Shambhala Life Skills: Self-Study
Originally the word "health" meant "whole" or "undivided." However, today the word "health" has come to mean something quite different. Today, it is more likely to mean free from illness or able to pursue your daily activities.
Shambhala Black Belt Life-Skills bring us back to the original meaning of the word "health" by recognizing the interconnectedness of the mind, the body and the spirit. Shambhala Black Belt Life-Skills unify and strengthen the bond between the mind and the body, resulting in a powerful spirit that becomes your guiding Life-force.
Shambhala Black Belt Life-Skill Number One Self-Study
From a Shambhala LIFE-SKILLS perspective "Integrity" means to become reunited with your original wholeness and with Nature's Intent. With this kind of Integrity you honor evolutionary excellence. Self-Study is the first of twelve Shambhala Black Belt Life-Skills that will enable you to regain your original Integrity.
You are a captive in an age of transition. Never before have individuals been required to continually reevaluate the values, traditions, morals and belief systems of your grandparents, parents, and even your older siblings. You live in an age of revolution and change.
You are having to evaluate for yourself everything from whether or not you will eat processed food to the wisdom and personal benefits of marriage and procreation. You are continually having to assess the limitless alternatives available. And you are being forced to make these evaluations and choices with little or no knowledge about how to make high Integrity, life-enriching decisions.
Why are you so ill prepared to make Life-enriching decisions? Life-enriching decisions are strictly personal. They cannot be made by the society as a whole. The group can make choices that effect the many. But every, personal, Life-enriching decision has to be tailor made - - alone - - by each individual after he or she has thoroughly assessed his or her own highly unique personal history and self. Unfortunately, this kind of uniquely personal decision-making requires many skills. Skills you do not learn in school or through everyday living.
To further complicate your dilemma, you are held captive by cultural lag. Cultural lag is the tendency for each society to encourage each new generations to remain loyal to the values and behavioral patterns that previously served its elders. Hundreds of years ago, when life styles changed little from generation to generation, cultural lag served people and their communities. It gifted each new generation with time tested ways of living. But, in this present age of transition, cultural lag can be as much of a hindrance as a helpmate. Because of it you expect yourself and others to conform to and esteem the values, ideals and behaviors that may no longer be relevant to present generations.
In this age of transition the Shambhala Life-Skill of SELF-STUDY is crucial to you being able to select the life alternatives which will ensure your Integrity and enrich your quality of Life. Towards this end there are several essentials you need to know about your own uniqueness (physicality, emotions, mindsets, personal history, needs, styles and roles) that will allow you to decide for yourself which of life's many alternatives will enrich or detract from your Integrity.
One of the essentials you need to know about in order to make high Integrity decisions is you own physicality. If you do not have a clear sense of your own physicality, you have no hope of knowing the needs, limitations, and capacities of your own body. All the moment to moment decisions you make regarding eating, exercising, sleeping, working and playing will be made with more Integrity when you are knowledgeable about your own physicality. If you know your own physicality you do not have to turn to "experts" to find out what foods you need to eat and how much. If you know your own physicality you do not need to rely on the advice of others about how much exercise you need.
Second only to knowing your physicality, it is important that you become aware of your attitudes/values/expectations/perceptions in order to make high Integrity, life-enriching decisions. Your attitudes/values/expectations/perceptions or what can be referred to as your "mind sets" are the foundations of your personality. Your mind sets also lay the foundation for your emotionality. The expectation that an upcoming event is going to be stressful can take more of an emotional toll on you than actually experiencing the event. You often spend a great deal of time "watching terrifying movies" in your head and mind spinning over all the negative possibilities that might occur. Such mental gymnastics emotionally drain you of your natural vitality for Life. Consequently, it becomes important for you to understand the mind sets which underlie your personality.
Your emotions, more than your conscious decision making, direct your behavior. Even if you who like to think of yourself as unusually objective, you still behave as your emotions determine.
You cannot become the conscious director of your own behavior if you do not develop an understanding of 1) your emotional investment in the various facets of your life and 2) the ways in which these emotional investments color your "objective" decision making.
Emotions you are aware of can be explored, talked through and coped with in ways that will give you conscious control over your behavior and the ability to ensure your Integrity.
Your culture has taught you that many emotions (i.e., anger, hurt, excitement, loneliness) are not qualities exhibited by the "successful" or “powerful” person. It is often viewed as impolite and/or weak to let such emotions be publicly known. Unfortunately, it is all too short a jump from what you publicly hide to what you internally deny to yourself.
An emotion you deny to yourself continues to secretly direct your behavior. Consequently, in order to understand your behavior and direct it in ways that ensure Integrity, you need to become knowledgeable of your emotions. They influence your thoughts and behavior, whether or not you choose to be aware of them.
You may assume you have some conscious understanding of your own needs. Unfortunately, this is typically not the case. You who pride yourselves on being aware of the needs directing your lives are often unaware that most of these needs have nothing to do with your own conscious choices. Most of your wants and desires do not emerge from within you, but instead, they have been applied to you through your culture.
Even your needs for love, security, achievement, recognition and affiliation are not necessarily congruent with your need for Integrity. The only way you can know whether or not the needs which direct your behavior ensure your Integrity is to develop a keen awareness of these needs and the ways in which they add or detract from the quality of your Life.
STYLES AND ROLES
Other behaviors you unknowingly participate in are styles and roles. You adopt different styles and roles when you are out in the world versus when you are at home. You are a dozen different characters depending upon the cues you receive and the success you have had in the past with various roles.
There is nothing inherently wrong with adopting roles and styles which seem to be appropriate in different situations, as long as you are aware of these various styles and roles you are using. If, however, you remain unaware, then you are participating in your own demise. If you are not aware that your responses to situations have more to do with the roles and styles you use rather than with your Integrity, you may never know that you can choose different styles and roles which may be more life-enriching.
As important as SELF-STUDY is, it is more important to recognize that getting to know yourself is the first step in getting to like yourself. Consequently, it is self-defeating to approach this or any other Shambhala Life-Skill as work. More important than the learning about yourself is the joy and delight you get through the learning. The process is more important than the product.
To make the experience of knowing yourself distasteful work is to jeopardize your ability to take charge of your Integrity and enrich your quality of Life. To make SELF-STUDY laborious also places at risk your patience and compassion for others.
Patience, compassion and cooperation with others is fostered when you study yourself and develop a deep understanding of the roots of your own fears, vulnerability, shame, insecurities, embarrassment, anger, defiance and pain. But if you make SELF-STUDY a tedious task, you will soon tire of it and you will cease to pursue self-knowledge. You will never know yourself and the roots of your emotions and behaviors. You will not develop the patience or the compassion for yourself that you so deserve. You will never acquire the patience and the compassion for others that makes cooperation possible. You will not be able to create quality relationships with others no matter how much you may love them.
If you make SELF-STUDY tiresome work and jeopardize your ability to compassionately know yourself and others, you will not be able to promote cooperation in your family, the workplace, community, the nation or the world. You will not be able to honor your Integrity and Nature's Intent.
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