The Chance of a Lifetime is to Be Yourself
“It wasn’t until I accepted myself just as I was
in this moment that I was free to change.”
It seems simple, doesn’t it? (At least simple on the surface level.) Living a fulfilled life, a liberated life, is a matter of figuring out how to get what you want, how to make your dreams and visions become reality, and then finding the right techniques for making that happen. New job, new relationship, more money, spiritual practice, better health, workout routine.
This presumes that you know what you want and that you’re intimately familiar with your dreams and visions. And that you’re sure they’re your dreams, not some ideas that have been downloaded to you by your family, your friends, and the culture we live in.
Wow, not so simple any more. This is where so many self-improvement programs fall short. Often they don’t consider the deepest layer on which we need to work in order to effect real, transformative change… not just a cosmetic fix.
I don’t know about you, but earlier in my life I went through so many different techniques to get closer to the “me” that I wanted to be. Yoga, meditation, Tony Robbins tapes (yes, for real!), therapy… These things were all helpful, to a degree. The real problem was that I was building them on top of a foundation of sand, because at some deep level I doubted the essential goodness of myself.
The basic assumption of the Liberated Life Project is that you’re not going to get very far on the path of living a free life if you don’t know who you are, and come to acceptance of that.
I mean who you truly are. Let’s call this the path of self-awareness, as distinct from falling asleep to our lives or turning away from the dark corners of our lives.
A while back, I came up with a “Users’ Manual” for myself. I’m not kidding. I went through pages of journal writings from what had been a very tumultuous and transformative time in my life. During that year, filled with heartbreak and loss, everything felt sharper and brighter…parts of myself that I hadn’t wanted to look at were visible in high relief.
I spent hours re-reading those journal entries. I highlighted all the themes that I came across. Then I turned all that material into a 16-page document that covered areas like “Relationships,” “Joy,” and “Embracing my limitations.” It covered everything I had learned that year about life, love, and my own fallibilities. Okay, I admit it — I’m an awareness geek.
The first page of the manual, a section that I later titled “Fundamentals,” began:
Everything starts with this: My journey is towards becoming Whole.
- Not cutting off parts of myself in order to stay ‘safe’ or palatable to others, or to fit into society’s expectations and definitions.
- Recovering my wild self, uncensored, raw, present, honest.
- Recognizing the distinction between intelligence of the mind and wisdom of the heart… seeing when it is appropriate to use my intelligence to serve me and others, and when I try to make my mind do the work of my heart.
- Being completely present with emotions of anger, love, joy, frustration, as they flow through me– the whole spectrum of my feelings and experiences. Nothing left out.
It went on and on. Every now and then, I still pull out my “Manual” to remind me of the insights that I gained while in a deep pit of despair.
The deal is: without self-awareness and self-acceptance, we are almost always doomed to live someone else’s ideas of who we are and who we should be.
Are you ready to get to know yourself, to look into the corners of yourself that you’d rather avoid, and to become your own best friend? It all starts there.
- Find a time when you can be in silence for about 10 minutes.
- Get a piece of paper and a pen.
- Light a candle, and take some time to sit with these questions: What about myself most bothers me right now? What is something that I really wish I could change about myself?
- Write down whatever comes to you in response to those questions.
- Now here comes the radical part: Do nothing. Don’t try to come up with a plan to change this thing about yourself. If feelings of shame or humiliation arise, just notice them but don’t let your mind run with them. Simply take this piece of paper and put it in a special place in your home — maybe on your altar, if you have one. Release it to this place with love and maybe even gratitude. Know there is absolutely nothing you have to do about this right now. Or perhaps ever. You might even want to consider that whatever you’ve written about yourself may be a gift in disguise. Wouldn’t that be something?
If you want to dig more deeply into this, Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha by psychotherapist and meditation teacher Tara Brach is a wonderful book to spend some time with.
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