“Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle.”
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
It’s easily our greatest joy and fear that we are powerful players in our destiny. That our actions cause reactions and thus we get from life what we put in. Our thoughts, even the ones we don’t pay attention to, create work for ourselves and others. Our emotions, however fleeting, play a pivotal role in our inner and outer lives. We possess a vast and productive internal world and applying consciousness to it is the beginning of wisdom.
I never took seriously, the people who said that knowing oneself is the seat of all wisdom. I always thought that the pursuit of knowledge and a rigorous curiosity of the world would help me find myself and my purpose. After all, what could I teach myself that the great philosophers and scientists hadn’t investigated and already shared with the world? How could the journey to wisdom begin with understanding little me? How could my values, thoughts and emotions be more important to understand than the works of the great artists, theorists and poets of our time? What could my clueless self add to the journey of my spirit in finding its highest potential?
My approach couldn’t have been more misguided.
A critical pillar in the actualization and exaltation of the spirit is knowledge of the self. Without a grasp of one’s values, personality, skills and flaws, one cannot begin identifying or working towards purpose. Day to day activities can also become difficult without a knowledge of how one functions. I searched the world’s literature, philosophy and religions for answers that were inside me all along. I need not have gone anywhere but within. I was trying to build a home of curated foreign artifacts but my foundation was weak. As a result, a cycle of decoration and deterioration was inevitable. Knowing one’s character is a critical component to self preservation, generosity and esteem. In many philosophies, we are urged to understand that we are already whole and our spiritual needs lay within. It has taken me a decade to understand the truth and wisdom in this.
A person’s journey inward is as unique as the individual. The path to understanding the self and holding it in esteem is a lifelong journey. There are some tools that are universally useful and these include: meditation, journaling, literature on life and the self, and conversations with trusted advisors. Beyond this, it is up to the individual to exercise consciousness in their daily lives and ask themselves probing questions about their dreams, fears and motivations. Also, without nurturing our physical bodies we can’t respect our inner lives.
This work, done with discipline and enthusiasm, is the difference between a life that could be materially successful and one that is fulfilling on the inside and out. It separates individuals that follow the rules and those that carve their own. It draws a line between those who look outward for their identity and those that define themselves. People who actively work to know and value themselves seek growth and new challenges. They go confidently into the unknown where others dare not. They are in the midst of a lifelong journey to wisdom and each step forward, no matter how big or small, is a success. They joyfully fulfill their destiny because they have mastered the practice of understanding themselves.
“And you? When will you begin that long journey into yourself?” Rūmī