The art of knowing oneself

I hope you enjoy listening to this song while reading the post.

Knowing oneself

“How well do we know ourselves?” This question arises in me when I meet people in different settings. The same inquiry also reminds me of the words of wisdom from the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu

“Conquering others makes you strong; conquering yourself makes you mighty.” 

The idea for this post came about some weeks back while speaking with a colleague. We often have good conversations. During lunch hour, the tone is soft and relaxed. We often touch the depths of life. In those conversations, we listen carefully to each other and exchange experiences. That day we touched on our weekend plans. I told him I might attend a workshop with Krishna Das. It is a topic that I am passionate about. “Who we are as people and how we express our true nature.”

– Most people think that such workshops are for learning to sing, but it is actually to free our voice, open a space within, express one’s true nature and bring it out into the world, I explained.

My colleague, who was listening carefully, replied as follows:

– If I were to spend my time on this, I would never have time to do anything else. I would be completely self-absorbed. 

Isn’t an essential part of life?

Isn’t getting to know yourself an essential part of life? I wondered and replied: 

– People often say they know themselves, but do they? The old programs, like socialization and life events, shape and drive us on autopilot. For me, knowing oneself is about realizing all we have within—our bright and dark sides. Once we know and accept those sides, we can peel away the learned layers and approach one’s essence. Free from the autopilot.

His facial expression spoke volumes, and I had to take it in. We are all on different journeys, even living under the same sky. And only some see the value in getting to know themselves. I probably wouldn’t have chosen the art of knowing myself if life had not forced me to. The pain that permeated my life and relationships has been my motivating factor. While writing this post, I remembered a visit to the doctor. I was in my early 20s.

– You have anxiety, she had concluded.

Anxiety?! I responded, surprised. She had hit something. Something that was running my show even though I was unaware of it. I dismissed her statement and continued on the same old track.

Getting there after hitting rock bottom

Had I met what she said with more curiosity, I might have spared myself years of painful experiences, but I was not ready then. Maybe resistance is part of the process? We cling to what we know because it feels safer, even suffering. I know one thing for sure: no transition will ever happen if the person does not want to change. And I, at that time, was too proud. “I do not suffer from anxiety. ” I replied. How can she say something like that? She doesn’t know me, thinking I knew myself. It took me many years to realize she was right, and I got there after hitting rock bottom.  That’s when I turned my gaze inward. I had reached the point of no return and had to face the truth. My strategy was not working. Of course, pointing the finger outward and blaming others for my feelings was much easier, but that attitude had not helped. I was in a loop.

Duality of life

After being through a transformation process in my personal life (which often makes me feel like I have lived many lives in this one,) and many years of working with people in vulnerable situations, I have concluded that simply speaking, our experiences often evoke three categories of feelings:

We like what we experience.
We don’t like what we experience.
We are indifferent to what we experience.

I have also learned that being honest with oneself and surroundings is a lifelong process. It requires courage and boldness to unmask all the spectrums of our painful emotions like grief, anger, aggression, jealousy and see them naked.  First we have to see them, acknowledge them, then we can start grinding the stone to reveal the gem well hidden within. Peeling off the learned layers enables us to move deeper into ourselves. It is the first step towards ridding ourselves of our autopilot reactions and living more authentically. By channeling the power in our emotions for other purposes like creativity, for instance.  Just think of writers, poets, filmmakers, screenwriters, or musicians. Where do they get their inspiration, and how does their creation appeal to us? Do you agree that the ocean of our emotions can be used in so many ways?

Freeing ourselves

Freeing ourselves from ourselves is certainly not an easy task.  It is like a muscle we need to exercise consciously in every moment of life. By learning to know ourselves and shedding light on our shadows, we can gradually recognise the face of duality, and it makes life more enjoyable than being stuck in the old programming.

Life on earth is for sure a dance of duality–a personal and impersonal process.  If there is something we humans have in common is that we all have a psyche and that we all go through challenges from time to time. Our problems are a part of our unique, intimate journey, but they are also impersonal because we all face challenges. It is part of being alive and in this life as a human being on earth.   Knowing oneself is, to me, the key to the path of spirituality or on the ladder of awareness. And through awareness, we learn to raise our consciousness. While we are on this topic, I recommend the book The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz if you have yet to read it. What are your thoughts on the art of knowing oneself? I would love to hear them.

You are also welcome to visit my personal blog. 

23 thoughts on “The art of knowing oneself

  1. You created a question for me: What if you never learned not to trust your instinct such that who you are is the result of the instinct making all the decisions by which you have traversed your path? And, you only learn this in old age, after you have done a whole lot of shit that didn’t turn out badly, maybe even well. Perhaps, you have a good auto pilot and you leave it alone?

    1. By the sound of it, you are content with your journey and how everything has turned out well despite the s* doings.
      Then everything is fine, no?

