“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means, what I want, and what I fear.” -Joan Didion

This daily discipline of coming to terms with my daily life and myself in its midst could be called an exercise in self awareness. I have recognized more of myself – both the flaws and the gifts of who I am from this year of writing than probably any other single activity I have ever done. I have come to witness myself, or as Eleanor Roosevelt once described it: “Somehow we learn who we really are and then live with that decision.”

Finding a clear vision of oneself that looks authentically at not only what we are doing, but more importantly how we do it every day, changes you. Your consciousness changes when you witness your abilities, frailties and virtues. You become responsible for yourself and kinder to yourself in the process because you are no longer a stranger to yourself. Most people don’t take the time and effort it takes to become one’s own friend. Worse still most of us are never taught that this first friendship to ourselves is the one that will make the difference about all the rest.

Doubt and fear about our own self worth is the most common of all human diseases of the heart. Even the most successful people in the world are often dogged and coerced by the parts of themselves they most want to avoid. The tragic thing about our broken pieces is that the longer we push them away and underground, the more broken they become. They grow in our avoidance and even as we avert our eyes or try any number of ways to deny them, they take up more room inside of us.

Here is a simple magic that I promise you works – Whatever is most hidden and dark is only seeking your recognition. All that we need to do is shine a light on the deep corners inside of us. The grief, fear, and guilt shrinks as we witness it. Allowing the feelings to exist and pass through our bodies is how they leave us. Even the fears that seem as though they will paralyze us if we look in their direction, they too will let go their hold, just by resting our gaze on them.

Know thyself. This is the first great commandment of living a human life on earth. Lao Tzu put it like this: “Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is Enlightenment.”