The Keys to Self Mastery
Self Mastery is, and has always been, life’s most challenging task. (Note: for technical reasons the term self-mastery is not hyphenated throughout this article.) We humans are pretty much wired to conquer. It’s a big part of our inner programming. And it appears a big part of our destiny. But through the ages the mystics have given us solid warning. It’s possible for us to conquer the whole world but lose our very sense of self in the process. So, there’s truly no profit in winning if the price of conquest is our very soul.
Conquering our small, ego-driven selves is what true self mastery is all about. And for that to happen we have to come to terms with the things that drive us. Most of us are slaves to our appetites and aversions. That is, we rabidly pursue the things that please us. And we do our best to avoid what causes us discomfort. To wrest ourselves from the slavery of this we have to see the bigger picture. Moreover, we have to see ourselves as the beneficiaries of a precious unearned gift. Ultimately, we have deeply know our worth and where that worth truly comes from. Only then can know the truth about ourselves. And only then can we freely come to embrace that truth.
The aforementioned describe the first four “commandments” of solid character development. I first introduced these crucial axioms in Character Disturbance. And I’ve been elaborating on the spiritual dimensions of them in recent articles, such as:
- Spiritual Growth Inspires Character
- Outgrowing Natural Egocentricity
- Humble Gratitude Inspires Indebtedness
- Cultivating Healthy Self-Worth
- Character Requires Revering Truth
The Fifth Commandment
The fifth axiom of solid character development is concise and straightforward:
Master your appetites and aversions.
No doubt, this is a simple directive. But it’s one of the hardest to heed. That’s because most of us operate on a sort of automatic drive. That is, we’re barely conscious of how our appetites and aversions pretty much direct our actions. And in our lack of awareness, our appetites and aversions can indeed enslave us, too. That’s what addiction (or any compulsive activity) is really all about.
To grow in character we must gain mastery over our appetites and aversions. Sometimes, we have to hold ourselves back from pleasurable temptation. And sometimes we have to push ourselves to do what we’d rather avoid. (That’s the essence of a healthy conscience.) But when we put our personal, emotional, psychological, and spiritual growth first, we can become more fully alive. We also release our innate creative energies, building and uniting instead of fostering conflict.
Now, gaining healthy self mastery is definitely not easy. We’ve always needed various spiritual disciplines and mindfulness exercises to aid us in the task. And I’ll be talking more about the importance of committing ourselves to some sort of discipline over the next several weeks.