Tag Archives: how to know oneself

A New Year’s Contemplation-You may be Asking the Wrong Question

I have seen a trend lately-maybe you have seen it too-a need to categorize ourselves and reduce our brilliant complexities, annoying contradictions, and divine paradoxes to one noun, three verbs, a list of adjectives, a “type”, a “goal”, a “feeling” or a “skill”. These exercises are usually accompanied with various forms of mind mapping, frenzied list making, vision boarding, and the rest. No one appreciates a fun “what is your type” quiz more than I do and yes, knowing that according to Myers-Briggs I am an INFJ can and has been useful to me. Just as knowing that I have a specific set of goals, ways in which I want to feel, and values for myself (all derived through thoughtful systems created by people I like and respect) can also be useful.

However, do you observe-at the end of yet another mind map or vision board or archetype quiz that you feel a little empty, maybe even a little sad, and no closer to the real, shining truth of who you are?

The desire to categorize and put a name to the divine mess and beautiful labyrinth that is our unique and core being is ancient. I believe all of this work springs from the imperative to Know Thyself-inscribed above the Oracle at Delphi’s seat. In the case of the Oracle, one had to know oneself to both understand her often sphinx like pronouncements and also to apply them correctly to one’s life. (To see a tragic case of inappropriately applied knowledge please read Oedipus Rex by Sophocles). It is an ironic imperative because “know thyself” does not happen all in one go, once and for all, finally its over and I KNOW!

Instead, knowing ourselves is the work of a life time, a gradual unfolding, a process of rising, flourishing, decaying, dying back, and then waking up the next day to do it all again. Time, contemplation of one’s life and choices, and alignment of your will with your actions and thoughts are all time tested methods of coming to deeper self-knowledge.

For those of us who recognize a power that is greater and more absolute than our individual selves there is the acknowledgement that true self-knowledge must also come from conversation and consideration with that Great Spirit and the purpose to which our lives are tied. Does it feel strange to consider that you might have a divine and unique purpose right here and now? I know it can feel a bit off-but why else would there be a you? A completely unique person who has skills, abilities, vulnerabilities and weaknesses that no one else has in quite the same way? If you are spending time at my site sanctuary then you already feel this-most likely in your bones, your heart, and your mind-you know that you are both precious and purposed. I know people who are here to create beauty, to care for the defenseless, to impart wisdom, and bring families closer together through their personal dramas and foibles. I know teachers, visionaries, and mystics. I know writers, poets, and protectors-and no two of them are the same.

If you have found a system that helps you truly know yourself then rock on and good job. But if you feel that you have not gone as deep as you could have-it may be time to stop asking: Who am I? And start asking Why am I here? Why now? Why this unique combination that is so decisively me? To what end? These questions cannot be answered with a catchy list and they may well keep you up at night.

Truth often does that.