Personal truth. I have used that term a lot over the last sixteen months. Knowing personal truth can only be your truth if you have discovered Self, come to recognize core essence, who you are. Oh, I wouldn’t question if someone is there or not; I would take them at face value. I’m just giving the primary prerequisite for growing in and living personal truth. Only the individual knows if they have awakened to Self.
Personal truth, though, provides a foundation upon which we can build our life. Who do I know myself to be? What have I created as my Purpose? How do I stay focused on expressing self-identity in my purpose? Personal truth.
Without that foundation, every time someone questions us, criticizes us, or we do those to ourself, we will doubt, fear, withdraw. It doesn’t mean we will never feel those emotions at all; however, our life purpose will not be scrapped and we will not end up in a state of perpetual defeat. It means we won’t cave to accept mediocrity, to resign our lives to the control of others, to maintain status quo. Simple survival, while sometimes a motive to get through challenging spots, will not be the norm of life.
Personal truth gives us the outline, the framework, the essential coding that programs how we act and react, how we relate and present ourselves to others, how we choose our engagements and encounters. As we grow in knowledge of Self — “Know then, thyself, presume not God to scan; / The proper study of mankind is man” (Alexander Pope) — the framework becomes sturdier, more substantial, and more beneficial for us. Earlier today, I shared the following story:
“I spent the later afternoon and early evening with a great friend yesterday. We worked together on a project of his on his patio. Then, we had a few beers together, and talked and laughed. At one point, he claimed he and I were failures as teachers because we just could not reach all students with the ideas we deemed crucial and draw out of them the ability to reason to those. He is the same friend who taught for ~35 years and said it was his calling but that since it was, he counts it as a burden. He couldn’t do anything else, wasn’t free to. I was forceful in my response to him. I asked him if he chose education as a profession because it was his soul’s desire. Yes. Then, he was living, as far as possible, his personal truth. Failure does not, is not, defined by responses of others on a personal level. We only truly fail when we don’t live personal truth, live our Heart self-identity.”
That last bit presents some difficulty in processing and understanding if we do not know our own Heart. Ego likes to tell us we are failures, which discourages us from conformity. If we feel defeated, we are not going to strike out on our own. So allow me to repeat it: Failure does not, is not defined by others’ reactions to me as I live my Heart-purpose. More than that, even though my Heart-purpose involves the expression of my love to this Universe, any single individual’s negative, rejecting, or apathetic reaction to what I do means nothing to me in one way. In another way, it hurts and gives me pause for evaluation; however, the reactions of others do not determine failure or success. If I’m living my personal truth, then I’m successful.
Yes, I am still reading and pondering Walt Whitman’s work, and I found a moving, applicable set of statements that highlight this idea of living personal truth, of knowing and positively carrying out expression of Self, that which we create as purpose. The statements bookend his life and my message tonight. One is in the first “Preface” to the original 1855 version of Leaves of Grass. The next is a preface to another of his works, November Boughs, entitled “A Backward Glance O’er Traveled Roads.”
Near the end of the “Preface,” Whitman lists many examples of “the best actions” of people, those who do things based on this: “…all that has at any time been well suggested out of the divine heart of man or by the divinity of his mouth or by the shaping of his great hands…these singly and wholly inured at their time and inure now and will inure always to the identities from which they sprung or shall spring” (424). He recognizes that Heart is divine, and what is determined, spoken, and worked based on Heart is personal truth which “inures” (in the sense of tempers) all that is done, and that is based on “identities from which they have sprung,” i.e., who we are.
He goes on to say, “…no result exists now without being from its long antecedent result, and that from its antecedent…What ever satisfies the soul is truth. The prudence of the greatest poet answers at last the craving and glut of the soul…the young man who composedly periled his life and lost it has done exceedingly well for himself…” (424). If we know Heart, core Self, and have created Purpose and live life expressing our essence and in touch with Spirit and the fellowship of the Heart, then we live well and honestly; we prosper in personal truth; we enjoy life out of the fullness of soul. None of this is possible without knowing Self and personal truth.
A few lines after these I have quoted, Whitman brings up the possibility that a young man may freely choose to live his truth and put himself in a situation where he dies, and the estimation is he “has done exceeding well for himself,” (424) because he lived personal truth, which gave him the conviction to act. In contrast, he says there may be a wealthy man who doesn’t live out of a conviction that costs him anything may live to an old age and gained wealth and a life of ease, but such a one “has perhaps achieved nothing for himself worth mentioning.” He has met society’s standards of wisdom, but that is often a far cry from personal truth. The difference isn’t in the life actions; the difference, the determination of failure or success is in living from conviction of personal truth.
This is lengthy, so I will save “A Backward Glance” for tomorrow. In the meantime, who are you and what is your truth? Important questions that determine personal success or a resigned life usually full of regrets.
P.S. Last night I think I forgot to give the book citation, and it is the same as tonight — mea culpa:
(Whitman, Walt. Complete Poetry and Selected Prose by Walt Whitman. Ed. James E. Miller, Jr. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1959. Print.)
Questions to consider:
How many times have you asked yourself or simply thought about the following questions?
Who am I, really?
What is my truth?
How do my actions reveal what I really feel and believe?
What would I do with my life if I could do anything?
What is my passion?
Why am I here?
How can I discover answers to any of these questions?
If you have considered any of these questions, I hope that my experiences and writing will give you some guidance. Please read my blog and comment and share your thoughts. I would love to hear from you!