“This above all: to thine own self be true”
In his horrific autobiography “Tweak: Growing Up On Methamphetamines,” Nic Sheff reflects on advice given to him by Spencer, his sponsor. “As long as you look for someone else to validate who you are by seeking their approval, you are setting yourself up for disaster. You have to be whole and complete in yourself. No one can give you that. You have to know who you are – what others say is irrelevant.”
That statement may come as a surprise to many, as we often place significance in what others say, think and feel. Since birth, we are bombarded with messages that shape and define us into personalities reflecting the beliefs and core values of our primary caregivers, community, and political and religious structures. We gradually adopt some or all of these variables, the good, the bad, and the ugly. But, as we become lost in others, we lose ourselves in the quagmire of conformity.
Conformity is a lesson soon learned. It preaches that one should be like their peers: Following rules. Coloring inside the lines. Being obedient. Not rocking the boat.
But being exactly like others is not being true to ourselves. UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold (1905 – 1961) in Markings, shared a similar stoic philosophy. Consider his thoughts, “Accept your fate and give others the right to judge – because it should not matter anyway. It should not matter anyway what they think, feel, or say. What should matter is what you think, feel and say. Listen to your inner voice. Determine where you are placing your focus and energies. That focus should rightly be placed on yourself, your true self.”
Detaching From Others
Spiritual teacher Deepak Chopra revealed that “It’s important to be yourself… Most people don’t know how much wisdom and power resides in the self, which is not the everyday self that gets mixed up with all the business of life, but a deeper self, which I call, for simplicity’s sake, the true self.”
Chopra and numerous others have espoused the importance of understanding the true self and, in this article; I am suggesting a possible pathway that I simply call the “Journey of Self Discovery.” It is a pathway encompassing our relationship with the Devine as we attempt to discover our Spiritual or Mystical Self. This suggested pathway involves four steps:
1. Detach from others:
To discover our true self we must separate and detach from others. Many of us search for satisfaction externally — the product of hard work, accomplishment, and expectation. We perform the work and expect the reward. But it is a never-ending wheel in a hamster cage. We remain slaves, exiled and searching for external fulfillment, something that is out of our immediate control and grasp.
At some point, to discover ourselves, we must severe the chords that bind us to others. We must make an intentional break. Writer Madisyn Taylor suggests that “Cutting the cord can help you separate yourself from old baggage, unnecessary attachments, and release you from connections that are no longer serving you… By cutting the cords that no longer need to be there, you are setting yourself and others free from the ties that bind.”
It takes courage and self-confidence to march away from the maddening crowd. Individuals like Copernicus, Gandhi, Jesus Christ, Kerouac, Martin Luther King Jr., Mandala, Thoreau, and others have risked ostracism, castigation, and death as a result of their individualistic beliefs.
In his meditations, Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (121 – 180) observed and wrote about, “the tranquility that comes when you stop caring what they say. Or think or do. Only what you do.” Aurelius wisely instructed that tranquility is the noblest of goals, an attainable gift that resides within.
2. Detach from the ego:
Secondly, we must detach from our ego, our false self, and the ongoing lies that we tell and retell to the world. The ego nurtures the false self, dictating that we are better than others. It commands that we acquire expensive materialistic goods that are worn like military insignias. The false self separates us from the support of our comrades and from the grace of our Higher Power. The ego-driven false- self compels us to join the “rat race” that inevitably drives many individuals to the nadirs of competition as they literally work themselves to death. This endeavor is dangerous for many, deadly for some, and a waste of energy for everyone. Detach from the ego. Get off the treadmill. Refocus and reenergize.
3. Discover your Mystical Self:
The Mystical Self is your connection to a Higher Power, Source, or God — whatever term you determine. The Beatitudes, delivered in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, instruct, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” That spiritual vision grants us tranquility, peace, and joy which dwells within our Mystical Self. Cooperation, kindness, and serving others are all pathways to the spiritual. We can serve others by sharing love and kindness, showing appreciation and gratitude, and demonstrating forgiveness and acceptance. Serving others allows us to focus on an altruistic outreach and not on our personal agony and struggles. It is a positive distraction, a means of being a Twelve Stepper, and a way to direct our energies into a positive endeavor. Contributing to this greater good is a reward in itself, a way of making us feel better about ourselves and about our worth.
This moment of clarity and tranquility results from listening to our small inner voice and from channeling our internal energies. It is about discovering who we are and allowing us to become our true selves. Tranquility comes only from turning off the external noise and entering a place of cooperation and not competition. It is the instant when we eliminate the white noise, the background chatter, the incessant blathering, and garbage emanating from our competitive monkey mind. The process of self-discovery is the most important journey that we can take. Connecting us to our Higher Source, empowers and transforms us, allowing us to discover our true needs and desires.
4. Nurture your spirit:
One such desire is to nurture and protect our inner spirit, that vulnerable and innocent child. We are the stewards of our body, mind, and spirit. No other human being can care for you or walk you through your journey. This is something that only you can accomplish. You cannot delegate it to others. When you have embraced this position, the energy source flows into you. You enjoy the renewed spirit, better health, and an enhanced quality of life.
Conversely, with your new center, you will instinctively assume responsibility for your thoughts and actions. Nobel laureate Albert Schweitzer (1875 – 1965) alleged, “Man must cease attributing his problems to his environment, and learn again to exercise his will – his personal responsibility in the realm of faith and morals.”
The message is clear: Do not blame others. By blaming them you surrender control and hand over your power. Do not give away your power. Do not abdicate your responsibility. Assume responsibility for your life and become the loving and protective steward of your inner spirit.
Every one of us is a spiritual creature, each on a personal journey of self-discovery. The moment that we discover our mystical self and experience true inner peace, will be the greatest of possible rewards.
Maxim W. Furek, MA, CADC, ICADC is passionately researching
the essence of happiness. His rich background includes aspects
of psychology, addictions, mental health and music journalism.
His book Sheppton: The Myth, Miracle & Music explores the
psychological horror and eventual survival experienced by two
entombed coal miners. Learn more at shepptonmyth.com