The Courage of Your Convictions
This story originally appeared in Philippine Panorama I think January or February 2011
My first blog post for 2011 comes with a streamed video of Desiderata and a link to “You Are A Child Of The Universe,” one of my previously-published timeless essays on inner peace and Zen churva. I wrote, “The greatest lesson I learned is self-acceptance. The greatest gift I received is peace of mind.”
It’s nice to be who I am: a young man with no hang-ups or insecurities. I love positive interactions, I attract the company of independent-minded people, and nobody intimidates me. I’m so bohemian there’s no malice in my life. Maybe that’s why back fighters hate me, hmmm. I don’t feel envy, which some thinks is a sign of being mental, instead I go the other way – I celebrate other people’s achievements through my blog.
I’m happy because I’m at peace with myself, with the world, with God – the same God whatever you conceive Him to be. I can go around the world and find countless folks who are better than me, let them choose their own standard, but there’s only one guy across the universe who’s me – and that’s me – and I’d rather be me than anybody else.
Thing is, I don’t relate to my fellowmen as being inferior nor superior, I think that’s a ridiculous idea anyway. You know the song The Greatest Love Of All? Of course you do! I could have written the lyrics: Learning to love yourself – cheesy!
One of the other reasons I’m happy is because I live a simple life, and one way of living simply is to take people as they are. I don’t try to change people, not anymore, I just let them be. It’s okay if they’re not what I want them to be, and it’s even better if they take me as I am, that’s it, this is me, thank you!
My personal principle is human relationships is so simple it’s almost kindergarten: If you talk to me, I’ll talk to you, regardless of who you are. If you face me like a decent human being, I’ll be more so, even if you’re a complete stranger, even if you have hurt me in the past, or even if the whole world thinks you’re an outcast. If you need somebody to share your pain, I’ll be there, and you’ll know that I’ll never break your trust, and no one will ever know your secrets.
I’m not always this way. I’ve had my share of, you know, heartaches, just like everybody else. Perhaps I’ll never understand why there are those who gossip, power-trip or are sipsip; and I find it sad that there are a lot of people who hate themselves, deep down, and they hide it by criticizing others so they can feel better. But my life changed when I read Your Erroneous Zones by Wayne Dyer and Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach. The first is out of print now, and the second has already been written about here.
I’m gonna share instead Melvin Kinder’sGoing Nowhere Fast: Step Off Life’s Treadmills and Find Peace Of Mind. I read over the holidays, a gift actually, and the insights refreshed me, validating that I’m on the right path, which if off the rat race if you can imagine that. “Take a leap of faith that enables you to believe your life can be different,” he says. “Know that you choose your life.” He adds, “Change happens when you surrender to its possibilities.”
We live, form personalities and define our identities, and somewhere along the way, we dream. We begin to aspire, to have visions of who we want to be, who we think we should be. Goals are good, perfectly natural, but we often forget that life is really about the journey. We don’t enjoy the Moment, we just upset ourselves with either the past or the future. That’s normal too, we’re only human, but that’s not the way to live. Happiness is within, that’s why “It seems the harder we try to achieve fulfillment, the more we are driven by the fear of not reaching those goals.”
Kinder had that epiphany, and that’s good news because he wrote this book, and we’re all learning from it. “What has happened to us?” he asked himself. “Have we all been conned, slowly and subtly, into self-loathing? Deluded into believing that seeking contentment is somehow less noble than the fierce determination to have it all?”
There’s a lot to be learned by going back to the basics, to get in touch again with the things that really matter in our life. Who we are right now is the Imperfect Self, and we run around like crazy to get the Perfect Self, the “repository of all our conscious goals.”
Everything’s clear so far. Now here comes the hurtful part: If we don’t like who we are, then the Imperfect Self can be the “source of constant and chronic apprehensions because we are pestered increasingly with infinite scenarios that illustrate the tense discrepancy between our Perfect and Imperfect Selves.”
It all begins and ends with accepting ourselves, learning to respect and appreciate who we really are, and only then can we go on from there. “Ironically, it is not only our initial vulnerabilities or insecurities that make us susceptible to getting on treadmills,” says Kinder. “By allowing our selective inattention to perform its self-protective role, we deny or forget what is good, ignoring the muted internal voices, and distrusting our capacity to cope. This is our Forgotten Self, the repository of valuable traits and accomplishments that are no longer part of our conscious identity.”
If you hate yourself, then you, say, became a celebrity, then you’d be a celebrity who, deep inside, hate yourself, now what? It’s hard to imagine a person who really believes he’s worthless. You have this good person inside you, believe it or not, and it’s not such a bad idea to get in touch with him, again or for the first time, because “Without a sense of individuality, we merely run faster on treadmills, or we become passive and dispirited. We have become so accustomed to always growing, striving and improving, that we have almost forgotten how to simply live.”
It’s quite simple if you think about it. All we need to do is to examine our deepest values, the best way to do this is in solitude, and we start to accept ourselves. Of course we need to have dreams, self-improvement being one of them, but we follow our dreams to enhance who we are inside, not to run away and hide in secret self-hate. “Attempts to move on in a satisfying way only work when you believe in a foundation, or plateau, of acceptance that supports you in the belief that you are enough right now. If you have done what you needed to do to reclaim yourself, you may take on new challenges, but for the right reasons,” says Kinder. “Make sure you are grounded in personal honesty and self-acceptance. Briefly glancing in the mirror won’t do the job; superficial actions only motivated by the anxiety and fear of never being okay.”
All this is about, this sounds really corny but here goes: the Real You. I just love this gem from poet e.e. cummings: “To be nobody-but-myself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else – means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight, and never stop fighting.”