Meriam-Webster Dictionary defines Self-Awareness as “An awareness of one’s own personality or individuality.”
Becoming self-aware is not an easy task. Many of us probably feel like we know ourselves – strengths, weaknesses, areas needing improvement, etc. Heck, our lifecycle is one big experiment in assessment and evaluation.
Yet in the new age of social media, information bombards us from every angle. External messaging tells us where to shop, who to vote for, the newest hot spot for families, where to spend your hard earned money, etc.
Sound familiar? This unending stimulus challenges even the most resolute among us to be present and attentive in our engagements with colleagues, family and friends. This seismic change in daily information flow if fundamentally changing how we live our lives, and often not for the best.
People take various approaches to “figuring out” who they are; self-help courses, career counseling, traveling, continuing education, and new challenges like completing a Tough Mudder. These experiences are ways to explore deeper motivations that may shed light on the fact that many of us need external validation – hence the beauty of the internet, providing immediate satisfaction via the dopamine cycle that the internet provides.
Here’s some excerpts from the post:
First, perform a skills inventory that help identify your passion. What are your talents and how do you apply them to “pay the bills”.
Second, perform a self-awareness audit: You may be familiar with the traditional concept of an audit. However, this audit is different. The intent is to evaluate your strengths and areas needing improvement. The best way to do this is by requesting feedback from colleagues, friends and family. Asking those that who know you best to provide feedback. This “self-audit” is valuable because people do not self-assess enough, and when they do, the focus is often on the negatives, not their strengths. Once you finish your self-audit, what’s next?
Boost your self-awareness with these tips:
Celebrate Your Wins
Boundaries and Priorities
Shiny object syndrome
Design your Environment
How do set create a positive environment to be successful:
Put your phone away
Learn to do nothing
Journal non-productive thoughts
Brain Dump when your brain is racing
Take specific action steps to better relationships by:
Ask More Questions: Listen 2 x as much as speaking
Put Others First
Don’t Procrastinate – do it now
Engage in Self-Improvement – do one thing every day
Self-awareness is more than an experiment with personal exploration. It’s a broader pursuit of living outside of your own immediate needs and being present, genuine and appreciative of the many gifts in our life – people, health, livelihood, etc.
In a world that revolves around the next ‘like’, having perspective on your strengths and how to apply them, can lead to a more fulfilling life experience for you and those that you care for.
Buddhist Tales for Young and Old, volume 1, Prince Goodspeaker, Stories 1-50
Once upon a time, King Brahmadatta had a very wise adviser who understood the speech of animals. He understood what they said, and he could speak to them in their languages.
One day the adviser was wandering along the riverbank with his followers. They came upon some fishermen who had cast a big net into the river. While peering into the water, they noticed a big, handsome fish following his pretty wife.
Her shining scales reflected the morning sunlight in all the colors of the rainbow. Her feather-like fins fluttered like the delicate wings of a fairy, as they sent her gliding through the water. It was clear that her husband was so entranced by the way she looked and the way she moved, that he was not paying attention to anything else!
As they came near the net, the wife fish smelled it. Then she saw it and alertly avoided it at the very last moment. But her husband was so blinded by his desire for her, that he could not turn away fast enough. Instead, he swam right into the net and was trapped!
The fishermen pulled in their net and threw the big fish onto the shore. They built a fire and carved a spit to roast him on.
Lying on the ground, the fish was flopping around and groaning in agony. Since the wise adviser understood fish talk, he translated for the others. He said, “This poor fish is madly repeating over and over again:
“My wife! My wife! I must be with my wife! I care for her much more than for my life!
‘My wife! My wife! I must be with my wife! I care for her much more than for my life!”
The adviser thought, “Truly this fish has gone crazy. He is in this terrible state because he became a slave to his own desire. And it is clear that he has learned nothing from the results of his actions. If he dies keeping such agony, and the desire that caused it, in his mind, he will surely continue to suffer by being reborn in some hell world. Therefore, I must save him!”
