One of the most revealing insights I came across is that the evolution of life occurs along two different streams.

During my years of study of geography, I absorbed as much as I could about how the natural world around me worked. The shapes of mountains, the frozen flow of glaciers, the lush forests, the flukes of weather and millennial trends in climate, all exist in a completely interdependent way.

Something as ephemeral as a snowflake, or a rain drop, multiplied by thousands of years, has carved and shaped mountain ridges and river valleys. Plants, in turn, have not just adjusted the elemental forces of nature, but in a very real sense created the surrounding environment that is most suitable, conducive to other forms of life. In my studies, tracing gradual evolution over tens, and hundreds and thousands of years, was my main tool.

At the same time, I started to become aware of an evolution of a very different nature. At first I was only vaguely aware of what I feel, think, my motives, my behaviour and I lived mostly on autopilot. But it was a very outdated autopilot that created more problems than actually helped me to navigate! LOL! My romantic relationships were in a shambles. With my father, there was a much old and unresolved past. And most importantly I desperately needed some sense of meaning and direction in my life.

One of the early turning points for me was a conversation with an unorthodox professor of philosophy who confirmed for me that internal evolution of the self is possible. His words got imprinted in my awareness and they rang true.

So, I CAN change!

It means that I am not some speck of dust in a maze of ideas, fears, hopes and illusions. Movement IS possible! I started to read different books that felt remotely right. But my “university level” study of the self began only when I attended courses of the “Institute for the Study of Man”. Just as I learned to see the processes and relationships in nature, I started to see the mountains, rivers and ecosystems of my OWN character and behaviour.

I learned to recognise that the internal landscapes were morphed by tectonic movements of my upbringing and shaped by the consequences of my own actions! Most importantly I learned that I am not my thoughts, feelings or my behaviour and I have the ability to work with them in a methodical, scientific and highly practical way.

The two streams of evolution of the life forms, and what I consider the Self, are vastly different – but I found the analogies between them to be very helpful.

Arzhan Surazakov
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