Today we’re going to be putting our virtual spotlight on a fascinating topic: Self-Mastery. What is it and how do we achieve it? Self-mastery is a path, an orientation you choose for yourself and your world.
First, you have to get rid of the incorrect belief that self-mastery is about controlling your basic impulses. That’s not the case: instead, it’s about getting to know those parts of you intimately, and then going beyond them. Once you do that, the natural process of inner development will take place
Carlos Castanenda’s teacher, Don Juan, said “A warrior must cultivate the feeling that he has everything needed for the amazing journey that is his life. What counts for a warrior is being alive. Life in itself is sufficient, self-explanatory and complete.”
Although you may refuse the call to adventure, developing your innate capacities is your destiny. Ignoring your destiny can bring depression and anxiety. Embracing this destiny leads to freedom and to your highest expectations.
So stop and ask yourself: What is the biggest obstacle you’ve already overcome? Was it getting into college despite the obstacles? Or was it raising a child on your own, without much help from a partner? Or how about taking care of an aging parent? Or perhaps you’ve lost a job and then gotten back on your feet? Or maybe, like me, you’ve dealt with a challenging health problem? If you think back to what you have already overcome, you know you already have what it takes to be in self-mastery!
So, let’s talk about the two drives inside of you:
First, there’s the drive toward growth – it’s easy to see it in a baby, who is focused on learning to walk and talk. Now look at the adults in your life: Some are committed to developing new skills. There are self-actualized people in virtually every field, from physics to music and the arts, from philosophy to computer science, from politics to sports. But there are also many people who are simply surviving; they are not embracing the opportunity, it seems, to work toward their highest potential. You will hear them say things like, I never have time. I’m too tired. Or, and I hear this one a lot from my students, I don’t know what I’d be good at.
So what is blocking their growth? The force opposing growth is the drive for safety. The need for safety keeps you where you are now, afraid to take chances. This safety seeking side is afraid of the new and the untried—the very things your growth side is eager for.
Abraham Maslow, a famous psychologist, said: “You must want to be t he best, the very best you are capable of becoming. If you deliberately plan to be less than you are capable of being, then you’ll be unhappy for the rest of your life.”
To reach a level of self-mastery that will make you a real powerhouse in your own life and in the lives of those you want to enhance, I’ll share ten keys to help you break through whatever resistance you may be experiencing.
The first key is to acknowledge the resistance you’re feeling but to do so with love and compassion. Every change brings resistance, even positive change. So, give yourself a little time to realize you’re beating yourself up because you’ve been standing in your own way for so long. Give yourself permission to move away from self-blame into the winning game. I remember doing that very thing when I was young and wanted to master energy healing; I first had to get out of my own way. To quote Napoleon Hill, “Out of resistance comes strength.”
The second key is to create a compelling vision of the life you want to lead or the next goal you want to achieve. The operative word here is compelling. It has to be a vision that is so clear and attractive to you that you can already see and feel it as though it’s already been accomplished. You practice actually feeling the way you’ll feel when it manifests in your life. It has to be powerful, like the tractor beam on Star Trek. Your intention is the tractor beam. By the way, Nasa is currently working on a Star Trek style tractor beam, a gravitational beam emitter, so let’s not retire that delicious image just yet!
The third key is to commit to long-term practice and persistence. Transforming your life and reaching cherished long-term goals requires constant practice and persistence. By dedicating yourself to forward progress, you are rewiring your brain to make the changes you need to achieve whatever it is you want. Whether you want to learn music or a language or meditation, you’ve got to practice/practice/practice! As Walt Disney famously said, “If you can dream it, you can do it!” And the biggest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that our aim is too low. Consider for a moment the persistence of Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani girl who persisted in her goal for girls’ education in Pakistan despite being shot, now that’s resolve!
The fourth key is to expect yourself to take a few steps backwards along the way. On the road to self-mastery, back-sliding is part of the journey. You won’t get everything right the first time. So, when backsliding happens, practice self-kindness, self-acceptance and self-compassion so you can kick-start your progress again. I did that with a host of things I wanted to learn, from skiing to mountain climbing to learning a foreign language. When you fall off your diet for a day or a weekend, that doesn’t mean you’ve failed. You’ve just backslid. Like who hasn’t! Start again. Start again and again, as many times as it takes to reattach to your compelling vision about what your life will be like when you’ve succeeded. I only quit drinking once, and I succeeded, yay for me, but I quit smoking, I’ve gotta admit, 32 times, before I got it right.
Swami Vivekananda said, “Never mind these failures, these little backslidings; hold the ideal a thousand times, and even if you fail a thousand times, do it again and again!”
The fifth key is to live by the principle of moderation. Self-mastery isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon. This has always been the hardest one for me: We Type-A people can find ourselves sprinting out of the starting gate at full bore, only to exhaust ourselves and be unable to proceed. When we can see that the world we want or the goal we want is just at the end of our exertions, we want to get there as fast as possible. But self-mastery takes time, and you only have so much energy. So, give yourself permission to give 75% instead of anything more. By pushing or straining yourself, you deplete yourself and it’s hard to keep your eyes on the prize when you can hardly get out of bed in the morning. Speaking of that, let me encourage you to get way more sleep than you are probably currently getting: fatigue is a deal breaker when you’re trying to achieve self-mastery. Honestly, if you can get into the habit of little 15 or 20 minute power naps, and take them before 3pm so they don’t disturb your rest at night, it will really open your creativity, plus make your life a heck of a lot more joyful and fun!
