3 Keys to Enlightenment

Know thyself. The key to enlightenment.

Reflect on any recent conversation, fight, or decision you made. Take a moment to evaluate the actions you took; words you said; motions you made; emotions you felt. Can you decipher why the outcome of that moment occurred? Do you see how A lead to B which resulted in Z? Perhaps, now that you’ve taken the time to reflect, you are able to piece together the seemingly disparate pieces that came together to form an experience, and your eventual memory.

Now, contemplate if you could perform this exact exercise while still in the moment. What if you could perceive beyond the tangible sensory inputs directly in front of you and rise above it all? Your frame of reference would dramatically change, placing you on a plane of existence far beyond anyone around you. To step out of your own instincts and judge your thoughts and actions as though you were a 3rd party is a skill all men should cultivate.

To know yourself is to hold the key to your own life. To have tested yourself through experience, and developed wisdom born from the truth of how you act in any given situation, puts you in control. When you know your own mind and body, you can anticipate how you will respond to unanticipated stimuli. The irony is, self-awareness is under-appreciated and fundamentally overlooked in a society that celebrates narcissism. Everyone is told they’re special. Everyone is told they deserve what everyone else has. Media celebrates the mundane and promotes selfishness.

We continually view ourselves, and encourage others to revel in our presence, yet so many of us have no awareness of our own mind or place in this world.

Know Thyself

“He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened.” ― Lao Tzu

“He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened.” ― Lao Tzu

Acting without thinking is what animals and children do. Instinct is a critical component of all beings, but only sentient beings are able to perceive and cultivate their singular instinct. Men see the consequences of actions before any action is even taken.

To look beyond the here and now, and see what comes next, can give you an unprecedented level of assurance and potential for accomplishment. But you must cultivate and mold your awareness over time. And you must be willing to admit your own faults. Weaknesses. Shortcomings. Fears.

To know thyself, start by adopting the following 3 tenants, and ensure your life revolves around them at all times:

Honesty

Be honest with yourself, or you can never know who you truly are. Be honest with others, or you’ll never be able to see yourself in the way you want others to. While you may find it advantageous to be a different version of yourself at times (i.e. gaming women), you can’t hope to live your life as that altered version forever. The human mind is designed to seek truth and perceive beyond veils of deception. If you strive to deceive yourself, you essentially destroy your own mind.

Developing a capacity for true honesty allows you to both cultivate your own mind and capabilities, and position you for success in future relationships that depend on depth of connection. Have a best friend with whom you can truly be yourself, without judgement, is only possible if you are capable of honesty over a long period of time. This principle also directly translates to female relationships (when warranted).

Self-Awareness

Perhaps a more simplistic concept to absorb, the application of self-awareness is dramatically more difficult than honesty. Honesty comes relatively easy because it is a more natural state for intellectual beings. But, to move beyond simple consciousness, essentially hitting the pause button on your current emotional state, and perceiving yourself through eyes of impartiality, takes considerable effort.

I find one of the simplest ways to cultivate this skill is to simply stop any conversation you’re actively engaged in with another person, and take a few moments to openly dissect what is taking place. Like a critic of a movie, evaluate your own thoughts and actions over the course of the conversation as it has occurred, and come to at least one conclusion about the entire situation might look to someone on the outside.

It is strongly recommended you do not do this with a woman you are in a relationship with as she will find it to be condescending and cold, making you appear to be devoid of emotion. Relationship suicide to be sure. Instead, try it with your close friends, or even acquaintances with whom you have no long-term tie. You will come across as perceptive, though perhaps a bit strange (primarily because self-awareness is so rare).

Wisdom

Reflective of a state of enlightenment, wisdom is born out of experience and applied knowledge. Knowledge is not wisdom. If it were, anyone with an internet connection and Google search terms would be considered wise. Living a life of varied events; learning from mistakes, both yours and other’s; overcoming challenges; listening more than speaking; understanding history. All of these things contribute to the development of wisdom, and it takes time.

No one has ever pointed to a child an exclaimed we is wise because he figured out how to turn on the TV. Instead, we look to those who speak universal truths about life and the universe we live in. We recognize our elders as sources of vast experience to be passed on to younger generations that they might learn from past mistakes. When problems present themselves, we look beyond the foundational elements and evaluate whether there might be more pieces to the equation.

Closing Thoughts

socrates thinking

While I certainly do not pretend to have all the answers, I do believe I have given you the fundamental components to go in to this world and make yourself a better man.

Inevitably, you will need to find your own way, learning what works for you, and what doesn’t. As you cultivate your capacity for self-awareness, more and more will become clear to you. It’s not up to me to tell you what that will be. But, by pointing you in the right direction, I have added to your ability to build an amazing life. Your own masculine empire.

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