“One can have no smaller or greater mastery than mastery of oneself”
Books, articles, and videos on self-mastery abound. Whereas most sources seem to agree that self-mastery is an ability to see, understand, and control the various aspects of one’s personality to consistently have a better life experience, very few offer a clear or deep view into how this ability is built. Most of them provide and elaborate on lists of the practices that one needs to adopt in order to reach and sustain a state of self-mastery. While practices like goal setting, developing willpower to take action, derailing negative thoughts, being present, committing to a daily inner work practice and others are central to building the self-mastery muscle, it is rather an oversimplification to reduce the process of mastering one’s self into a consumable list of Do’s without looking into the nature of the very deep personal journey required to arrive at those practices and be able to commit to them in the first place.
In today’s world, the pursuit of self-mastery manifests as self-development books in the health and lifestyle sections in bookstores, or as off-the-shelf trainings and workshops in mindfulness, meditation, energy healing, coaching, and self-development. While such offerings and materials help expand the mind and teach the individual “how to” master one’s self and one’s reality, their effect is seldom sustainable, says the three decades of combined experience and observation of our team. Shortly after reading a book or attending a workshop and feeling super-inspired, one is likely to fall back to his or her old ways of being, the same jaded view of life, same frustrated outlook, the same personal location of victimhood, helplessness despite having done a lot of psychological or spiritual work. Thus, it’s common to come across many on the spirituality and wellbeing path who suffer a heavy burden of frustration of having learned so much and not benefited or transformed as hoped.
It’s our belief that the main reason for this phenomenon is that humanity has forfeited the old and effective ways of learning that have been tried and tested over the millennia. Since the birth of civilization, man has been on a continuous quest to master life in the physical form – to lead a happy and fulfilling life. But thousands of years ago, learning this sacred trade was a privilege given only to those who were willing to be devoted to this quest. This knowledge was passed down from the master to a small circle of disciples, and would extend over several years of teaching, practice, and mentorship until the new way of being is rooted in the fabric of the disciples’ psyches and bodies. In today’s hectic world, this mode of learning has almost faded completely with few exceptions, taking with it the hope of graduating students of self-mastery who are capable of fully embodying and consistently displaying their learnings.
This is what inspired this piece. Questions like what is self-mastery? Why is there so much resistance to the process? How does the path to self-mastery look like? What domains of exploration are needed to master the self? What’s the ideal learning and training context for self-mastery? Through answering these questions, we arrive at a modern-life design for self-mastery programs that would ensure the deeply transformational results of the ancient past.
To put it very simply, the defining characteristic of a person who has achieved self-mastery is being completely comfortable being themselves and feeling completely free while being that. Internally, they experience comfort and freedom while expressing themselves openly and operating from a place of authenticity. Such comfort and freedom necessarily imply an underlying level of rootedness in one’s identity and stability in one’s demeanor and response to life triggers. This is by all means easier said than lived. There are so many pushes and pulls, internal and external, that we succumb to, and so many judgements that we apply to the world, to ourselves and to our context, that make being at peace with oneself and feeling free very difficult to arrive at. Self-mastery is the inward journey to get to that place.
OVERCOMING RESISTANCE: TIPPING THE SCALE IN FAVOR OF SELF-MASTERY
Once the opportunity of walking the path of self-mastery presents itself, the voice of resistance starts to rise in the psyche. It sounds something like this:
I’ve obviously arrived where I am today because coping mechanisms which
I have developed over the years seem to have worked so far.
I have finally understood the society, culture and context I am in and found a way to peacefully blend in.
I can see that for the most part, they will continue to serve me.
When I am this comfortable, why should I give it all up?
Even after this voice is silenced and the journey is started anyways, another question will rise, one that many who have been on a journey towards self-mastery have risen in the past. It sounds like this:
“Everyone who is not following this path seem to be happy with their lives.
Why are we putting ourselves through this”?
Resistance will win the day until and unless another voice rising from within which sounds like this is heard:
But I know inside me that there is a better version of myself
which has not yet been expressed.
I hold a higher potential. I know I can be a lot more creative,
productive and effective as a member of society.
I know and wish to have more loving harmonious relationships.
So there is a better version of me which I can see if I choose to see it.
When that voice and vision of the self that one holds within is powerful enough, and the desire to be that grows inside, self-mastery becomes a project that one is willing to invest in. Failing to take that first step results in an angst that develops as one recognizes the full unexpressed potential of the self, while measuring how far the current self is from that vision. Agonizing questions, familiar to many, arise within sounding like:
Why am I not able to be where I want to be?