So this kind man went over to the fishermen and said, “Oh my friends, loyal subjects of our king, you have never given me and my followers a fish for our curry. Won’t you give us one today?”
They replied, “Oh royal minister, please accept from us any fish you wish!” “This big one on the riverbank looks delicious,” said the adviser. “Please take him, sir,” they said.
Then he sat down on the bank. He took the fish, who was still groaning, into his hands. He spoke to him in the language only fish can understand, saying, “You foolish fish! If I had not seen you today, you would have gotten yourself killed. Your blind desire was leading you to continued suffering. From now on, do not let yourself be trapped by your own desires!”
Then the fish realized how fortunate he was to have found such a friend. He thanked him for his wise advice. The minister released the lucky fish back into the river and went on his way.
The moral is: Fools are trapped by their own desires.
A good companion is better than a fortune, for a fortune cannot purchase those elements of character which make companionship a blessing. The best companion is one who is wiser and better than ourselves, for we are inspired by his wisdom and virtue to nobler deeds.
“Keep good company, and you shall be one of the number,” said George Herbert. “A man is known by the companion he keeps. ” Character makes character in the associations of life faster than anything else. Purity begets purity, like begets like; and this fact makes the choice of companion in early life more important even than that of teachers and guardians.
It is true that we cannot always choose all of our friends, some are thrust upon us by business or the social relations of life, we do not choose them, we do not enjoy them; and yet, we have to associate with them more or less. The experience is not altogether without compensation, if there be principle enough in us to bear the strain. Still, in the main, choice of companions can be made, and must be made. It is not best or necessary for a young person to associate with “Tom, Dick, and Harry” without forethought or purpose. Some fixed rules about the company he or she keeps must be observed. The subject should be uttermost in the thoughts, and canvassed often.
Companionship is education, good or not; it develops manhood or womanhood, high or low; it lifts the soul upward or drags it downward; it ministers to virtue or vice. Sow virtue, and the harvest will be virtue. Sow vice, and the harvest will be vice. Good companionships help us to sow virtue;evil companionships help us to sow vice.
One day, a young college student was walking with his professor. The professor was very kind. The young student beside him was his student but also his friend. While walking, they saw an old pair of shoes on the side of the road.
It turned out that there was a man who left his shoes there before working in the fields, and every day when he finished work, he would come back to retrieve his things. It was almost time for that man to get off work.
The young student suddenly told the professor that they should play a joke on the poor man. He proposed to hide the shoes and see how the owner of the shoes would react when he could not find them.
The student decided to do as the professor said, and then they hid behind the woods to see how the poor man would react. Soon the poor man was off work, and he returned to the roadside to find his things.
He put his foot into the first shoe as he put on his clothes. Immediately he felt something in the shoe, and when he bent over, he saw a silver coin inside the shoe. With a look of astonishment on his face, he turned the silver coin over and over again, looked at it and looked at it again, and looked left and right at the same time, to see if anyone was playing a prank. But finding no one around, he put the silver coin in his pocket.
He continued to wear another shoe, and unexpectedly found another silver coin. For the second time, a surprised expression appeared on his face. In addition to being happy, he immediately knelt down and prayed thanks.
He prayed out loud, thanking God for knowing that his wife was sick and there was no food at home, and he thanked God even more for letting him survive through the hands of unknown people.
After the man left, the young student stood beside the professor, and was moved to tears.
Scene of Xishuang Banna Life is a Chinese ink-and-wash painting. However, it has a three-dimensional feeling suggestive of oil paintings. The artist is H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III. Upon gazing at it, I feel a strong sense of comfort and tranquility. The main color of the painting is light brown, the different depth of the color vividly shows the fresh, clear water and misty air circling between the trees. A few girls are making waves, chatting, and enjoying themselves as they wash clothes by the riverside. The big banyan trees are so elegant and beautiful. Cobblestones are naturally scattered around those banyan trees. The setting resembles the sweet childhood memories buried in my heart.
