By Aparna Jacob August 2005A self-contained, self-reliant individual is free from emotional bondage. Know thyself, for within you is all the love, happiness, wisdom and freedom you will ever need.Be Your Own SadguruDid you know you have a map inside you? Everything you needed, all the wisdom, all the love, you will find inside. When you need guidance from yourself, step back and see the larger picture for an objective solution. For this you need to afford yourself 'inner leisure', says Uday Acharya. Spending time with yourself, contemplating or meditating are some ways. Connect with your true self by sitting in the lap of nature. Walking, gazing at the sea, watching trees are ways of tuning into the harmonious energies of the universe.When you get in touch with your higher self, you see more objectively and do not see yourself as a victim. You become what Stephen Covey calls, pro-active, not reactive. Pro-activity is synonymous with self-awareness, free will, creativity and inner conscience. When you allow yourself time and introspection, you can get in touch with these aspects of yourself. In turn they will help you see your goals and the way to reach them.Self-reliance is a natural offshoot of self-esteem. We can only bank on ourselves if we have earned our own trust and belief. How do we develop these? 'Self-esteem is the disposition of experiencing oneself as competent in coping with the basic challenges of life and as being worthy of happiness,' says Nathaniel Branden in The Six Pillars of Self-esteem. Self-acceptance, self-love, a positive self-image, the freedom to be ourselves; all these are crucial aspects of self-esteem. He recommends living consciously, accepting yourself, self-responsibility, assertiveness, living with a sense of purpose and practising personal integrity as the six ways of bolstering one's self-esteem.Loneliness is a judgment upon ourselves. It's the feeling of being unloved learnt in childhood. To break out of it, contemplate on your humanness. Say to yourself: 'It is okay to have limits'.In lonely hours, don't discount your ability to amuse yourself. Develop your skills and get in touch with your tremendous abilities. Forgive yourself and don't be overly critical. Develop good communication skills, be assertive, learn to say no. Don't feel guilty about not catering to others' requests all the time out of a sense of obligation. Lastly, don't try to play God. Be yourself, it's a wonderful thing.I am That I amBefore his passing away the Buddha's final words were: 'Be a lamp unto yourselves.' What he meant was that we must not seek salvation by depending on others. We must look within. Self-knowledge is the key to self-improvement and self-realisation.There are two main ways that Buddhists focus on self-reliance. Firstly, each person must work out for themselves the way to end their own suffering and attain happiness. And secondly, it is up to each person to realise that it is their own actions that determine their future. In Buddhist thinking, each individual's destiny is not determined by an outside power but by the way we live our own lives and our personal attitudes to suffering, happiness and the world around us. This means that every one of us is responsible for our own actions. Every one of us can progress or develop only as much as our own efforts allow. Buddhists learn that dedication, self-discipline and wise judgment are the keys to reaching the highest goals in life.The Buddha's advice is that at all times we must remain masters of ourselves through self-reliance. We must never surrender our dignity or free will. The Buddha strongly advocated the doctrine of self-reliance, purity, courtesy, enlightenment, peace and universal love. He said 'If you wish to see the end of your suffering and fear, develop discipline, compassion and wisdom.'The light of knowledge of the self will banish the darkness of ignorance. Constant meditation on the atma is the master-key to open these realms of self-knowledge. Vedanta speaks of the primary truth, tat twam asi or 'Thou art that,' marking the identification of the small, personal self with the larger, infinite self. The journey of life is all about returning to this source by realising ourselves.The summer of 2002 was especially hard for my aunty Sajee. Living apart from her husband and soulmate for the purpose of her children's education, she had let herself go. She grew fat, her nails were chipped and her hair grew dull and straggly. She went around for days looking unkempt and forlorn, moping around the house in her nightie.When her kids gently admonished her, she'd say: 'Whom do I dress up for? Why should I bother? Who cares?'Then one day, my aunt decided enough was enough.She enrolled in a basic computer course. She began taking herself for walks every morning. She got together a prayer group and conducted Bible-reading sessions on weekends. Before long, aunty Sajee was back to being her high-spirited vivacious self.But it got us all thinking: how hard it seems to keep yourself going when there's seemingly no place to go; when it seems like you are alone, and there's no one to peg your affections on, no one to look forward to, no one to preen and be wanted for. Why is it that we always need someone to pin our happiness and aspirations on, only to have these buffeted each time the person shifts? And why do we constantly forget about one very important person? Ourselves.Unto Myself'Why give yourself permission to feel wonderful only if another person's involved?' questions Sarah Ban Breathnach in her essensual treatise Romancing the Ordinary, which many a woman must think of as a Bible of self-reliance. 