Why am I not able to be as successful as I know I am capable of being?
Why am I not happy when I have everything I need?
Why am I not at peace?
What do I need to do to bridge the gap between who I am today,
and who I know I am capable of being?
That’s where self-mastery tips the scales; when the angst of not being the best one could be is higher than the bliss of remaining in one’s comfort zone. That’s when one starts searching for the path to self-mastery, and that’s how one sticks to the journey throughout.
THE PATH TO SELF-MASTERY: THE TRILOGY OF WELLBEING
Self-Mastery implies being willing to encounter yourself. We cannot talk about mastering the self without first meeting and exploring the self. This is the first and most difficult step on the path of self-mastery.
Meeting the self is a very deep process in its own right; it unfolds one cycle after the other on an upward spiral of personal awareness. At the most basic level recognizable to the lay person regardless of any psycho-spiritual background, every human exists on 3 levels, as a person who thinks, feels, and has a body that needs to be looked after. So, when we talk about meeting the self, this entails discovering who the person is at all these levels with courage and honesty in order to start working with the self in the areas that are inhibiting free and comfortable authentic self-expression and disturbing inner and outer balance and peace.
This process is best accomplished by a marriage of frameworks and modalities that address and explore what we’d like to refer to as the trilogy of wellbeing: Mind, Soul, and Body. Focus on only one or two of the areas will result in an incomplete exploration of the self. This is what explains coming across people who spend their whole lives mastering one or two aspects but who are still not at peace with life, not fully engaging with the world, and overwhelmed with unprocessed emotions and repeating life patterns. Even the best yogis, psychologists, energy healers, spiritual teachers, coaches, and athletes are subject to this case of incomplete ability to master the self, mainly because certain aspects of the self are still hiding deep in their psyche, stored somewhere in the body, or being held in their energy field away from their conscious awareness.
Therefore, a journey of self-mastery should ideally deploy some form of psycho-spiritual tools, energy healing tools, as well as a commitment to steady and sincere body work throughout the process.
SELF-MASTERY: LEVELS OF EXPLORATION
We are, above and beyond everything else, non-physical beings. We are energy bodies, and our physical presence here on earth is simply a manifestation of that original being that all of us are. So, the journey of self-mastery should start from the spiritual identity, to the very physical identity of who the person is in terms of their health, and everything in between.
Who am I at the Spiritual Level?
Exploring the spiritual identity can happen through workshops that delve entirely into the metaphysical phenomena, laws, and energy dynamics that are operating at the metaphysical level to understand the true nature of physical reality.
Another key tool for exploring and fully understanding our spiritual identity is energy healing and the science of the human energy field and Chakras, provided that energy here refers to that invisible yet very perceivable experiential level of our existence that has not yet manifested into physicality.
One more key aspect of our spiritual identity is our connection to other humans on this journey. Therefore, it’s key to understand the metaphysical and spiritual dynamics of relationships and how to master this most crucial game to experience the abundance of love, connection, and growth while in the physical body.
Who am I at the Psyche Level?
The next key area of exploration needed for self-mastery is the Psyche. One very good place to start in exploring the psyche is the theory of Personas. A persona is a personality that an individual projects to others, more like a mask, that is different from the authentic self. Each person has many personas, or voices, that can take control of the monologue inside their mind and can make the person behave or react in specific ways, mainly unconsciously. Getting to learn about these personas and how to manage and transform them is essential to knowing the self and beginning the journey of mastery.
Other frameworks through which the psyche can be explored to ensure full knowing of the self:
- Carl Jung’s Shadow Work: What are those unconscious aspects of a person’s personality which the conscious ego does not identify in itself, and therefore get suppressed, stay there lurking in the dark side (i.e. the shadow), secretly influencing one’s responses to life, only to burst out in an unhealthy fashion when least expected?
- Group Process Work: Studying the connection between the impact of communication in a group context and the communicator’s intent. This happens through thorough observation of what is said, while looking at the how and why behind what is said via a deeply reflective and highly interactive process.
- Personality Types – Enneagram: identifies 9 personality types and uncovers patterns of behaviors and their underlying subconscious drivers so that the person can become consciously aware of them, and thus transcend them towards a better life experience.
Who am I at the Physical/Body Level?