About fifty years ago, my family lived in a small village in the mountain. There were no cars, TVs, toys, phones, or any other modern luxuries. We lived a very simple and modest life. All the mothers wash vegetables and rice in the clean creek and cook meals. Very often, they washed clothes in the river for the whole family, all the kids just played in the water, on the trees, or river banks. School was far away, we can only go there when we were old enough. But we have the biggest classroom, we studied everything we could find: trees, flowers, insects, stones etc. Twigs are pens, tree trunk are tables. The chirping of the birds, the rushing of the stream are music. We were in PE class all day long. We went to bed when the Sun set. What a simple happy life!
Sometimes we messed up our chores, our parents yelled at us and even beat us, but we forgot all the pain right away. We did fight with friends about a colorful rock, a giant leaf, a fresh berry… but we forgave each other unconditionally. We were best friends again right after the fights.
In front of the painting, I seem to have traveled back decades. I ponder when and where I lost the ability to forgive and forget so easily as I grew up. Where is that naive and simple child’s heart? I have much much more material staff then I was a child, but I am not as happy. I have stored more hatreds, worries, and complaints in my mind. Why I can’t forget about all the unhappy things, why I can’t forgive those unintentional hurt between friends and families?
This “Banna Style” is like opening a window of time and space, making me feel the joy of living as a naive and happy child again. The painting generates a leisurely fragrance, eases the pain caused by worries, gently wipes away the sadness, and embraces me with its extraordinary beauty…
It helped me to rediscover my inner purity again, and regain the ability to forgive and forget. I find the light to be happy and healthy again. I feel so grateful for the artist who have created a pure land for my heart, allowing me to see wonderful scenery, emerge in warm feelings, and be moved by tranquility peace.
There are some good reasons to believe that Nietzsche was interested in Eastern philosophy during his lifetime. In the Antichrist he states:
“Buddhism, I repeat, is a hundred times more austere, more honest, more objective. It no longer has to justify its pains, its susceptibility to suffering, by interpreting these things in terms of sin—it simply says, as it simply thinks, ‘I suffer’”
Nietzsche, The Antichrist, 23
Buddhism, as a pessimistic and decadent religion for Nietzsche resembles Christianity but it seems that he had far more admiration for Buddhism. He inherited most of his understanding of Buddhism from Schopenhauer, who considered his own pessimistic philosophy a European relative of Buddhism.
Schopenhauer, in his research into Indian philosophy, appears to have attained the most comprehensive understanding among nineteenth century German thinkers of a system of Asian thought.
Although Nietzsche did read about Buddhism, it was usually second-hand and westernised, he was predisposed to react to Buddhism in terms of his close reading of Schopenhauer. Many Buddhists have since disputed Schopenhauer’s comprehension of their religion.
Influenced by Schopenhauer, Nietzsche criticised both Christianity and Buddhism as forms of nihilism, where the will to nonentity prevails over the will to life. However, he soon feared the rise of pessimism in Europe would culminate in the triumph of the weary and passive nihilism.
It is important to know that Nietzsche was not a nihilist as some suggest, stating that the modern man would have to create his own values through a Revaluation of All Values, leading to the Ubermensch, affirming the world and saying yes to existence, the pinnacle of self-overcoming.
The foundation of his critique of Buddhism is his characterisation of Nirvana as a nothingness and as a form of nihilism. However, this does not best describe the Buddhist path.
There are Four Noble Truths in Buddhism. The first one is the acknowledgement of duhkha or “suffering”, an inseparable characteristic in the realm of Samsara, which suggests that human beings, at the time of death, are reborn to a realm determined by their karma. It is the cycle of aimless drifting, wandering or mundane existence.
