled upon a metaphor that works for me. It summarizes much of what we have understood about these clusters of metaphor and the way they use the body's three right-angled axes to describe the nature of the mind, consciousness, empathy, and the virtues. And it specifically employs the idea of motion back and forth on the z axis. The metaphor is this: We are Tightrope Walkers.

The tightrope itself is the front/back z axis; the body balancing upright on the tightrope is the vertical y axis; and the transverse pole held in the two hands of the tightrope walker is the x axis. We live our lives constantly trying to stay flexible, agile and mentally focused enough to remain upright. We need to move back and forth on the tightrope, from one metaphorical location to another, both within ourselves and others; we need to step forward, pivot and look at ourselves from the other person's point of view, trying to understand each kind of meaning that is spelled out in the details of Figure 2.

 

A Metaphor for The Spirit.
My impression is that the Spirit is thought of as more disembodied than consciousness. It is elusive (but sometimes locatable) and has the power to move around (though it may sometimes refuse). And Spirit has a power of understanding greater than our own. The phrase "as the spirit moves me" suggests that the Spirit is distinguished from the Subject and simple consciousness by being "beyond" our individual will (which is usually centered in the Subject) and capable of appearing and exerting force anywhere unexpectedly, breaking through barriers and thereby transforming a person or persons, a situation or even the whole world.
    
Spirit can certainly be disruptive, sometimes, but in the end, by definition, if it is a good spirit, it resolves conflicts by creating more integration and unity among the parts of the self and its world, bringing them into accord with the eternal values and principles represented by the space beyond the world we know, that is, beyond the room. We cannot know much that is final about what is beyond the room when it is taken on the grandest scale, and we may express this as not knowing what God or the Goddess in his or her infinite wisdom wants us to do. Ultimate reality is "beyond us," and our view of it is always partial at best.

We describe the relationship between what is inside the room and what is outside in many different ways. A few that resonate with me:  The whole (outside the room) is greater than the sum of its parts (inside the room). The greater good vs. individual selfish interests. Win-win solutions instead of zero-sum solutions. Ought (outside) vs. Is (inside).   It is often a very emotional experience when we are moved by the Spirit from being concerned only for a part to a concern for the whole, from zero-sum to win-win. Our world is jarred, but we keep our balance. We realize, for example, that we must sincerely apologize, we do so and are forgiven and move on in a more positive way; we have become a "bigger person," and our part of the world has become bigger and more integrated. We have grown.

The action of the Spirit often seems mysterious, since it operates partly outside of human will, which might suggest that the Spirit is really not embodied at all. Lakoff and Johnson assert that Spirit is often viewed in this disembodied way, but they issue a call for an embodied spirituality instead (Philosophy in the Flesh, chapter 25). How are we to understand Spirit as something that has the power to change people but which is partly outside of human will and yet also embodied?  I suggest that we can resolve this conundrum in the following way: the metaphors that we base on the body have the force of a logic deeply embedded in the body, in what Lakoff and Johnson call the "cognitive unconscious."  We are unconscious or only semi-conscious of the workings of many metaphors, including those virtues based on the three axes of the body in gravity that we have outlined above (courage as facing directly, etc.). But these metaphors greatly influence us and have a creative force of their own, and that is why, when the Spirit operates through them, it is something beyond our will, although it is still at the same time embodied in us, still rooted in our bodies. Because the logic of the cognitive unconscious has a power of its own, if we follow it consistently and with some awareness, it can help us lead lives that are spiritually integrated and virtuous. I believe we can nurture virtue and consciousness of the spirit by becoming more aware of our metaphors, which are rooted in our bodily spatial structure. That is part of the point of MetaSelf.      

The Beam of Light.
To capture the mysterious quality of the Spirit as something that is both outside our will, "beyond us," and also embodied in us, I like to envision the Spirit as a beam of light along the z axis, which not only extends beyond our world (or comes from beyond it), but also runs through it, through our physical bodies' front/back organization and through all the metaphorical spaces we have spelled out. Spirit manifests itself differently in each of the spaces along the axis. The beam of light belongs to the whole cluster of metaphors around vision and light, which we use in speaking about consciousness, awareness and knowledge. A beam of light has a direction, it moves, but it is insubstantial. We require light for vision, and when we newly understand something, we speak of "seeing the light" and having our "eyes opened."   Of course one cannot walk on a beam of light, but one can poetically combine standard metaphors such as light and balance with the structure of the body to create an image that reminds of our nature as human beings with bodies, minds, virtues and spirits.

Using MetaSelf

With an understanding of the MetaSelf model, we can begin to see how the structure it provides to experience can be used to guide self-understanding and decisionmaking. Stepping through the spaces of the model we can take an inventory of where we stand in relationship with others and use that to inform our actions and beliefs.

Click here for Using MetaSelf: Doing a Growth Inventory.

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