The importance of self-knowledge
If you don’t like where you are and you want to go somewhere else you have to know the pitfalls of your inner resistance.
It was still early in the morning, the sun had not yet risen when I trudged around in a clearing and searched frantically for a cell phone reception.
I was actually planning to climb Adams Peak, the highest mountain in Sri Lanka, but somehow I had lost my way. I was beside myself. How could that have happened? My plan was to have climbed the top of the mountain at sunrise which of course became impossible.
The trekking area was full of small temples that asked passing hikers for donations, in return a small ‘sacred’ string was tied around the wrist.
I saw such a small temple in the distance and decided to stay there until the morning sun would rise because I couldn’t see a bit in the dark.
The little monk who was sitting at the guest reception saw the frustration on my face and immediately asked for the reason.
I’ve lost my way. I wanted to go to Adams Peak and now I can’t make it in time for sunrise.
Then why so depressed? Don’t you like the other surroundings here?
That is not what I wanted.
Plans change. You are only so frustrated because your plan has changed and you are resisting it.
Of course I’m frustrated — I’ve lost a day.
The monk shook his head laughing:
You have lost nothing. You’re just too blind because of your resistance to see that what you found instead might be much better than your plan.
Maybe he was right. In fact, I hadn’t noticed anything around me for a second just because I was so angry. I eyed him. He looked so lighthearted. As if nothing could upset him. So I asked him:
Are you free of resistance? you look so peaceful.
Oh dear friend, of course not. To be at peace with yourself does’t mean that you are suddenly happy and without worries and resistance. Pain, guilt, grief, fear, inner conflicts — all feelings will not suddenly vanish into thin air. See, life is not about achieving not having any feelings. The good, the bad, they make our life intense. But the art is to feel it and still act for your highest good. To step into the scary fire and watch how only what you don’t need burns. But you need courage for that.
But why is it so difficult for people? Why do so many stay in their comfort zone and don’t dare to step into the fire?
Because the human brain tends to avoid what it doesn’t know. Change means it cannot operate in familiar space which is then assessed as potential danger. But this is a trap. The only thing in the world that is permanent is change.
So this inner resistance keeps us falling back into our unhealthy habits and is keeping us in the same place. Resistance to change is one of our greatest enemies. To be able to cope with this enemy requires a lot of discipline first, because we have to learn to act despite of this inner reluctance to change if we don’t want to drown in our counterproductive behaviour.
And how can we learn that?
I am glad that you’re asking the right questions. See, it is like baking a cake. All ingredients are in front of you. I assume almost everyone would have the ability to bake it, but the right skills to turn the individual ingredients into an appreciative cake have to be cultivated.
But as I said before, the brain is lazy. It does not want to go new ways as old ways are more energy efficient.
That means learning new skills unfortunately doesn’t come naturally to us. If you are not able to see that pitfall and to develop a strong will to act anyway, you fail to grow. That is the reason why self-study is so important — you need to recognise the difference between what your brain wants and what YOU want.
If it is like that — why are there so many people who refuse to study the self?
Because many of them think they are going crazy. They don’t understand what is happening inside. But the truth is: nobody really does. Our inner world is not controllable and the less we care about it, the more confusing it seems to be. When we turn away from our inner demons and distract ourselves with drugs, alcohol, TV or other instruments, these inner conflicts become really unpleasant. We push away what should be our ally. Only if we understand that this inner madness is an inevitably part of being human we start to be more sensitive and unbiased with ourselves.
..and we stop blaming our discomfort on other circumstances. I put my bad mood on the fact that I could not keep my plan. It was really just my head that could not perceive that it does not necessarily have to be this mountain today and that the conversation with you could turn out to be much more important.
Exactly. Taking responsibility for your own behavior is an amazing step forward.
And now I wish you a great hike in the vastness of the unknown mountains around you.