Alongside exploring the spiritual and phycological identity, a person on the path to self-mastery must explore who they are in the body. How healthy is the body? What are the energy blocks that are manifesting as physical body limitations, whether incidental or chronic? Where in the body are the unprocessed emotions stored or stuck? How much is the body correctly and sufficiently nurtured by the breath? Is the body receiving the healthy nutrition it needs to process this existence smoothly and efficiently? Is the body balanced and still when need be? Is it vibrant and active and vigorous when wished?
All of these questions require a steady and sincere practice of body work, a life style adjustment to ensure a regular practice of body movement synchronous with the breath, while eating well, resting well, and playing well. A preferable modality is a combination of some form of authentic Yoga and Pranayama, away from the commercialized styles and variations that seem to have lost the essence of Yoga science: the union between mind, body, and spirit; being fully present in the body in the now and connecting to the intelligence of the human body as a tool of self-knowing. One such authentic school of yoga that has survived until this day is the tradition of Krishnamacharaya Yoga (Click Here to read Mischkat’s full article on this school of yoga).
LEARNING THE ANCIENT WAY
Self-Mastery is a difficult journey. For many on this path, the use of tools and methodologies such as meditation, prayer, self-reflection, personal body practice, is not enough to sustain and hold the space for the process to get to fruitful completion. There is usually a great deal of resistance and constantly surfacing difficult questions in the process of self-knowing and self-work that require a support system to reduce the weight of the process. This is why the main learning approach of the ancient times has been groups of disciples who used to walk the path of “learning” and “becoming” together over a significant period of time. This is the ideal set up for the path of self-mastery, a group of peers who are on the same journey, who relate to each others’ difficulty, and who are willing to support and receive support to get through the difficult encounter with and transformation of the self.
Another reason why this is so is the fact that there are so many aspects of one’s self that cannot be seen without a reflecting surface, much like a mirror. In the world of psyche exploration, this mirror is other people. Therefore, getting together in a group of people who are committed to be there together for the full length of their self-exploration provides a reflective space within which each participant can have access to everything he or she can’t access or see on their own in themselves.
The final reason worth noting here is accountability. Because the temptation to give up can be very high at times when one is in the deep of knowing and mastering one’s self, there comes a time when a voice within takes over. It sounds like this:
To hell with it; who really cares?
Anyways I am doing this for myself not for any other.
So what if I decide not to do it?
Thus, when committed to a long-term process with a group of people on the same journey, there is a moral motive to honor the process and stick to the hard work. After all, there is a group of people who are holding you to this commitment, as much as they themselves are committing to it.
SELF-MASTERY: HYBRID, MULTIDISCIPLINARY AND LONG-TERM
Having explored self-mastery to the fullest extent possible within the space offered by this article, it is safe to say that there can be no talk of mastering the self deeply and sustainably without the presence of 3 main elements: (1) A long-term investment in the journey of knowing the self at all levels of being, simultaneously and courageously (2) A study group that is on the same journey that can support and offer a pool of reflective mirrors to the seeker of self-knowing, and (3) The mentorship of a well-rounded teacher, that takes on the role of the master in the ancient times, who monitors the unfolding of one’s self, guides the processing of personal discoveries, and provides the necessary knowledge whether metaphysical, energetic, psychological or physical, that will aid the individual on this deeply transformative journey.
After decades of observing the patterns that people go through during psycho-spiritual work, and honoring the discoveries revealed in this article, a self-mastery program has been designed and developed by Dr. Anuradha Ramesh, known in the psycho-spiritual community as Usha, founder of Pink Mist Retreat in Hyderabad, India and Co-founder of Mischkat in Dubai. The program was designed out of the urge to address the challenges that have been observed over a lifetime of working in the healing and psychotherapy field. The aim of the program is captured in its slogan “Walking on the path to personal power”, with the ultimate vision of helping seekers of true self-mastery walk the tough walk towards their higher potential. The program captures all the elements described in this article and has been launched successfully on a yearly basis in India and in the UAE over the past 4 years with astonishing results.
The Self-Mastery Project is our contribution to the process of reclaiming inner power and ending victimhood on our planet one self-master at a time.
About the Author: This article is written by Nour al Nahas based on an interview with Dr. Anuradha (Usha) on the concept of Self-Mastery, and based on Nour’s cumulative understanding and experience of healing, Psycho-Spirituality and self-mastery, having graduated from Dubai’s Self-Mastery Project 2017-2018 herself. Nour is also a Reiki Master, Rebirthing Breathwork facilitator, and holder of Certificate of Science in ThetaHealing.