If we stop here, we can see why Nietzsche considers it nihilistic. However, this is but one of the noble truths. The second one is the origin of this suffering which comes from craving, desire or attachment and the third one states that there is an end to suffering, by letting go of this craving. This leads to the final noble truth, which is the path that gives way to renouncement of craving and the cessation of suffering, following the Noble Eightfold Path, which liberates one from Samsara, the painful cycle of rebirth – achieving Nirvana, the cessation of all afflictions, actions, rebirths and suffering that are a consequence of afflictions and actions.
Nirvana refers to the realisation of the “non-self” and “emptiness”, marking the end of rebirth by stilling the fires that keep the process of rebirth going. This is what Nietzsche thought of as a longing for nothingness. However, it is not a longing for nothingness, it is simply the end of Samsara. Thus, different from Schopenhauer’s pessimism, Buddhism starts pessimistic but ends with the positive experience of Nirvana.
It is not an escape from the world, one begins with the suffering inherent in life, one is to overcome pleasure and pain, before beginning a mindful examination of one’s self and reality as perceived by the self. Upon this examination, one realises that there is no self, but only the combination of mental and physical states (skandhas).
This realisation of non-self is also misunderstood. It is not a destruction of a self, but rather a rejection of the existence of a self. Buddhists believe that the concept of “emptiness” means that all things are empty of inherent existence, there is no such thing as inherent existence, everything arises mutually. Thus, negation in the East does not have the same pessimistic connotation that it has in the West.
Perhaps the most serious misreading we find in Nietzsche’s account of Buddhism was his inability to recognise that the Buddhist doctrine of emptiness was an initiatory stage leading to a reawakening.
Throughout Nietzsche’s books and notes, he refers to different aspects of Eastern philosophy on more than four hundred occasions, and in several of these he claims to be interested in it.
Although Nietzsche considers Eastern philosophy as nihilistic, he does indicate its profundity. It seems that he studied this material closely and appreciated it greatly, this is important to note. And even if Nietzsche despised sacred texts, he upholds the beauty and grandeur of them as literary documents.
Nietzsche’s interest in studying Buddhism seems to be seeing it as a psychological symptom, as well as a historically embedded phenomena. Having chosen Buddhism to comment on might be in line with his idea of having the courage to engage with worthy adversaries. He states:
He (the Buddha) does not advocate any conflict with unbelievers; his teaching is antagonistic to nothing so much as to revenge, aversion ressentiment. And in all this he was right, for it is precisely these passions which, in view of his main purpose, are unhealthful.
Nietzsche, The Antichrist, 20
Here he agrees on the Buddha’s doctrine, which is opposed to the feelings of revenge, antipathy and ressentiment. And in Thus Spoke Zarathustra he said:
“For that man be delivered from revenge, that is for me the bridge to the highest hope, and a rainbow after long storms”
Nietzsche’s conceptions of the Eternal Recurrence and Samsara, Zarathustraand Bodhisattva (a person who is able to reach Nirvana but delays doing so through compassion for suffering beings), the Transvaluation of All Values and Nirvana, are all examples of similarities.
In his analysis of the self, Nietzsche contended:
“the subject is only a fiction: the ego of which one speaks when one censures egoism does not exist at all”. This is remarkably similar to the Buddha’s doctrine of non-existence of the self.
Nietzsche’s philosophy may have been much more similar to Buddhism than he might have realised. This should not be surprising, given Nietzsche’s respect for the Buddha and that Buddhism concerns itself with one of the basic problems with which Nietzsche was grappling: the structure and meaning of the human condition.
At the onset of his mental collapse, he even came to identify himself with Buddha:
“I have been Buddha in India, Dionysus in Greece.”
However, on the whole, this impression is deceptive.
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Eastern Philosophy and Nietzsche | Buddhism and Hinduism
Although Nietzsche considers Eastern philosophy as nihilistic (wrongly), he does indicate their profundity. It seems that he studied this material closely and appreciated it greatly.