Know Thyself


A friend pointed me to the Be Present organization recently. I watched their intro video and Wow! This is powerful! They’ve developed a model and a training to help people be present in the moment. It’s harder than it sounds. It requires learning how to be present with myself, which helps me listen to others and build relationships.


Being Present

So how does one be present with oneself? The first stage of the Be Present Empowerment Model is to ask: “Who am I outside of the distress of the oppression?”


As soon as I asked the question, I realized that I had just been triggered by a comment someone had made. It was an off-handed criticism. Or at least, that’s how I took it. And I went straight to all those messages of “You’re not good enough. You’re flighty. You’re not clear. You’re wasting people’s time.”


So I gave myself a 3-minute timer and sat down and just wrote down all those thoughts. I wrote whatever I was thinking and feeling in that moment: “You’re worthless. You’ll never amount to anything.”


As I wrote, I remembered experiencing punishment as a child, rather than understanding—and now I punish myself. At the same time, I realized that those who punished were just passing on to me the punishment they’d received.


I also saw that I’ve been able to avoid passing on the bulk of this burden. Some of it has slipped through and my daughter has her own messages she is learning to untangle. But I was able to protect her from a lot of it. She mostly got messages of love.


When my timer was up, I started writing about who I am outside of the distress of the oppression. In that moment, all I was able to come up with is what I do—I listen, I write, I synthesize.


Seeing More

But as I reflected on the question over the course of the day, I remembered a lot more. I remembered being two years old and holding my newborn baby sister on my lap. And I realized I am a caring soul.


I sing and dance. (Where did that come from!?) Oh yes. When I’m alone in the woods, my heart is flooded with joy, and I sing to the birds. And I dance. I am a joyful soul.


I see this joy in my work as well. When I bring my talents to address a genuine need, there’s this magical dance where creative answers start to bubble up and we all end up in a place none of us could have predicted. We come out richer, deeper, and more connected. And yes, sometimes even wiser.


Who am I outside of the distress of the oppression? I’m beginning to get a sense of it:

  • I am courageous.

  • I am undeterred: “It’s impossible! Okay, then, let’s get to work.”

  • I am caring.

  • I see, I hear, I synthesize. I write.

  • I am sincere.

This is my light. This is who I am. All that other stuff is just dust on my mirror.

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