Who am I?
Why am I here?
What is my passion?
What is the meaning of (my) life?
What am I supposed to do in this world?
We go through life asking at least one of these questions, at least once in our life, if not every day. If you are going through your life not knowing answers to these questions - that’s OK. You’re not alone and it’s perfectly normal. Also, it’s not your fault. It’s not like there’s a subject such as Maths and History at school, that teaches you a formula or a system that will help you get there.
It’s not only that we don’t know answers to these questions.
We also don’t know how to start getting answers to these questions.
It’s a pity because these are fundamental questions that many of us as human beings question.
There’s no shortcut to knowing yourself. Self-knowledge is probably the most useful knowledge you’ll ever attain in your lifetime. Nobody is going to hand you the answer. You need to figure it out on your own. Like any knowledge you wish to attain, like anything you want to learn, it will take time and effort.
We spend years in school to be educated, and learn many subjects.
We spend time with friends to understand them better, and go on dates with someone that may (or may not) be a potential partner in the future.
Self-knowledge is probably the only knowledge that truly matters in this one life we get, in order to lead a truly meaningful life that is coherent with who you were born to be - your true essence. So I encourage you today to dedicate time and effort into getting to know yourself - and this will be an on-going process for lifetime, but it will be worth it!
Here are 7 simple steps that you can apply starting today:
1. Admit that you’re a fool.
Admit that you know nothing (or almost nothing) about yourself - humbleness can take you far - so go from there. When you are arrogant, you miss out on learnings that otherwise would happen if you took a child-like attitude - you approach everything as if they are all new and you’re willing to soak everything up. Decide for yourself, what is more important - caressing your ego that says, you know it all, or the humble attitude that admits that you may not know so much. It is when you take the beginner’s attitude, you begin to listen, you begin to see things that you didn’t notice before, you begin to approach things in new light, and you begin to learn.
It is important to forget about what you thought you already knew about yourself, and get ready to discover.
2. Pay attention to yourself.
Treat yourself as someone that needs your time and energy. Pay attention to yourself - your thoughts, behaviors, attitude, and feelings. When you were a kid, and if you were lucky enough, your parents did that for you. They paid attention to you - gave you food if you seemed hungry, changed your diaper if you cried because your nappy was feeling moist and uncomfortable, put you to sleep when you had trouble falling asleep. Plus, when you’re taking a role as not only the “actor” but also an “observer”, you naturally step away from the emotions you are feeling and behaviors you are putting out, and become a third party outsider - an outsider to your own emotions and actions. This naturally generates space for you to reflect on yourself, and get to know you as another being, just like how you get to know other people more and more as you hang out with them more and more. This leads me to my next point.
3. Hang out with yourself.
Many of us have been brought up in the world where we learned to constantly perform, create, and do more. In this world, we feel that we need to out-do others, constantly DO something, prove our worth, feel popular, get busy, or at least appear busy. If we’re not busy doing things, we’re busy on our phones. We're so busy producing results or spending time on our devices, we completely forget to allocate time to hang out with ourselves.
We go out on dates to get to know someone we like. We connect on social media to sneak a peek on others’ lives. But it is very common that we forget to set aside some time to spend it with ourselves - and take a good look at our reality and life.
We schedule meetings, dates, play dates, dinners, brunches to spend time with others, but we don’t do that to get to know the one person, that we ought to know the best: the self.
Rainy day? Date got cancelled? Home alone all by yourself?
Don’t worry. These are the perfect opportunities to hang out with yourself.
Go a step further and schedule it in your calendar - every week or month - to spend time just with yourself. This means, no kids, no partners, no friends, no phone or TV. Just YOU. Maybe take a hot bath or go for a walk. Maybe sit in a cafe with a notebook and a pen. Whatever it is that you and yourself like to do, do that. Disconnect to connect with yourself.
4. Speak to yourself.
And how do you do that, without looking like a crazy person roaming around talking to the air, or having all your family members or roommates hear your personal thoughts and concerns? - Write it down. Journal.
