The Art of Living Well

Knowing Yourself – The Art of Living Well
by: Stephen Lau

John Donne, the English poet, once said: “No man is an island.” Yes, in a way, we are all related to other people in our lives–whether we are at home, work, or play.

Relationships are at the core of human existence. If you understand other people in your life, you will develop better and more positive relationships with them. Understanding people means knowing how to react to them in certain situations, leading to good human relationships. Having good human relationships is the art of living well.

But understanding other people around you may not be easy, especially if you do not understand yourself first. By understanding yourself better, you may be able to relate better to other people in your life. Therefore, the key to the art of living well is knowing yourself first.

Why is knowing yourself so important?

Above the doorway of an ancient Greek temple were written the words “Know Thyself.” The significance of those words was: Knowing yourself first! If you know youself, you need not even ask the oracle for a prediction of your future. That is to say, if you know yourself, you could answer all your own questions in life. If that is the case, why do you bother to ask the gods? Just ask yourself–you hold the answers to all your questions in life.

Who are you?

That is the question you should ask yourself first, rather than what is going to happen to your life. Your Creator has created you for who you are and what you are. Your worth lies within you, just as Ann Frank said, “Human worth does not lie in riches or power, but in character or goodness.” If you believe in the goodness in yourself, you would know how to treat another individual you encounter in your life. If you know yourself, you would know what another individual would want. Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet, was once asked by reporters how he could so easily and instantly relate to people of different cultures, religions, and backgrounds. He promptly replied that he was “simply encountering a fellow human being with the same desire to be happy and to avoid suffering as myself.” In other words, an acute awareness of the needs and wants of any individual.

Indeed, if you know yourself well enough–to know who you are and what you want from life–you would know how to deal with another individual with the same needs and wants as yours. Essentially, treat others as you would like to be treated. The problem with many of us is that we simply don’t know ourselves, and therefore we don’t know others. As a result, we don’t know how to react appropriately in certain circumstances, or how to treat others just as we would like to be treated.

Then, how do you know yourself?

The best way to know yourself is to meditate. Meditation is a mental process during which your mind focuses on something seemingly insignificant and irrelevant, such as your breathing, so that you can explore your subconscious mind to find out your real needs and priorities in life. Many religions advocate the practice of meditation as a means to enlighten the mind and enhance spirituality.

Meditation is easy to practice: it requires only discipline and diligence. Use meditation to know yourself, thereby knowing others in your life. Knowing yourself may surprisingly solve many of your life problems.

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