First know yourself, then love yourself

Many of us spend our time trying to solve daily challenges in our lives and rarely grow our personal character to create deeply meaningful lives. Some of us do not realise we can change our character and simply hope our overall lives will bring happiness once we have dealt with the day’s problems. But in reality, life is about growth and decline, and growth requires us to imagine a future where growth has been achieved. If we stop growing we are more likely to decline. If we cannot dream the future our focus will remain stuck with our daily challenges. Growth brings quality to our lives while decline brings hardship, suffering and misery.
Meerkat
The first step on a spiritual path to achieving a meaningful, compelling life is to identify which character traits you need to grow. You need to consciously focus on recognising opportunities every day that support this growth. When we build our characters, more and more of life’s situations feel rewarding. Once the momentum of character growth begins, we must be conscious not to let it dwindle.
Although all of us have survival skills it is the quality of our survival which brings meaning to our lives and others. We are able to feel a day-by-day compelling momentum when we live with this quality. Quality reflects both the worldly aspects of our lives as well as our potential character traits through growing from our worldly challenges—this gives us our consuming happiness.
Meaning in life takes two forms. One is the meaning of contribution to those close to us, to assist not just their survival but the quality of their survival. This also becomes a mirror for our own quality as we experience the reflection of ourselves in their lives. The second is the meaning we attribute to the polishing and growing of our life skills through overcoming or being defeated by our day to day experiences and challenges. Our life skills encompass our mental abilities for relating to others, our abilities to keep our brain and body healthy, and our abilities to buffer changes to situations in our lives.
We are constantly under pressure to be a certain way, believe in certain things and adhere to certain rules. We usually have to endure a fair degree of criticism, comparison and judgement, even from those who love us and just want the best for us. If we cannot understand our array of character traits (both the good and bad) and we do not refine these, then criticism, comparison and judgement can create confusion for us.
If we do not have a conscious goal to evolve our character traits, we may be continually forced to repair our identity rather than grow it. Without this internal focus we are liable to become drifters. We may drift in and out of relationships and friendships, drift into marriage then into parenthood and into old age, without seeing the potential of our lives.
One of the keys to experiencing a compelling, meaningful and fulfilling life is to know the facets of your character. This includes those traits you admire in yourself and others, and those you desire for yourself. You then use this understanding to dream-construct your ultimate potential. It is within our dreams, where we cannot fail, that the potential heights of achieving a higher purpose outlook on life are born. It is within our dreams that our life skills are born. It is in the real world that our resolve to unerringly focus on achieving these dreams is sorely tested by others. We need to continually adjust our focus each day on understanding just who we have been throughout the day. This is what philosophers have always said, “First know thyself, then clarify those things about thyself that thee can love.”
Love is one of two momentum factors that can drive our lives forward. Love for others and self can drive us to experience life in a particular way with a high degree of quality. Without self-love however, it is hard to empathise with others, to align with their trials and tribulations. It is hard to forgive them when they seemingly go astray. Without self-love we have more difficulty reconciling our differences with others. Without love we can have chips on our shoulders in abundance, and this is definitely not the way to a happy, contented and rewarding life. When we can love ourselves, we can live in collective humanity, and collective humanity can live in us.
To know thyself requires examining our lives through ruthless honesty, not by reasoning alone. Examination with integrity will allow the underlying truths of our mental distortion to be uncovered and understood. The truth about ourselves will open our minds to our particular reality—which then needs to be faced with equanimity and responsibility. When we uncover truths about ourselves we need to act to change our lives. We need to dream, focus, plan, align with and achieve our ultimate goals and thus experience a meaningful life. If we don’t, the dark cloak of our habitual patterns will dominate and we may fall into the mire of our charade.
As a classical yoga scholar I can lead you to realise more joy, love, reward and contentment within your life. Our range of workshops can get you started.