To accomplish anything; to get anywhere, you need goals. To reach goals, you need a plan; a road-map to help guide you through the steps necessary to success. Before any of this, there is a crucial first step. Without this step, many have failed because they’ve launched down paths after goals that end up being things they didn’t want, after all. What is this pivotal first step? It’s knowing who you are.
Now this might sound weak or you may think, “oh, I know who I am,” but so often, I have worked with people who do not know themselves and, newsflash, they thought they did! Most of us have egos big enough to answer this question in the affirmative and think, “yep, I’m good, I know who I am.” But, when push comes to shove and certain questions are asked, the mind goes blank or the voice changes tambor and tempo and scrambles for answers that are less than genuine.
What are these questions we all “should” (I don’t like this word, thus, am drawing attention to it) know the answers to? Well, there is not a magic list and there are variables such as age, culture, geography and gender that will modify each list, but to focus on the questions that are mostly true for everyone, I’ll draw your attention to Maslow’s Hierarchical Needs Pyramid. Our basal needs are what allow for us to survive in the basic sense of the term; food, water, sex, shelter, warmth, etc. The next level is safety and security as we need stability and order as everyone to some degree seeks it. (Is this because the Universe has been doing this since it’s inception and we just mimic it?) Third level needs are love and connection. The fourth level is esteem, achievement and status and the top level is self-actualization. This level is our striving to become the best we can be. Our relationship with spirit or that which is outside our inherent understanding. This is what is called personal growth.
To know ourselves, we have to know how we feel about, relate to and prioritize the various levels of needs. And we have to know what it is to be honest, both with ourselves and others. “Very basic” individuals strive for little. They go to work because they have to, resentfully pay their bills and call life a grind. They often say they are only happy when they’re drinking with their friends or having sex. These folks spend their time in the bottom two tiers of the needs scale and often succumb to desperation, manipulation and ill deeds as they see life as being about money, things and that they are victims that were mistreated or left out. There are many variations of individuals and I want to pause here to explain that I am well aware of this and not trying to pigeon hole everyone into a few categories. However, if we’re being honest, you can take everyone you know and “categorize them.” We all do it, to some degree and I’m doing this as an exercise to help you know yourself better.
The next level of person is the “connected basic.” This person tends to be the positive and more emotionally connected version of the very basic as they acknowledge that love is important. There a plethora of ways to express and receive love, some mature while others, not so much. The key here is the understanding that love is wanted/needed. Separate this category into those who are strictly takers, those who are strictly givers (martyrs and/or those with low self-esteem) and those who give and take equally and you will understand where you fall on the maturity spectrum.
Mature love leads into the next level of person, the “complete.” This person understands what love is because they learn to love themselves first. They understand balance and that life and love are about give and take. These people are willing to do the work, admit when they’re wrong, know how to apologize and also know that they are human and will make mistakes. As with all categories, there is a spectrum. The bottom end of this spectrum has this person stagnated and not growing in their relationship or maybe stuck in one or more of their mistakes. They’ve grown and experienced love on high levels but are not moving towards being fully actualized. Fear, anger or repeating mistakes over and over has made them complacent and uncaring. The opposite end of this spectrum has this person yearning for more…and that more is personal fulfillment. Legacy, actualization; a complete understanding of who they are and what their purpose is.
To know oneself is to have wanted to know yourself and to have asked the questions and reached for these answers for years. For some, this is found in meditation. Others find it through saying yes to many relationships and experiences, while others through crisis and cathartic moments. Still others through religion or spirituality. To attain this top level is to be so confident and sure of ourselves that no one else can knock you down and keep you down. You are you and no one can manipulate, influence or take that away from you. You are calling the shots in your life. You are determining your path and you don’t allow yourself to be used…not without knowing it and agreeing to it, that is. Again, on the spectrum, one end often ends up using others (many focus on this phrase and call it “bad,” and that is not true, it only CAN be true) while the other end seeks to elevate others.
These spiritually-enlightened are the opposite end of the spectrum from the “very basic” individuals and we’ll call them the “spiritually complete.” You may call them whatever you like; you can re-do and rename this spectrum. It was simply an exercise to illustrate a point. Something all Authors, Professors, etc, do when they are trying to communicate an idea, hypothesis or theory. Having said that, the point is that we all have needs. Some are for survival, which, a number of people spend most, if not all of their lives focusing on, while other needs are related to connection. This connection is to ourselves, then others, then that which outside of the first two. Some might call this, “God,” while others, “Spirit” or “the Universe.” It doesn’t matter. Just know, there is something bigger than you. How organized it is, or if it was responsible for the creation of everything, or if it had a divine plan is up to you and only you to decide for yourself.
In my Practice (as well as the Practices of many Alt-Med and Spiritual Practitioners) there is a term “spiritual counseling” or “life counseling” (among others) that is oft-misunderstood. When a Patient presents with a list of complaints; signs, symptoms, etc, I gather that information along with “tells” that every body has; the eyes, tongue, pulses, tissue palpation, skin observation and more, then collect history and make a time-line. There is a story here, along with how a Patient sounds, what they talk about, how they talk about it, how they sit, stand, walk, etc. It’s all a story. It also tells me where they fall on the above-mentioned needs spectrum, and if they are struggling, either along this spectrum, or on that of another.
Taking this into account while creating a treatment plan, along with point selection (points have spiritual purposes as well, although, to be honest, my use of them is limited, yet effective), I use acupuncture, cupping, diet, counseling and other methods to move, disperse, tonify, stimulate, diminish, etc, the energy/fluids and flow in the body, removing stagnation (stuck energy or fluids) so that the body may distribute energy/nutrients as it needs to.
Acupuncture does this through the stimulation of points of lower electrical resistance, or points where the body’s electricity is accessed more readily. The brain reacts immediately to these sensations, and whether the points are chosen for localized or distal effect, the Acupuncturist is seeking to establish increased function, alleviation of symptoms and a balancing effect that will lead to resolution of the underlying cause of dis-ease, if possible. Many times this has to happen through diet and behavior choices, in addition to acupuncture or some other physical treatment.
No matter where you are on your life-path. No matter what kind of individual you are; how simple or how enlightened, you may decide at any point to work on yourself, to reach for something more, to set and accomplish goals. Kudos to you for doing so. The world is a better place when we all raise the bar for ourselves and keep our focus on what WE as individuals can do to make things in and around us the best they can be.
Paul Gerst L.Ac. is a licensed Acupuncturist and Natural Health Practitioner of 20 years. He is passionate about helping others find health and happiness and has helped thousands of people along their path through a variety of different methods, be it a Veteran with PTSD, a worker with back pain, that person who wants to quit smoking or eating, but hasn’t been able to, or the person who is simply unhappy and looking for their place in life. He may be reached at 774-283-2726 to be seen at his clinic in Middleboro, MA or to hire for consultation/business programs. Learn more at NENHS.com.