I guess you could say that at the age of forty, when life as I knew it feel apart, I experienced a deep existential crisis. Possibly one of the greatest gifts Life could have sent me at the time. It didn’t feel that way then.
I realised I had created a story about myself that was falling apart at the seams. When all the structure around my life fell away, I was left with nothing but myself – and I was confronted with a stranger.
I had no idea who “Rebecca” was. Somewhere along the way, I had lost myself.
Among many other disconcerting and at times distressing realisations about who and what I was, it became clear to me that I was driven by a deep need to please people. I needed to be agreeable, liked, approved, and inoffensive. I was highly alert to the feelings and energy of other people – it was my survival technique. I was exceptionally good at reading people, and in my early teens, recognising this skill, I knew I would need to use it with as much integrity as I could otherwise I would descend into manipulating people for my own ends. I was doing that anyway, by pleasing people so that I would be approved of, but it was in the main, only destructive to myself. Thank God for that tiny insight at a young age.
As all the beliefs I had previously held about myself, life, death and God began to crumble, I was in a wasteland of terror and uncertainty. Most of us human beings like to keep our lives ordered and relatively predictable. This helps to ease the deep seated fear of the ego mind that it isn’t in complete control of life. We tend to live our lives unconsciously, based on our past, thinking about and working towards a future. Not being present. Doing the same things, repeating the same behaviours, only moderating our beliefs slightly if needed. It seems that few people actively question the beliefs that have been instilled in them by their culture . Most people live, seemingly unaware that their mind has been conditioned by their environment and their perceptions as a child, and that most of their reactions, and often their actions are a result of this conditioning. I was no different. In fact I was probably more conditioned than most, and had for the most part blindly believed and trusted what I was told.
To know yourself is to liberate yourself.
It is true freedom.
Knowing yourself walks hand in hand with loving yourself. If they can walk together, the journey is gentler because the journey inwards requires courage. It requires stamina, willingness, openness, humility and forgiveness. It can sound daunting, but everything you need will be supplied along the way if you just show up; Open, without judgment, trusting that everything is unfolding perfectly, supporting you in your quest. Because it is. I know this because I’ve walked my own path inwards. I Still am.
At this point, you may be thinking it sounds uncomfortable, why would you want to do this?
Because it will transform your life in ways you couldn’t imagine. It will bring you peace, and love, and joy. Happiness, resilience, patience, wisdom and strength. It will make you strong and clear. You will navigate life with increasing ease. You will be free from the past. No longer reactive, a helpless victim to subconscious belief systems that seem to want to sabotage your life.
Most people don’t seem to have even a basic understanding of the mind – because we aren’t taught about it. Less understanding of the mind-body connection, and even less understanding of the mind-body-spirit connection. We are taught in our schools to focus on that which is outside of ourselves. We are taught to use our mind to think in an intellectual way. We are taught how to function in the culture we live in, and in particular, how to contribute to its economics in a positive way. And yet…..we ARE a Spirit, we INHABIT a body, and HAVE a mind, and most of us go through life having no idea what this means, or how to manage these aspects of ourselves in order to extract the most JUICE out of being alive.
Who are you? What are you? Are your beliefs about who and what you are, positive? Do they enable you to wake up each morning with a sense of excitement about what life will bring today? By the end of each day, do you feel awe at the wonderful synchronicity, insights, beauty and love you experienced throughout the day? Do your beliefs about yourself enable you to face life with confidence and ease? Do your beliefs about who and what you are, result in an overflowing of love, goodwill, tolerance and acceptance towards other people? Do your beliefs about yourself allow you to enter so deeply into the flow of life, that abundance and love and joy and peace are the main components of your life?
If your answer is no to any or all of these questions, then what you are believing about yourself is wrong. And it is completely within your power to change it so your answers to the questions can become a resounding YES.
At this point, you may be wondering what I am on. (Too much morphine perhaps?). This is not what we have been taught. This is not a perception of life or ourselves that organically arises through living in our culture. I believe there are many, many, fundamental errors in thinking that are so deeply embedded in our culture that we don’t even question them. Often we aren’t even aware of them.
There is one in particular that I want to mention here, because I believe it is at the base of so many of our problems both personally and culturally, and it ties in with knowing yourself.
It is the deep-seated belief that as human beings, we are intrinsically bad. Not good enough. Sinful.
I believe the opposite is true. We Are Eternal Spirit, We Inhabit a Body, We Have a Mind. Every single one of us. All of the time. At our core, beneath the conditioned mind, the ignorance, the bias, the fear; We Are Good. The challenge in each lifetime is to know ourselves as that, seeking beyond the outer layers of damaged mind to reconnect with the Goodness within.