      It is for the first time in our human history, that we now have the capacity and room for exploring our inner landscape.
      Such has not been the case before, so it is quite a new topic in many ways, or what are your thoughts on it?

      And thank you Dave for raising that question and bringing that up. I guess it is all a mystery, being alive and in This life. And we all have different strategies for dealing with it. Sometimes consciously and other times unconsciously.

  2. “No transition will ever happen if a person does not want to change.” It’s the pain of human suffering that brings about the willingness to want to change. Without that, none of us would ever get around to do the arduous work of self-transformation. We’d all just be floating around in la la land wondering why we’re constantly confronted with some for of discomfort or other. It’s a mighty rough road, but the destination is worth the effort! And yes—it absolute takes courage and boldness! Whadda ride, huh?

    1. For sure what a ride, and we are all in the same boat.
      Riding or paddling through some muddy earth or water from time to time.
      I sometimes have this funny image in my head.
      That the great mystery ( as they call God in South America) must have had a lot of fun creating us in our full complexity and placing us here on Earth.
      Maybe even saying, “Mohaha, now I have given you everything, also a part of myself, the godliness. Go on and figure out the way out of your own created labyrinth of thoughts and emotions.”

      Thank you for reading and commenting by the way.

  3. Exploring oneself could be scary because by going deeper within, you might find darkness and chaos. But I think that once you know the deeper you, you can start rising up and make a change. Thank you for the beautiful post Parisa!

    1. Indeed! The more we learn to know the deeper parts of ourselves, the easier it gets to create a change.
      And that again makes us being aware of our choices, decisions and reactions. Thank you for reading the post and sharing your thoughts.

  4. “Freeing ourselves from ourselves is certainly not an easy task. It is like a muscle we need to exercise consciously in every moment of life.”

    I love this. So true! The journey inwards is best handled in little doses in the beginning, because it can be quite scary until we see the things we fear are not as big as we first thought.

    1. In small doses and step-by-step, we learn to see that change is an essential part of life and after a while, we learn to observe that our mind tends to exaggerate everything. Thank you for reading the post Tamara, and I appreciate your comment.

    1. Then Who are we?!
      Well, as humans or individuals?!
      To me, both, are big questions.
      And who are freeing ourselves from?

      Our programing, all learned stuff, experiences etc
      All the layers that form us as persons and is our filter to the world and how we perceive it.
      We all have some archetypes that are running our show, no? Freeing ourselves from those archetypes within us. To put it simply.

  5. I love this “It is the first step towards ridding ourselves of our autopilot reactions and living more authentically. ” I agree that there is so much to be gained from living authentically. Thank you, Parisa!

    1. Imagine how the world would be then! Thank you for your comment Wynne🙏🍀

  6. It’s impossible to define yourself. We have a tendency to only share positive things and ignore or exclude the negative. Our behaviour is responded by the people around us. Their response is indicative of the behaviours we display, if positive then we repeat the behaviour, negative behaviour isn’t necessarily never repeated but we display aggressive behaviour say for no apparent reason and we have negative responses from our peers who have been effected by this. So other people form the behaviour we display. However, think about it as looking in a mirror and your reflection is distorted. You’re not looking at you but a distorted image of your own self. You can also use your mind to help yourself and others understand. A true mind isn’t one that acts perversely or tries to be unique in its own perspective, nor does a mind act in accordance to what society dictates us to do. A sincere mind acts as to its surroundings and offers others not security but liberty

    1. There you nailed it. And for sure it is a mirroring and later an unlearning process. Thanks a lot for this detailed sharing 🌺🍀and for reading the post

      1. You’re welcome. I’ve been on, and failed miserably on a few dating websites recently. My personality is a disorder so I wasn’t expecting much. However my bio is a pretty much perfect example of modern day dating;

        Seeking hostile woman for unfulfilling sex, future divorce and Co-dependency.
        Looking preferably for a whiny, moaning, crazy lass with a misplaced sense of entitlement and expectation. Bonus points if you have already slept with every lad within a 5 mile radius, it’s understandable that you want to take it slow with me.
        I would be open to an utterly empty and unsatisfying fling, but I’m holding out for that long-term soul snatcher who will drive me into a diet of opioids and alcohol!

      2. Yes, there are many fall opportunities in the modern dating world, but it sounds like you are aware of what you want, and what the reality out there is.

        Anyways, thanks for sharing and good luck with your dating if you continue with it.

      3. It’s a satirical statement about dating today. Personally I believe that you meet with a person and everything is effortless and you know why it never worked with anyone else

      4. Yes, I am hoping for the same. Meeting the right Mr and everything evolves in smooth jazz.

    1. Yes, it is so true. The pandemic was a powerful force in that direction. Thank you for bringing that up!

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