Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Voice of Self-Reliance

In 1830 Ralph Waldo Emerson delivered a sermon to his congregation on self-reliance. Self-reliance was a common theme throughout his lifetime, one that formed the basis for all of his work. Generally, it encouraged independence and personal resourcefulness, but more importantly, it pointed to the great value in being authentic...in being who you are and letting that inner instinct guide you to do what you were meant (or need) to do.  Emerson's words and ideals are valid, even 181 years later. The whole notion of self-reliance, I realized, puts the responsibility for my life in my hands. We have been shown how powerful self-reliance is by so many, especially those persons in history who stepped forward against all odds to create change for the rest of us.

My mentor, Bob Stevens, often said that life is like an onion, with so many layers. I see self-reliance also being an onion. What I tell myself about it activates the motion I put forward in my life. There are certain things I realize that none of us have a say over: our skin color, the color of our eyes, our genetic predispositions (to a point). These things, particularly, cannot be changed by any great degree. We can get a spray tan or we can buy contacts, but generally the naked child who enters the world never changes; physically, we are who we are. Sometimes this presents great challenges and obstacles, other times these non-changeable things work to our benefit. Today, I considered that I needed to address that which I had mastery over and let the things go that I had no mastery over. What I decided to do is take responsibility for how I care for the vessel I was born into. That, I decided, was self-reliance.

As I look back over my life I realize that the times I have practiced self-reliant were the times when I felt most at peace with my life. Even when things were not going well for me, in retrospect I moved through those times with much less anguish when I was practicing self-reliance. When I felt victimized or subjected to whatever life was trying to throw at me is when I felt the most pain and most stuck and wanted to be saved by someone, anyone. Self-reliance, when done with intention and a universal sense of caring for others, always moved me in a direction that was a "win-win" for everyone. Sometimes the win was not evenly split, but it always felt balanced and fair. In those time when I met self-reliance and made friends with it, I found my health, my order, my sense of equality with the world. I found peace. There is great personal power that comes when I know I can care for myself or the people I love, in spite of hardship or challenge. Self-reliance is the invisible muscle of life...so thanks Mr. Emerson for speaking to me from the past. It was a nice reminder.

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