The process of thinking out loud is very different from internalizing your thoughts (just thinking it). When you verbalize your thoughts and ideas on paper, it gets clearer, and it helps you focus solely on that one thought that you are writing down at the moment, whereas when you are just thinking it in your head, it can bring out many other thoughts at the same time, which is distracting.
You will see your thoughts roll out on paper in front of you, you will be able to articulate your thoughts much more clearly because you will be able to not only express, but also observe at the same time. You take the role of a speaker, as well as the listener. If your thoughts are crazy, as you express them, your observer (yourself) would recognize it much quicker than if it were merely internalized thoughts. In our thoughts, we tend to think we’re right more times than we actually may be. Write it down. You'll naturally become a better judge of your own thoughts.
5. Be in nature.
Our mother nature can teach us a lot - about life and also about us.
Maybe that's why we call it our "mother" nature :)
Nature is never in the past or the present. It is always in the present, whatever form it is taking at the moment. Whether it be the result of the past or the cause of the future is not its concern. It just is.
It takes no judgement on its own state whether it is good or bad, superior or inferior, better or worse. It just is. It is content with the present state.
And it is ever changing. It teaches us to accept who we are as we really are right in this moment. And it teaches us to keep growing, evolving, and to accept the changes and our own limitations.
Also you will realize that you are, in fact, part of this amazing nature. You are part of this amazement that we call nature. You are part of this ever-changing but present universe. You will not only know it in your head, but you will feel it in your heart - that you play a part in this ecosystem, just like the trees, grass, birds, and squirrels. You will know why we call it the “mother” nature. You will know where you came from, and where you are going. Everything's connected. Even you.
Just 20 minutes of walking outside where you can feel contact with nature reduces your cortisol and other stress hormone levels significantly. So get out there! Look around you.
6. Question your motives.
Why? Why? Why? Ask yourself the why questions in everything that you do. Why am I studying this subject? Why is this my hobby? Why have I done this in this particular way for so long? Why have I not explored another way? Why do I love this person? Why do I hate my boss? Why do I reach out for chocolate, when there is an apple sitting on the counter? Why do I spend time with this group of friends? Why do I work here? Why do I not want to work here? Why am I living in this city or town? Why do I have 2 children? Why do I not have any children? Why am I married? Why did I buy this stool? Why do I like to play basketball? Why am I here? Why?
In questioning your motives on things that seemed trivial and normal, you will learn a lot about how you make decisions and what drives you to do certain things - that can teach you a lot about yourself. And don't judge yourself. Just learn and observe. Be honest with your answers. Then make sure that in the future, your motives are purer and better aligned with your heart's content.
This is probably self explanatory, and even cliche, but here we go.
This one is way too important not to deserve its own bullet point. There are many techniques to meditate effectively. We use something called “Nada”. Yes, it sounds very much like the word “nothing” in Spanish. In Yoga, this is a constant sound in and around your head that is there all the time. The sound you hear when you are super tired the morning after a huge party.
In our Yoga Philosophy for Self Mastery course, we study Nada and how to incorporate it into our meditation, along with other techniques like Pranayama.
Meditation is the ultimate tool that, if you learn it and can apply it properly, will help you be aware of your thoughts, your physical and mental state, and your being.
With meditation, you intentionally create the space for clarity to develop.
When windows have not been cleaned for a while, you can’t see through it so clearly. All the dust, smudge, (and maybe even stickers and writings) accumulate and obstruct our view. Same thing happens to our brain. When it’s constantly thinking, accumulating thoughts, opinions, worries and concerns, we obstruct the view to clearly see ourselves. Meditation helps clear these thoughts so that we can see things as they are, see ourselves as we are, feel as we feel, and see the truth of it all, including the self.
Getting to know yourself won't always be an easy process - it may be a bumpy ride. Sometimes you may not like what you find out.
But I can promise you that by putting in the effort and time, you will be rewarded one way or another.
Your life, what you do, your values, and your true essence - who you really are - will have total integrity. You will live the life that you were meant to be living, and you will become everything that you were created to be.
So keep searching. Keep digging. Keep smiling. Keep living. BE you!