The idea of spending time alone without anything or anyone to distract or occupy you might be quite a foreign concept. It was Socrates who taught that ‘the unexamined life is not worth living’. The Latin phrase is ‘know thyself’.
Whilst I’m all for men’s groups, it’s gotta be balanced with self-work. Too much of one or the other, or not enough, can also have its dilemmas.
After my divorce in 2011, I had a lot of time to ‘examine’ myself. In fact, as difficult as that period was for me, I look back on it now as a huge awakening. In the years leading up to that time, I was surviving, just keeping my head above water. But I wasn’t really living.
In the run up to 2011, my heart was broken, my head was full of confusion, and my life force had all but depleted. In fact, it was a friend who said to me mid-2011, following separation and all the turmoil that went it, that I had woken up. She was right.
In the years since then, I’m learning the value of the examined life. I’m learning to wake up. I’m learning the art of being still. And I stress, learning because I’m still not great at it.
Have you ever just sat with yourself, with your own thoughts, not analyzing, just noticing?
Have you ever stopped and/or paused for a few moments, to notice your own breath, the rise, and fall of your chest, your own beating heart?
Have you ever just paused in a day, found a quiet place and listened to you, your inner rumblings, your energy, your emotions, and felt the frequencies that vibrate throughout your body all day long?
Have you ever gotten quiet enough to notice what is going on within you, and not tried to escape, run, cover up, or distract?
Have you ever felt your thoughts, and then let them go again?
Have you ever stopped to give yourself some time, some love, some focus, before you seek it from others?
Have you ever …?
The experience of being with yourself, not running, distracting, resisting or rejecting, can be a powerful thing indeed. But why is it important and why should we do it?
My first exposure to self-development was around 1997, with Steven Covey’s book ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’. In fact, I even used the book ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens’, to run a small group of 16-17 year olds I was working with at the time.
One of Covey’s main principles is ‘seek first to understand, then to be understood. It’s an outward facing practice. But I’d like to turn that principle inward on itself because I believe the person we first need to understand, is ourselves.
Here’s how I’d rephrase that habit. First seek to get clarity on your own stuff, before you try and get clarity on others. The first person you should seek to understand is indeed, yourself.
If you have little to no understanding of you, why you do what you do, or how to improve anything about yourself, I gotta tell you, you’re pretty much screwed, especially when it comes to relationships.
How much understanding do you have when it comes to why do you think the things you do, why you feel the way you do, and why you act the way you do?
Many men don’t know how to do this, and some might even feel it’s just not what a man does. Whilst I don’t like to generalize, the realm of self-understanding and being in touch with what’s going on inside of you, at least in modern day culture, has largely been the realm of women.
However, I do believe this is changing. So Socrates would be happy. Though we are only beginning to scratch the surface.
Every day I wake up, I try to at least spend a few minutes alone. I don’t always achieve it. Some days are spent jumping out of bed, rushing around, slamming down some food, largely because I’m not organized, running to a train, and slipping into the ‘rat race’ of society for the day. I hate it when that happens, but it’s happening less and less.
Creating the type of life you want, has to start with creating the type of person you want to be. And to do that, you must first examine your life.
By examine, I don’t mean going over things in your head a million times, trying to work shit out. I just mean, slow down, breathe, notice, be thankful, and be conscious and deliberate about creating your life.
Learning how to do this takes practice. Getting up 15 minutes earlier, going outside, sitting down in a quiet place, and just noticing what you can see, hear and feel is a start.
You might think it’s pointless. Your brain might start telling you you’re even wasting time. You’ll probably start to think about all the things that need to get done that day, work, kids, car, money, whatever. But in fact, starting the day doing ‘nothing’, IS the whole point. Because that is where the creative process begins.
Who you are and who you think you are, can be worlds apart. For example, if you think you are a certain type of person, let’s say an extrovert or an introvert, chances are you’re going to behave that way. If you think you are a person who doesn’t spend time alone, chances are, you’re not going to. If you think you are the type of man who doesn’t do relationships very well, chances are you’re going to act that out.
Are you the type of person you think you are, or have been told by everyone else around you, or are you you’re true authentic self. How would you actually know?
Spend some time alone, ask your higher self to reveal to you, who you are, then listen. Is the man on the inside, reflected in your life on the outside, or is their discrepancy. When you can begin to bring the outside man, into alignment with the inside man, that’s when you start to move into your own power and sense of true self. But to do that, you first gotta know yourself.
The examined life IS worth living.
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