I get a lot of email. Usually on the order of 300 or so messages per day. And most of it is not spam.
Inside of every message is a little “surprise” for me. It might be a good message, perhaps informing me of some positive development in my world. Or it might be a negative message conveying some sort of bad news. And then there are the FYI messages – information that someone thinks I should know about.
I don’t know what kind of message it will be until I open it. Which is one of the aspects that makes email so potentially addictive.
While reading email, our emotions get taken for a ride. If it’s a good message, we might smile or breath a sigh of relief. And if it’s a bad email, we might get angry or sad or fearful – depending on the contents and implication of the message.
But where does the concept of “goodness” or “badness” come from? If fact, the closer we look, the more we realize that the message is inherently neutral – neither good nor bad.
That phrase, know thyself, has been around for thousands of years. It is one of the maxims thought to have been given by the Oracle at Delphi. And Plato used this saying quite a bit in his dialogues of Socrates.
That maxim is truly the gateway to happiness.
And yet so few people really understand its meaning.
Knowing oneself has nothing to do with looking in a mirror or understanding why we react in certain ways at various times. Nor does it have to do with digging into the root of our preferences, biases, and prejudices. And it certainly has nothing to do with our upbringing, childhood experiences, or even any past lives that might be elicited in therapy sessions.
Know thyself means one thing, and it is this: identifying with who we really are.
Where do thoughts come from? Do they just arise in our head – the natural consequence of what’s going on in the world?
Have you ever tried to watch your thoughts?
We all seem to experience an endless stream of questions (how am i going to make enough money to pay the bills, what resolutions should I make for the year, what should i wear today, what am i going to eat for lunch, …).
Or judgments (next week’s meeting isn’t going to be fun, my head hurts, this person doesn’t like me, that other person is a jerk, it looks cold outside, …).
And all too often, fears (what if the lab result comes back this way, what will happen if i lose my job, this bad thing might happen to me or my loved ones, …)
When we were young, my brother carried around his blanket everywhere we went. It wasn’t really a blanket, it was a satin pillowcase. But you would never see my brother separated from his “blankie”.
In fact, even when it was hopelessly frayed and holes throughout, blankie traveled everywhere we went.
And if it temporarily got misplaced (such as when my mom washed it), my brother would cry until his blanket was safely returned.
As adults, we would never get so attached to any of our possessions. Would we?
Of course we do.
One evening an elder Cherokee chief shared an important lesson with his grandson. “Inside of everyone is two wolves,” the old chief began. “One of them is Fear. He carries anger, envy, regret, resentment, worry, inferiority, false pride, and judgment.”
“The other wolf is Love. He represents compassion, joy, serenity, kindness, and hope.”
The man continued, “There is an ongoing battle between these two wolves. Each one is vying for your attention, but only one of them can win.”
The young boy thought about this predicament and timidly asked his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”