I was first formally introduced to the concept of Self-mastery when I began my coursework to become a certified spiritual life coach. There was nothing that I wanted more than to become Self-mastered. Ah, to be like Jesus or Buddha. Ah, to have such command of myself. How fabulous to…
Then the dream collapsed with a thud under the weight of these insane expectations of myself. I nearly gave up before even starting. Then I learned that Self-mastery is actually attainable in this life. Yay! Re-start the music!
In his book, Self-mastery: A Journey Home to Your Inner Self, Hu Dalconzo states that those of us who live just 51 percent of our days from the spirit rather than from the ego can consider themselves Self-mastered. This gave me great hope.
Quick Psych Tidbits
The term ego-mind or just ego refers to that part of our selves that is devoted to creating a sense of safety, security, and control. The term spirit is that part of our selves that is divine or eternal. Some call it the soul.
The ego is an exquisite instrument. It developed in response to a prehistoric environment that was fraught with threats from predators and warring tribes. And it worked. We evolved into the world’s dominant species. But the ego is a fear-based operating system. In our desire to feel safe, secure, and in control 24/7, we have empowered it to steer and command our lives.
Spiritual psychologists say that the ego makes a wonderful servant but a terrible master. That’s because it puts our consciousness into hyper-arousal, relentlessly scanning for perceived threats and often misreading situations that really pose no threat at all.
This is why consciousness is so often focused on disturbance rather than on what is pleasant. As a result, the ego engages the mind to “endlessly reprocess the past and endlessly worry about the future,” according to Michael Singer, author of The Untethered Soul.
Spirit, on the other hand, is a love-based operating system. Where the ego is about separation, the spirit is about unity. These are diametrically opposed operating systems. And psychologists are recognizing that humans operate out of just two modes: love or fear. When we are experiencing fear, we are in the grips of ego. When we are experiencing love, we are in the domain of Spirit. We can’t feel fear and feel love at the same time and vice versa.
So the task of Self-mastery is to force the ego to the back seat and place the spirit at the wheel. My job as a spiritual life coach is to help people through this process. It involves training the mind to anchor in the present moment rather than forever drifting between past and present. No small task. But Self-mastery is about progress, not perfection.
When I teach my clients about Self-mastery, I don’t require them to continually monitor their thinking, being vigilant to replace every negative thought with a positive one. I don’t even ask them to devote long hours to meditation. Instead, I teach them two Zen-like concepts: the narrative mind and the experiencing mind.
The narrative mind is the one that is committed to maintaining and contributing to the storyline that we have created from past experiences. What doesn’t comply with that story, it dismisses. The narrative mind is the fortress of the ego and is fixated on either the past or the future. Little wonder our thoughts are so often negative, producing feelings of regret and anxiety.
The experiencing mind, on the other hand, is committed to experiencing the present moment. This is where life happens. This is the domain of spirit. And if we pay attention to the here and now, we are often rewarded with positive thoughts and frequently a sense of joy.
Self-mastery, then, is really a practice of living life through the experiencing mind. By intentionally training our minds to focus on what is happening in the here and now, we can experience the true art of living.
Trappist monk Thomas Merton said, “Life is this simple: We are living in a world that is absolutely transparent and the divine is shining through it all the time. This is not just a nice story or a fable; it is true.”
When we make it our goal to see the divine in all things and to feel it within ourselves, we are really experiencing what Self-mastery is all about. It takes some practice, but the results will transform your life. Join me in pursing this goal of Self-mastery and experience a state of intimate awareness of life that opens us up to all its splendor. It’s a great ride.