Uncovering Intimacy with Oneself

“Ninety percent of the world’s woe comes from people not knowing themselves, their frailties, and even their real virtues.  Most of us go almost all the way through life as complete strangers to ourselves.”  – Sydney J. Harris

Unconditional, fearless intimacy with oneself is what Sydney Harris is talking about.  Genuine self-confidence and compassion are the lenses through which to look at our past- the road we took to our present.  The point of revisiting our past is not to create an inventory of our peccadilloes or virtues.  It is simply to observe, without judgement, what our patterns have been, remembering that success and failure are both part of our journey.  With compassion lighting our way, there is less of a chance of the rude ego barging into the process with justification, self-defense, rationalization, and its other well-rehearsed rackets.  With healthy self-compassion and confidence in our basic decency, a sense of humor enters the equation on our journey to friendship with the self.

Most of us would not characterize our evolutionary process as being particularly tidy.  In fact, it’s usually when suffering has a vice grip on one’s life that the stubborn ego finally gives its consent to growth.  Living in survival mode facilitate either the cultivation of a new life paradigm or the further dismantling of the present one.  Being on your knees can be a very powerful position in service to your evolving self.  As the Sufi mystic Rumi tells us, “Don’t turn away.  Keep your gaze on the bandaged place.  That’s where the light enters in.”  This is how we develop trust in our candidacy for enlightenment.  Challenging times are when we choose our level of self-responsibililty, when we decide how consciously we wish to participate in our evolution.

When I was at a specific point of choosing, my objective was to become aware of my potential to make a skillful choice in the midst of horrendous circumstances.  After I was sexually violated by an older family friend at age fifteen, I got pregnant and was ghosted away to a facility for unwed mothers.  I felt shamefully alienated from my family, friends, God, and especially myself, which I buried under seventy-five pounds of added weight, binging on cream puffs and Wonder Bread.  My reward was surviving a marathon delivery of a twelve-pound, thirteen ounce baby boy, only to have him eventually wrenched from my arms and sent to a foster home to await adoption.

My reality was temporarily frozen in an experience of guilt, blame, shame, anger, grief, and unrelenting self-loathing- all before my seventeenth birthday!  No doubt it was through intense grace that I took an independent step toward forming a new reality around my life and life in general.  It was in the toxicity of my situation that the antidote was revealed, for truly I had no choice but to look directly into the mirror of self-intimacy, where for the first time, I recognized my desperate hunger to be loved and cared for.

Self-intimacy is invaluable.  In fact, it is unavoidable if we genuinely want to wake up.  By examining the ground on which we stand, we cultivate the indispensable tools of self-trust and self-empowerment.  Our willingness to explore all the facets of our being-light and shadow-introduces tremendous freedom into our human experience.

Our life experiences are composed of pairs of opposites, which makes the handling of paradox one of life’s most emotionally and spiritually mature skills.  As we identify both our clumsy and our skillful patterns, it is natural to also experience the pain and suffering connected to them.  When we mentally get stuck in the pain of our stories, we sabotage our progress and stay in the very pain we wish would effortlessly disappear.  You can actually see this type of pain registered on people’s faces; you can see how it drains their life force, affects their physiology, and causes disease.  It is not necessary to live such a misery-filled life.  The prerequisite for breaking free is our willingness to let go and grow.

Conduct an Inner View

Self-intimacy begins with a gentle yet focused self-questioning, much in the same way we get to more intimacy with a friend or lover.

Ask yourself the following questions and write down your responses:

  1. What triggers your emotions negatively?
  2. What emotions do you regularly hang out with?
  3. What specifically do you focus on that causes you grief?
  4. Do you feel guilty?  What do you feel guilty about?
  5. Do you accept criticism?
  6. Do you carry jealousy, shame, grief, embarrassment?
  7. Do you avoid being alone with yourself?
  8. Are you afraid to let love in for fear it will take you away from your goals?
  9. Do you seek constant entertainment?  Do you fear aloneness?

When contemplating these answers, don’t be surprised if you come to a mental impasse.  One of the most effective ways to become more intimate with yourself is to want to know.  Then softly feel into your heart- the seat of intuition- to catch a response.

When you don’t have the answer to a quandary, it is always within your capacity to align yourself with your inherent wisdom and trust that from that inner resource you will receive an answer.  This answer will take you deeper into self-love and compassion as long as there is a desire to know the truth!