While embarking upon a journey, someone offered me a word of advice; “Be careful,” he warned, “Wherever you go, there you are.”
These words didn’t mean much to me at the time, but I would later reflect back on them. I had traveled down into Central America to chase after my dream of living a simple life in the jungle. But circumstances hadn’t worked out as planned. Instead of finding stability, I found myself wandering. And I found myself one day walking a long stretch of beach. It was perhaps one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen. The sand glittered in the sun. The waters were crystal clear. And the lush jungle vegetation swayed in the cool breeze.
For miles there was no one to be seen. And for some time it felt as though I was the only person on Earth. I kept on wandering, not certain where I would wind up, but unable to rest until I got there.
This gave me a lot of time to reflect. My whole life seemed to be like this; wandering aimlessly, constantly moving, restless. Many feelings began to arise; many uncomfortable feelings. I had experienced those feelings back in my hometown. I had always been unhappy with my life there. And so I had spent many years wandering about in search of a better place. No matter where I would go—no matter how wonderful my surroundings were—eventually those feelings would resurface.
As I walked the ocean’s edge, those words of caution echoed in my mind; “Wherever you go, there you are.” I realized that much of my wandering was not about finding, but about escaping. I had occasionally been aware that I was trying to escape my circumstances, but I was now beginning to realize that I was also trying to run away from myself. Whatever feelings had challenged me back in my hometown, I carried them with me even to the remote beaches of a distant exotic land. I could run to the edge of the world, far from everyone else; far from civilization and society. I could jump off that edge and drift into the deepest regions of space. But even there I would eventually have to face myself.
If things aren’t working out with a lover or a friend you can always end the relationship. But no matter how you try, you can never escape yourself. Whatever thoughts, concepts, judgments and opinions you carry—whatever suffering—you cannot simply run away. You are forced to live with yourself, so you might as well learn to do it well. We can be our own best friend or our own worst enemy. It’s a choice. But it takes reflection and understanding to make the right choice.
The more we understand ourselves, the more we understand others. And the more we understand others, the more we understand ourselves. Beneath all the layers, we are essentially the same. In understanding this, we become like mirrors, reflecting all of our fears and desires, as well as our potential, in one another.
There is much we can learn about ourselves by observing others and by observing the responses they trigger within us. As we gain more understanding of ourselves, we can begin to overcome the obstacles and illusions that stand in the way of our ability to recognize and embrace our true essence.
We all have the same basic desire to feel happy and complete, but could it be that this desire arises from a knowing within us where we are already complete and happy? Could it be that this place has simply become covered by false beliefs, and that all we need do in order to rediscover it is to wash away the layers of illusion which obscure it?
We all want to feel loved. But too often we search for love outside of ourselves. We never truly obtain it because our focus is misdirected. We don’t realize that all of the love we need is already contained within us, lying hidden and dormant.
We often feel incomplete. But what is missing? If our attention is directed too much on the external world we do not recognize all of which is right here within us. We go on searching endlessly. When we scour the world searching for love and completeness we are like an old man searching for his glasses when they’re right there on the tip of his nose. He doesn’t see them, because he’s looking right through them. He may go on searching throughout the entire house, but he will never find them until he realizes that they were never lost to begin with. Only when he looks into the mirror does he discover they have been with him the whole time. So this is why I stress the need for self-reflection.
Learn to love yourself! This might at first sound selfish or narcissistic. We are taught that we should love others—that we should put others before ourselves—but how can you give what you do not possess? If you don’t love yourself, how will you be capable of loving others? Yeshua said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” This implies that you must first love yourself, and to see no distinction between self and other. The more we have compassion, forgiveness and love for ourselves, the more we can offer to others.
If we are without love, we go on trying to acquire it from others. However, if we do not love ourselves already, we cannot even accept the love of others. They may praise us with kind words, but if we do not value ourselves, we will reject the value that others place upon us.
In addition, if our sense of worth is based on how many people love us, we will surely become disheartened. There are many people who will not love us; not because we are unworthy of their love, but because they are just as incapable of giving it as we are. They, much like us, can only love others if they first love themselves.
Unfortunately many people just don’t understand this. Most of us are beggars for love. This is why the world has become such a dark place. Everyone is begging to be loved, but few are truly giving it. And even when you give love to a beggar, he doesn’t value it. It’s like giving money to the kind of beggar who spends it on booze, and then goes on being hungry. People are hungry for love. But when you give it to them, they often do not receive it, because in their hearts they don’t believe they deserve it. If you do believe that you are truly deserving of love then there is no need to go on begging for it, for you will have already accepted the love that is within yourself.
Love yourself first, and then you will be able to love others. If you cannot cultivate the love that is within you, how will you share it?
There is no one undeserving of love, no matter who you are, what you have done or what others may think of you. It can be difficult to find value in ourselves, especially if we have spent our lives offending and abusing others. But you must realize that while there is all the potential in you to do evil, there is also the same potential for good. If you want to get in touch with all that is good within you, you must forgive yourself for all you have done wrong and accept yourself despite all of your faults and inadequacies. It is never too late to change your ways, but you must begin with forgiveness.
If your self-worth is based upon what others think of you, know that these are mere opinions. Oftentimes people judge harshly because they do not know love. Their judgments really have nothing at all to do with you. So have compassion for them, and forgive them. And do not give value to their opinions.
What limits you is not what others think or say, but how you respond. You either agree or disagree. And whatever you agree with becomes your reality. If you agree that you are stupid then you will go on behaving stupidly. But if you disagree, recognizing within you the potential to grow and develop, then you are already acting with intelligence.
Don’t let anyone limit who you are and what you are capable of doing and being. Do not let anyone define you. It is your life and your soul, and it is far greater than you could possibly imagine. Whatever potential exists in others exists in you also. Within every sinner there is a saint, and in every saint a sinner. You are capable of anything you put your heart and mind toward. But unless you love yourself, you will not easily overcome the obstacles that stand in your way.