The sixth key is lighten up! C’mon, this is a fun key. It’s far too easy to take ourselves and our desired growth too seriously. Have fun along the way. If you don’t, your mind or body will revolt. We are human beings, not human doings. Allow yourself to be in ways that make your life meaningful and fun. Stay light-hearted. Laugh at yourself. Be playful, even as you’re evolving into self-mastery. My fav example at the moment is Alex Honnold, the American rock climber who climbed El Capitan in Yosemite National Park in just under 4 hours without a rope! Talk about self-actualized! I spent an entire summer trying to climb El Cap with a rope, with no luck, so go, Alex!
The seventh key is to set mini goals. There is, unfortunately, no shortcut to self-mastery. The route includes setting mini goals, or what I like to call baby steps. Baby steps take you to the next solid place. Baby steps are the steps that lie within reach. Reaching each one helps measure your progress so you can celebrate along the way. Celebrating your advancement at each step is important. Anything you dream can be yours by simply focusing on each step along the way, not the overall journey. Another great example of youthful self-mastery would be Greta Thunberg, who, despite her autism, has managed to grab the world by storm on the subject of the climate crisis. If you know her story, she took step after step to achieve her goals, and imagine the resolve it took for a 15-year-old girl to protest so loudly outside the Swedish parliament that she got the government to change their carbon emission standards. Now, that’s self-actualization!
The eighth key is Cultivate Your Physical Energy. Whatever road to mastery you take, you will need a healthy reserve of physical energy to get from where you are to where you want to go. Without it, whenever you backslide, or feel stressed, or whenever you need to overcome resistance, you’ll be too depleted to lift yourself over the hurdle. Your willpower will only last as long as the energy you have in the tank!
You can increase your energy by eating super nutritious food, by having 4 or 5 or even 6 little meals a day to keep your blood sugar even, by getting enough sleep as I mentioned earlier, by meditating every day, and, this is maybe most important, by doing some regular fun physical activity. It doesn’t matter if you like to walk or swim or play a sport, or prefer to do yoga, or tai chi, or dance, but whatever you enjoy, set a reminder on your watch or phone, so you have time set aside for some movement to gather more energy.
The ninth key is to be really honest with yourself. Making excuses is your ego’s way of deflecting blame and shame to make you appear to others as better than you actually think you are, inside. And feeling worse about yourself (ego deflation) is also not helpful. Taken to extremes, both ego inflation and ego deflation can be a problem. To pursue self-mastery, an honest self-assessment is crucial. Honest self-assessment frees up the energy that our egos are accustomed to stealing in attempts to maintain the lies that we tell ourselves. So, start by honing in on your true feelings by keeping your thoughts somewhere private, like your phone or a locked app on your laptop, where you can honestly write out your hopes, dreams, and especially your fears. Or share these really personal thoughts with someone you trust will keep them confidential – perhaps your energy medicine practitioner. And remember what Franz Kafka said: “Don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions relentlessly.”
In a nutshell, we to be really honest with ourselves about what we want, and then take risks, instead of lying to ourselves and making excuses so we don’t have to step out of our comfort zone.
The final key, #10, is Establish Empowering Rituals. If you’re into sports, like I am, you know how the greatest athletes have rituals that put them into a state of peak performance so they can execute at their absolute best. Or, if you’re into spirituality, like I am, chances are you’ve read all the great spiritual teachers and you know what special practices they adopt to get into that same zone. I can assure you, the zone for peak physical performance is the same zone for properly practiced prayer and meditation. But more on that another day! When it comes to self-mastery, establishing rituals to perform can be just the key you need to reach the next step in your journey. Daily practice is an absolute requirement. By making it a habit, you re-wire your brain to operate at greater and greater levels of refinement. That is what rituals are for. We engage in spiritual ceremonies, like Deborah King Live on Facebook that we engage in every other Tuesday at 2 pacific, in order to create a safe place to work through our most complicated feelings, so we won’t have to carry those feelings around with us forever.
I absolutely love what Joseph Campbell had to say about all of this: “A ritual is the enactment of a myth. And, by participating in the ritual, you are participating in the myth. And since myth is a projection of the depth wisdom of your psyche, by participating in a ritual, participating in the myth, you are put in accord with that wisdom, which is the wisdom that is inherent within you at your deepest level.” People have traditionally turned to activities like my Facebook Live, being in community and sharing through stories and prayer and song, to help us on our forever journey toward self mastery, to help us live in the daily paradox of trauma mixed with joy.
Finally, one more thought: discovering a great talent, capacity, or strength within yourself that demands nurturance can be exhilarating, but it can also bring feelings of danger and responsibility. It may demand that you stand alone, cultivating inner strength instead of seeking support from your environment. The path to growth and self-mastery is invariably difficult at times. It’s uncomfortable moving out of the known into the unknown. Even if the known is not ideal or even desirable, it’s at least familiar. And since we all have a need for safety, there will always be an attraction to staying within the familiar. So still honoring your need for safety, let me help you further on your journey into the great unknown. Enjoy practice for practice’s sake. Transform yourself slowly, steadily, daily, and next thing you know, you’ll be in self-mastery!
Attaining self-mastery first starts with truly understanding yourself on a deep level. What drives you? What’s holding you back? What emotional road blocks must you overcome to break through and achieve the life you are meant to live?
A good place to start is our bestselling course: Inner Secrets of You. It is designed to help you not only understand yourself, but also give you the knowledge (and power) to understand those around you on the deepest level. Click here to learn more about this course >>