In Forbidden Kingdom a movie I have come to love to watch, "an American teenager who is obsessed with kungfu classics, finds an antique Chinese staff in a pawn shop: the legendary stick weapon of the Chinese sage and warrior, the Monkey King. With the lost relic in hand, the teen unexpectedly finds himself transported back to ancient China" on a mission to hand back the stick to the rightful owner and therefore free the imprisoned King; a perfect metaphor for the freeing of the soul and rediscovering of self.
Self awareness is nothing more than re-discovering self; it is freeing the soul. The problems of life stem from an imprisoned soul; the way out of the affliction of man is the freeing of his soul. This is the ultimate goal of self growth and awareness. The degree and manner in which we have managed to free ourselves from our ego is our measure of growth and awareness. It is our opinion of self that binds us. It is our perceived relationship with the larger scheme of things that accounts for our bondage or freedom.
Do you know why it is easy to complain and find fault in others? Do you know why we find it difficult to love our "enemies"? What do you think is the cause of all the selfishness that you see in the world? Why is there so much conflict for example? What is causing all this ill treatment of other people; animals and the damage being done to the environment?
The answer is not a far fetched one: it is the lack of understanding of who we truly are. It is man's distorted image of self that is the source of all this conflict; it is the ego that has trapped man's soul and caused him to believe that he is separate from the rest of creation. Albert Einstein put it so well when he said: "Human beings are a part of the whole, called by us 'the universe,' a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest--a kind of optical delusion of our consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our own personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty." This is the goal of self awareness and growth.
Anything other than the identification that we are part of the whole; that there is no "out there", only serves to promote self and therefore the ego that imprisons us. It is when we understand that everything is an expression of Consciousness that we will be able to love unconditionally; only then we will stop judging "other people". Our capacity for compassion will be consistent with our understanding of our right relationship with the Great Whole. How you treat other people and animals; take care of the environment will reveal how free or imprisoned you are.