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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Empowering ourselves

For the last few blogs I have been writing about sources of energy for our lives.To me, one of the biggest of these sources is knowing ourselves. What is the meaning of those famous lines, to thine own self be true? If you don't know who you are, how can you be true to yourself? I am sure there are those who go through life fooling themselves but what is the gain, and how empowered really are they?

One reason for not facing who we are is a vision of who we should be which could have come through the media, books, our parents, teachers, society in general. Inside might be someone else, but we don't know that inner us. We protect the image of what we think we should be, but if it's not a reality for who we are, what good is that going to do us? How much energy will that provide for our lives?

The things we hide from ourselves the most are in what some call the shadow side. If we have a side that is selfish, does it help to deny that? Supposing we want things the world doesn't approve of, what do we do about that? Deny the wants at what price? Might we also look at whether what the world is saying is correct? Definitely wants may be distorted into damaging things but it's knowing what they truly are that has the best chance of changing that to something more positive.

In my rapidly approaching 68th year (I am in the 67th), I have never known a time where so much is out there to not only tell us what we should be but what the world expects us to be, what the world itself is. Maybe out there isn't where we should be figuring it out about ourselves.

If we know ourselves, we can work on the areas we might not like so much. If we know ourselves, we can form realistic sets of goals for getting what we want. If we know ourselves, we can bring people into our lives who are what we want more of. Kidding ourselves about the whole thing is one sure way to get nowhere.

If we don't know ourselves, if we are afraid to know us, if we have decided it's too late to know us, what will that do for our quality of life?

Knowing ourselves doesn't mean we must share that knowledge with the world or tell everybody out there every bit of who we are. Some writers, like Anais Nin, have done and do this through memoirs, but I don't see it as any requirement to living an open life. The open part is that we are open to us. The world is not entitled to every bit of who we are, but suppose we are hiding it from ourselves as well as others? How realistic can we be about any part of life if we don't want to know even ourselves?

I don't think this requires hours of introspection, of sitting gazing at our navels. It's more about when we do something, when we make a choice, that we realize why we did it. It's being open when our inner self (call it mind if it makes you more comfortable) talks to us. It's when we hear of an event, that we let it resonate briefly to know if it is important to us or not. It's giving meaning to our days and choices. It is being aware.

Some quotes I like on the subject follow:
There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. ~Anaïs Nin

The value of identity of course is that so often with it comes purpose. ~Richard Grant

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will find them gradually, without noticing it, and live along some distant day into the answer. ~Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

All men should strive to learn before they die what they are running from, and to, and why. ~James Thurber

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. ~Henry David Thoreau

If in the last few years you haven't discarded a major opinion or acquired a new one, check your pulse. You may be dead. ~Gelett Burgess
Here's the thing, if you don't know who you are, how can you know what you want, what is worth fighting for?

Because I believe simple exercises like the one from the last blog can be useful tools for figuring out who we are, I removed my answers and put the basic questions below. Just copy and paste it into word or wherever and write the first answers that come to mind without being a critic of what they should be. It's not important to share this with others but just doing it for yourself is where the value lies, in my opinion.

I am:
I think:
I know:
I want:
I have:
I dislike:
I miss:
I fear:
I feel:
I hear:
I smell:
I crave:
I usually:
I search:
I wonder:
I regret:
I love:
I care:
I am always:
I worry:
I remember:
I have:
I dance:
I sing:
I don't:
I argue:
I write:
I lose:
I listen:
I don't understand:
I can usually be found:
I am scared:
I need:
I forget:
I am happy:


Kay Dennison said...

I really love this and I have struggled with this ever since I can remember. Thank you for sharing this!

robin andrea said...

I really appreciate how engaged you are with fully knowing yourself, and as an extension knowing the world around you through that ongoing exploration. I see why your art is so moving and alive.

mandt said...

-----haven't seen such beautiful words/art since the days of Sister Coretta.

OldLady Of The Hills said...

Very interesting Rain. I think the rest of the quote from Polonious' advice to his son Laertes is important in the undertstanding of the whole speech---Beggining with "Neither a Borrorer or a Lender Be, For loan oft looses both itself and friend, and borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry. THIS ABOVE ALL, TO THINE OWN SELF BE TRUE, AND IT MUST FOLLOW--AS THE NIGHT THE DAY, THOU CANS'T NOT THEN BE FALSE TO ANY MAN"
If you really know yourself and ARE true to yourself, you will not be false to anyone, including yourself---warts and all!

Fran aka Redondowriter said...

Thanks for this insightful post and the "list." No energy to be insightful tonight, but I've tucked the list away for sometime soon.

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