Before you write me off as some fluffy, New Age Pollyanna out of touch with reality, I want to share something with you. Three years ago, I was a participant in a program in the local men’s prison. I spent one day a week for seven weeks (I did the program five times), inside the men’s prison, sitting in a room with four other visitors and fourteen inmates. This program was a voluntary program both for those who came into the prison and the prison residents who participated. It was a program that brought together perpetrators of crime and victims of crime. Not THE perpetrator with THE victim, but general perpetrators and victims of crime. The program provided a space where victims of crime shared their story, and the impact of that crime on their life. The perpetrators also, had the opportunity to tell their story. The purpose of the program was that a deeper understanding within the perpetrators of the on-going consequences of their actions on the victim would perhaps touch a part of them that would help them on a path to rehabilitation. For the victims, the opportunity was to use their trauma for good, a healing perhaps; an opportunity to be heard.
It is up there as one of the most initially terrifying and life-changing experiences of my life. I sat with drug addicts, men who had murdered, raped, committed horrible acts of violence. Men who had been in and out of prison all their lives, men with unhealthy sexual preferences, men who had cheated, lied, stolen, abused, violated, threatened, hurt other people and hurt their communities.
Without exception, they listened with deep respect to my story. They sat, so deeply suffering themselves, and listened as I shared with them my vulnerability, the fear and shame and pain that I had experienced; my difficult road to recovery. And these men, these men, who had been condemned, dismissed and banished, held me so tenderly in love and respect that on one of the sessions after telling my story, another visitor, an elderly man, wiped tears from his eyes and said “the love, that is in this room for you Rebecca, can be felt”.
No-one will ever convince me, that we all, as Eternal Spirits, inhabiting a body, having a mind, are not intrinsically Good.
Those seventy or more men I met in the prison all had a story to tell. Many of their stories were heartbreaking. Gut-wrenching stories of trauma, abuse, abandonment, violence, addiction and loss. And yes, we can say – “we all have a choice” but sometimes there is no understanding of another way, another choice. Sometimes, there is simply survival, the only way you know how. We cannot change until we can. I cannot say, after listening to those men’s stories, that if I had experienced their childhood, had their conditioned thought patterns, lived their life, that I would have acted any differently. I cannot say that. Those men taught me not to judge. They helped me to heal. They taught me to see beyond the outward appearance. Namaste… I see God in you.
This is not to deny that there are some people – a very few, who seem to be so devoid of feeling that they are capable of committing horrific acts against their fellow humans without remorse. This is not to deny the evil and ugliness that humans inflict on each other, the animal kingdom and nature.
Hurt people, hurt people.
And this is why we need to know ourselves. When we are hurt (and we all are), it is from those wounds that we hurt others and ourselves. When we are hurt, we don’t live our most joyful, peaceful loving life.
We all hurt because we have negative sub-conscious beliefs that tell us we aren’t good enough. We have negative sub-conscious beliefs that tell us that people will hurt us and we need to protect ourselves, put on a mask, hide our vulnerabilities. We all hurt because we have been taught that the world is a place of survival, a place of competition, a place of having to be better, the best, have the most, in order to be successful. We all hurt because at some point, we didn’t feel loved or accepted and it cut deep because we believed it. We all hurt because we don’t feel whole.
So we project these hidden hurts on others, or ourselves. Through racism, violence, control, manipulation, self serving, conditional loving, intolerance, competition, punishment, self-sabotage and judgment. And in the process we hurt ourselves, because what we project out, is the world we see reflected back, and the hurt grows.
Know Yourself and stop the cycle of hurt.
So how to begin?
The same way as I mentioned in my previous blog on loving yourself. The same techniques, will help you to know yourself.
Set the intention to know yourself. Journal, Meditate, Observe yourself. Look at every experience as an opportunity to grow, and that is how you will experience it. Don’t blame anyone or anything. Reflect on the idea of yourself as Eternal Spirit. Begin to trust and reconnect with that part of you. Begin to talk to that “Higher self”, and it will become real.
As a little exercise, sit quietly, close your eyes, and say “At my core, I am wise, powerful, loving Eternal Spirit. I am Worthy, Unconditionally Loved, Completely Accepted. This who I am”. Repeat it several times with meaning, Slowly. Savour it. Feel it. Luxuriate in its truth. Notice how you feel. Good right?
Now, if you want to ruin the lovely feeling, tell yourself “I am stupid and weak and pathetic. I stuff up all the time, my life sucks and I’m scared I am unloveable and not good enough”. Repeat it several times with meaning. Slowly. Savour it. Notice how you feel. Not so good, right?
Repeat the first part of the exercise so you end on a pleasant note. Why, oh why, on a purely practical level, don’t we all chose to believe and re-affirm over and over to ourselves that we are “wise, powerful, loving Eternal Spirit. who are worthy, unconditionally loved and completely accepted”???? When we believe this, we begin to act in ways that are in alignment with this belief. When we believe in other lesser, negative things about ourselves, we act in ways that are in alignment with that. SIMPLE. Its that simple.
Try it for a week. Everyday, as many times a day as you remember. Remind yourself of what you really are. It is the beginning of removing negative programs and replacing with positive ones.
It will change your life for the better, and it will help change the world for the better because one more person living and loving life joyfully and peacefully affects others around them. It makes a difference for good.
A wonderful, exciting journey of self-discovery awaits that leads to true freedom.
Who wouldn’t want that?