'How thrilling it would be to enjoy your own company? It's like having a numbered account in Switzerland. Something you can always bank on,' she says, goading every woman to indulge herself, keep herself well. To those who think showering attention on oneself is a wasteful enterprise, she says: 'If you can't please yourself when you know better than anyone else how to do it, who else is gonna do it for you?'This is not self-obsession or self-absorption. Rather it is what English writer Sylvia Ashton calls 'to live in peace with that word: Myself'. Breathnach's theory is simple: How can you love others if you don't love and cherish yourself first? Only when our own cup is brimming over with love, trust and hope can we spill over to others. Her prescription: Do things for yourself, pamper yourself, be fond of yourself. And when you begin to trust and believe in yourself, you glow with it; others are drawn to you because of the energy you emanate. It makes you irresistible.Self-reliance is nothing but the ability and desire to provide for oneself. It means to accept responsibility for your own happiness and sorrows, your actions and afflictions. Indeed, for your life.Why does this appear so hard? Why do we look outside of us, to friends, family, neighbors, everywhere but ourselves, for emotional and physical sustenance?'Because of patterns imbibed in childhood,' explains Vedanta teacher Uday Acharya. 'As children we observe that we need to 'earn' affection, that love is always conditional, that it requires being manipulative. We begin to believe that unconditional love is non-existent or that no matter how hard we try, we are undeserving of it.' These patterns are carried into adulthood and we learn to treat ourselves the same way: we berate ourselves, lose faith in ourselves, mistrust ourselves. We continue as motherless children, wrapped in self-pity and rejection of ourselves.The need is to heal, become self-contained and capable of taking care of ourselves. 'Affirm to yourself: As a human being I'm deserving of love. I'm a lovable person,' says Acharya. 'Say: I am an adult now, capable of providing for myself everything I need. Whatever I lacked as a child and didn't get from others I can give myself right now.'So, I can love myself, give myself a pat on my back and root for myself in my loneliest hours. We could all use someone steady and unwavering to depend on. Who better than us?Count on YourselfVandana Gupta had to learn to become these. Twelve years ago Vandana, a housewife, was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma, a form of cancer. It felt like the end of the world. There was chemotherapy, hair loss, mood swings, moments of utter terror. Then in the midst of these, Vandana's mother, whom she looked to for strength, passed away.'In a way it steeled my resolve to fight the disease,' remembers Vandana. She recalls how she would visit her doctor and make trips to the hospital alone as she did not want to burden her family with the added tension of seeing her suffer. 'I seized control of the situation. During my low phases, it helped to talk to my husband, watch an uplifting play, anything. I drew my strength from all around - from a series on cancer being aired on TV, from the stories of other cancer survivors.' Vandana grit her teeth, and pulled through the treatment.Today, this cancer survivor runs V Care, a support network for cancer patients, providing much-needed emotional support, advice and financial help through their time of distress. It was born of Vandana's own experience, seeing how much hope and encouragement it gave a patient to talk to a cancer survivor and compare experiences.Vandana testifies: 'I was born with an inner core of strength. I looked within and found a reservoir of determination and amazingly, courage. I realized I could get through this. And this is what I tell other patients as well.'Calamities that befall us, Vandana realized, hardships and obstacles one encounters on the road, are positive blessings. They knit the muscles more firmly, and teach self-reliance.Divya Bhandari, now 32 years of age, was born with a severe hearing impairment. But her mother Reena, ex-principal of Helen Keller Institute for the Deaf-blind, recalls the brightness of her spirit as a child: 'It took a lot to get Divya dow
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