Know Thyself, an eagerness as fresh as a refined aphorism is a phrase in widespread acceptance by the time of Plato and Socrates. It is as relevant today as it has ever been since it could be suggested that without such knowledge of ourselves, we can never become part of a balanced, productive, and creative member of society.
Humanity itself is divided and torn apart by poverty, conflict, and fear, and these things are, in turn, powered by ignorance, prejudice, greed, and avarice. It sometimes seems that self-awareness and hence personal response and responsibility is overwhelmed by the louder and more urgent voices of the various factions within our society
Perhaps if we can acknowledge that “people” and “groups” can be stupid and self-serving, then we can also recognize that individuals can be smart and generous. Hence the notion that to change the world, we need to change ourselves since, in truth, we can only take responsibility for our thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors. So how can we get started as well as develop our introspective awareness? Here’s a five-step system you might like to consider.
1) Keep a journal.
Maintaining a personal, reflective journal helps you track your thoughts, actions, and experiences. Such a journal is more than a “Dear Diary” effort – much more.
Record not only events but your thoughts, feelings, and reactions to them. Make a note of spurious ideas that occur to you; note words and phrases that catch your attention.
Find ways to summaries the things in your journal. For example, when you review what you have written, ask yourself if there is a theme, a key idea, a repeating word or phrase; a color; a song, or a fragrance?
To start with, keeping day-by-day records like these may seem too much of a challenge when you start. To begin with, you could choose to note your reflections every two or three days.
What is essential is that perhaps once a month, you need to read what you have written during that month and then make some thoughtful comments about them as a whole.
This journal could also contain references to songs, poems, films and other things that ‘touched’ or ‘inspired’ you,
2) Engage in regular Mindfulness Practice
Mindfulness has grown a portion of a buzz-word in up-to-date years with lectures, courses, and parts remaining heard on the internet. You could, of direction, take one of those classes or access connected literature. However, in essence, ‘mindfulness’ is effortless – it is merely about ‘paying attention’ or ‘being present.’
In Mindfulness practice, the idea is to learn how to bring your attention and awareness to what is happening ‘within’ yourself.
You can start by paying attention to your breathing. Note the way the air passes through each of your nostrils, how it fills your lungs. Pay attention to what happens when you breathe – how does your body react to each in-breath and each out-breath?
From such simple beginnings, you can learn to move your attention to any part of your body. In Mindfulness terms, this is called a Body Scan.
Place your attention on your feet, calf’s, thighs, fingers, and so on in turn.
The more you practice, the more focused and specific this Body Scan can be.
Once you’ve explored the ‘body scan,’ learn to pay attention to your thoughts – the inner voice which can be motivating and de-motivating in equal measure.
Use your journal to record your thoughts, feelings, and experiences.
Regular practice means 25 – 40 minutes per day, but you can build-up to this. The critical thing is not to ‘beat-yourself’ up if you miss a planned session or if you set yourself over-ambitious targets initially. It is far better to start modestly and create a suitable time and space for you to engage in this work.
3) Reflect upon your values, attitudes, and beliefs
It is our core beliefs that shape our values and opinions, and these influence our behaviors.
Ask yourself about these core beliefs and how they define who and what you think you are.
Explore how your values, your attitudes to yourself, your nearest, and dearest, your friends, Nature, and The Cosmos are shaped by your beliefs.
Then reflect upon how you respond to situations in your life. Do your in-the-moment responses to challenges reflect your beliefs and values?
If you can answer ‘yes,’ then consider ‘how.’
If you reply ‘no,’ then repeat on the ‘what’ you could do separately.
Challenge yourself to examine all of your behaviors that you feel did not get you the results you desired and consider the motivations for these responses.
Again your reflective journal will become your note-book, your inspiration, and your guide.
4) Challenge Yourself
Challenge yourself to read about, consider, and reflect upon beliefs, attitudes, and values that are very different from your own. Try to explore other perspectives from trying to ‘understand’ if not necessarily agreeing or condoning.
Consider, for example, the notion that one person terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter. Such a consideration is not about excusing, but it is about shifting perspectives.
Reflect on your ability to do this. Is any resistance to such an exploration a symptom of your dogma, prejudice, ignorance? Is such a resistance to such an explanation a response to your emotional reaction, disgust, fear?
To reiterate, this is not about condoning behaviors, but it as about exploring your ability to examine them.
Be open to your creativity.
Explore how you are creative and how you can communicate your thoughts and feelings in ways other than conversation. Poetry, music, art, collages, vision-boards, doodles are all means by which you can explore your creative potential.
Remember that such creativity is not necessarily for public consumption, but self-expression.
Try using the artwork of others to inspire your creative juices.
Some choose to use some form of a symbolic deck of cards to enhance their reflections. Note what attracts you to a particular picture; what repels you; what excites you – again using your journal to note your considerations. The same process can be used for the poetry and music of others. This is a process through which you can start to understand some of those things which affect you; those things which trigger the emotions and motivate your behaviors. The path to knowing oneself is a path of reflection.
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