self mastery

News flash: self-mastery is a big ol’ waste of time

As the new year approaches and resolutions start piling up, it’s easy and tempting to slide into “self-mastery mode”. You’re determined to do it right this time and beat your bad habits to a pulp — and that’s where all the problems start. The thing is, self-mastery is just not the smart way to do things.

In self-mastery mode, you have to constantly struggle to maintain your position as the strongest, the fastest and the smartest. You’re always fighting, and worse, your enemy is you. You’re beating on your brain and/or your body.

As long as self-mastery is your goal, you’ll never escape the power dynamic and never stop fighting with yourself.

The smart way to work on your stuff

If there’s a smart way to do it differently, it’s clearly going to have to be less violent and less exhausting. The truth is, you’re always going to have “stuff” because that’s just part of being alive. The smart way is to stop fighting with your stuff and instead let your stuff be your teacher.

First of all, notice when your stuff is coming up — in your practice, in your relationships, in line at the supermarket, etc. Notice how you interact with your stuff — if you ignore it, fight it or let it drag you down. Look and listen for patterns.

Paying attention to your patterns helps you figure out what your stuff is trying to tell you, without being impressed by it. Remind yourself that your patterns don’t define you and don’t say anything bad about who you are. They’re just the messenger.

Do it differently

When you drop the self-mastery paradigm, you let go of the never-ending power struggle. You can’t inadvertently commit violence against yourself. You interact with your stuff instead of trying to demolish it.

You learn from your fears and anxieties instead of fighting them. You release them instead of stomping on them. You forgo fighting for a life-long process of learning about who you are, how you work and how you interact with yourself and the world around you. You abandon the self-abuse mentality of “mastery” to work on self-knowledge, self-acceptance and, who knows, maybe even self-love.

You know that proverb you see on inspirational calendars about how the mind makes a terrible master and a wonderful servant? Well, it turns out that those aren’t your only options. The mind can also be a friend and partner who encourages and supports you in everything you do. Your self-work practice can help you make friends with your mind, if you commit to the idea of putting your energy towards releasing your patterns rather than conquering them.

It’s not about self-mastery, it’s about self-friendship.

When you’re befriending your mind instead of trying to whip it into shape, everything changes. In our next teleclass we’ll be talking more in detail about how to be in this process and make it work. For now I’m wondering …

What would your New Year’s resolutions look or sound like if they were compassion-oriented rather than goal-oriented?

If it were actually possible for you to motivate yourself through encouragement rather than blame and self-criticism … what would your life be like then?

And are these thoughts exciting? Terrifying? Liberating? Panic-inducing? Scary stuff, being nice to yourself. I know. Take it in baby steps.