XX. Finding Yourself
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.
So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
“People often say that this or that person has not yet found himself. But the self is not something one finds, it is something one creates.”
“Never mind searching for who you are. Search for the person you aspire to be.”
What is it exactly that keeps us from realizing our greatest potential? What stands in our way, keeping happiness and success hidden when we most desire them? Why can’t we truly be the individuals that we so strongly wish to be? Take a look in the mirror. That person is your greatest asset and your most crippling liability. They and they alone have the power to bring your dreams into reality. That person facing you in the reflection is your best friend and only hope for salvation. Maybe you should hear what they have to say.
In my previous post, I explained that happiness can only be experienced in the present moment of now, which in your brain lasts about 3 seconds, and I discussed several ways to cultivate happiness in the present moment, which is all you really have to work with. However, true happiness that endures over time can only be realized by stringing several moments of now together with a delicate craftsmanship that allows you to strengthen your relationship with the rest of the Universe. It’s less about making the world a better place and more about making your mind a better place.
To change your mental experience, you literally have to make physical changes in your own brain. Luckily for you, evolution has developed a way to do just that. When you ponder a thought, electrical impulses and chemical signals are traveling along a chain of firing neuron cells in your brain. This is called a neural pathway. When you think the same thought over and over, your are strengthening the bonds of that associated group of neurons, literally creating a well-worn path. This process allows thinking to be faster and more automatic, and it happens whether the thought is positive or negative, wrong or right, beneficial or harmful. If you want to challenge negative or incorrect thoughts, you have to literally forge a new neural pathway through the wilderness of your mind. You have to take the road less travelled, and it can be hard. But because of the way the brain works, if you change your thinking about something, you change that pathway. And the more your reinforce that new thinking, the stronger the links between the new associated brain cells will be.
So how do you determine which thoughts to challenge and which thoughts to keep? As it turns out, you have your own private spiritual teacher available and ready to assist you at any time. In fact they have always been there, waiting for you to simply ask the right questions. This guide is your higher self, but this higher self is not an entity or a divine connection with God or a soul. It is nothing more than a very powerful idea:
Imagine the highest ideal of the most awesome version of yourself that you could ever think of, and then simply ask yourself, “What would that person be doing in this current moment of now?” How is he or she dressed? How in shape are they? What is their profession, and how well does that person do his or her job? How much do they enjoy it? How confident are they? What kinds of foods do they eat? How does he or she act around others? What type of home do they live in? What are their friends like? What is their love life like, and how often are they having sex, and with whom? What does that person do with their free time? What are his or her hobbies? Where have they travelled, and what are they working to accomplish? This highest ideal is your blueprint for how to be awesome, happy, and thriving. Whenever you are faced with a decision, ask yourself how the most awesome version of yourself would handle it, and then follow suit.
As you begin listening to that constant and patient inner voice guiding you on how to proceed to fulfill your ultimate potential, you will pass through 4 stages of awareness: 1) making the wrong decision and not realizing it (most people in the world are stuck in this stage); 2) making the wrong decision and realizing it; 3) consciously choosing to make the right decision; and 4) unconsciously choosing to making the right decision. This process strengthens as the neural pathways involved with making decisions become well-worn roads, and right thinking becomes more automatic over time. It all depends on your degree of mindfulness in the present moment. As you continue to make choices more in line with the example of your higher self and witness the positive results, this process will become easier and you will begin to trust yourself more.
Many times, changing your thoughts will mean you will have to do things that you find uncomfortable. When you step out of your comfort zone, your brain floods your body with fight-or-flight chemicals, which you interpret and experience as anxiety. How would the most awesome version of yourself handle this? They would be mindful of the brain’s chemistry, and step out of their comfort zone anyway. Remember, your body is just trying to keep you alive. Be grateful for your body and its protection. Don’t try to suppress negative emotions. Instead, as you would during your meditation practice, acknowledge your thoughts and feelings, watching them flow by like the current of a river, gently letting them go and not being entangled with them. Take a few deep breaths. Relax your tense muscles. Feel centered and grounded. Gently remind your brain that the situation you are in, though intense and very important to you, is really very small in the entire scheme of things. You may have attached meaning to the moment, but none of it really matters when compared to the sum of all existence. You are simply a tiny spec of stardust doing what stardust happens to be doing here on planet Earth. Let the truth of this realization empower you with the freedom to do whatever needs to be done in the given moment, using wisdom, mindfulness and compassion as your roadmap and logic and reason as your guide. You absolutely have the power to make the moment yours.
Aligning your life with the ideals of your higher self involves many tasks that you will have to accomplish. This is what we are doing here on Earth as humans. Remember, you are a human, being. Even our name reminds us that we are a process in constant motion. Here’s some things to remember to help you on the journey of finding yourself:
* Since the Universe apparently did not come with its own meaning, it is up to you to find meaning for yourself. Set goals for yourself in line with that meaning, and work toward those goals in a meaningful way, every day. Set realistic goals for where you want to be in 6 months, 2 years, and 5 years from now.
* Develop your natural talents and use them to serve others. Make a positive difference in the lives of others with your gifts, however humble or insignificant you may incorrectly conceive them to be. You are important no matter how hard you try not to be, and as I have said before, this world needs you if we are going to survive.
* Challenge inaccurate thought processes such as “all or none thinking” or “diminishing the positive”. Click here for an excellent article with many examples of these thought traps that we all succumb to and how to challenge them. Learning to challenge and change the faulty thinking that you have learned over your lifetime is crucial to overcoming your mental roadblocks.
* Celebrate every single success, no matter how minor or “insignificant”, and then, if possible, go about the business of figuring out how to do it better.
* Heal the wounds of your childhood and past. It is the instinct of a wounded animal to hide. So many of our mental and behavioral issues in the present moment come from earlier experiences, and you must address these wounds in order to realize your full potential. For some this takes years of hard work, but you can never move forward until you let yourself let go of the past.
* Get in touch with your body on a daily basis by experiencing the wonders and mental benefits of things like walking outside, receiving and giving a massage, dancing, eating great food, having great sex, exercising, and a getting a good night’s sleep. You ARE your body. Take care of it.
* Get your relationships in order. Treat yourself and others with compassion. Be assertive yet understanding with those that you share this planet with. If you are in an abusive relationship, get out. Now. You’re worth far better, I promise. Find out why you put yourself in these situations, be mindful of that in the present moment, and make relationship decisions that are more in line with your higher self.
* Develop your spiritual relationship with the Universe. Experience the natural world; get out and get dirty. Be grateful for something– anything– several times a day. Take nothing for granted. Try to find beauty in every moment.
* Don’t take yourself or anything else too seriously. Embrace the absurd. Laugh at the world and life itself. Laugh often, laugh deeply, and laugh with people that you love.
* Remember that we’re all in this thing together, and everyone struggles with the very same things as you do for the very same reasons. We have the same thoughts and feel the same feelings. We are the same, you and I, and we are all literally one. Let this guide your compassion as you reach out to others.
“This above all, to thine own self be true.” Embrace that, and finding yourself will be as easy as looking in the mirror. Your higher self has always been there, waiting to be expressed out into reality. This is the opportunity you have been given. This is your gift to the Universe, and this is how you will save the world…..