Updated: Apr 19
Self-governance is pure blessing. It is the power of intelligence and love expressed in human behavior. By the power of self-governance we are able to perform any action that is truly beneficial to us. We can literally bring ourselves any and every good thing we desire.
The average person is dominated by his self-centered likes and dislikes: food, drink, sex, fame, money, and “power.” He is controlled almost entirely by the short sighted pursuit of pleasure and avoidance of pain. He eats what he likes and avoids what he doesn’t. He prefers to stay up late and rise late after lounging in bed rather than awakening early to a daily regimen of exercise and self-reflection. He feeds his mind with television, newspapers and gossip rather than philosophy, science and art. He avoids vigorous mental exercise just as he does physical. Rather than relationships that inspire his best he chooses those that appear to be comfortable and not challenging. Illness, financial problems, meaningless work, troublesome emotions and painful relationships seem to track him down. He knows no way to avoid them.
His unexamined actions bleed him of personal power as surely as if he took a dagger and stabbed his physical body. In bleeding his own life blood, he drains himself of his only power: that of governing his own actions. By squandering the only power he has to carry out his noblest desires he becomes controlled by weaker, sick desires and fears that cause his physiology and psyche to degenerate and become ill. His immune system, hormone levels and digestion as well as his moods, concentration, memory and attitude go awry.
By relinquishing control of himself he condemns himself to a life of illness, unhappiness, confusion, and conflict. The only way to stem his ongoing energetic hemorrhages is by regaining control of his own actions. Our wisdom literature compares our struggle for self-mastery to all out war.
There is nothing harder than taking back the power we have given away. “Refined” tastes for chocolate, coffee or wine become screaming, vulgar tyrants when denied their daily tribute. Freeing ourselves from our enslavement to bad habits is a challenge so formidable that it has strikes fear into the hearts of every one of us. There is no more frightening opponent than our own selves.
Buddha himself taught that to master the tyrannically selfish aspects of one’s nature is supremely difficult; whereas surrendering to immediate self-gratifications couldn’t be easier. His words “supremely difficult” indicate Self-mastery is accomplished only by the Supreme, the true self. He also taught that the supreme expressions of our humanity are love and wisdom; these are the universal medicines.
Healing our diseases is accomplished not by fighting so called “diseases” but by focusing on healing ourselves. This means healing or mastering our behavior; gaining self-governance.
In my practice I teach my clients how to Heal themselves without medicines. Self-governance is the overarching practice I teach. It is the core focus of my instruction. It is quite simple for me to know what a person needs to eat, what exercise they need etc. The art is empowering them to actually be able to do it. This is the work I love. I get to know my clients intimately and to join them in learning to know and accept themselves, to genuinely love themselves, and to free themselves of behaviors that create endless misery for them. This work is anything but being forceful, demanding, pushy. It has little to do with willpower and discipline. Learning self-governance is learning to be truly free, free to do what is of real benefit.
By self-governance I mean the ability to govern one’s behavior in ways that do not produce suffering and regret; to act in ways that produce Health and happiness rather than illness and anxiety. Self-governance is born of self-understanding and self-compassion. If you understand how to sail, hunt, play music or cook, you have power in that area. Self-understanding is the power to govern our own body and mind skillfully. When we understand clearly what motivates our self injurious actions and understand their bitter consequences, we naturally move away from what causes us to suffer.
Self-compassion is the other leg of Self-governance. Compassion is our love for ourselves. It is our caring about our own suffering. It leads us to ask, “What is troubling you, my dear friend?”
Self-compassion is also the pure, raw power of love; the same love that a parent has for her child, applied to ourselves in the most practical of ways. The more we are clear about what we really love and don’t love, the more our behavior expresses that clarity. Effort is a signal that we are conflicted about what we desire. One day we will sell our soul for short term pleasure, the next we desire what is truly beneficial. You cannot force yourself to desire what is good. You must really, really understand the pure benefit of good conduct and the certainty of the misery and regret that unfailingly follows poor conduct.
When we are able to control our actions we naturally cease to do what harms us. If we actually possess this power we wield it. If we do not exercise Self-governance it is because we do not possess it. We lack the personal power to do what we know to be good and right for ourselves. We are bound by habit. When we have self-governance we are truly free, we can choose to eat the chocolate, or smoke the cigarette, but we are not compelled to do so. We can and we choose to not. A weaker person is compelled to injure themselves against their own better judgment and desires.
If you are engaged in Self-harming activities it is due to a combination of ignorance, a lack of self-understanding; and to indifference, a lack of self-love. Therefore you strengthen your self-governance not through “willpower” or “effort,” but by calmly being interested in yourself; by seeking to understand why you do what you do and then what happens to you as a result of doing this.
The other way to strengthen your Self-governance is by exercising your Love. Express it in every way you can, especially in your eating, moving, thinking and relationships.
Study your ways of living and strive to make your actions genuine expressions of your love. Ask yourself, “Would you teach your child to overindulge coffee and sweets, and harshly criticize herself?” Of course you wouldn’t! Practice really loving yourself in the ways you feed and move your body. Use writing or meditation to nourish yourself with encouragement and forgiveness. Always your work of Self- Healing will come down to where the rubber meets the road. Are you loving yourself in your everyday thoughts, words and deeds? If not, ask yourself again, what is the good that you truly want? Then practice wanting that passionately.
Daily strengthen your noble desires. Practice the skill of wanting what will truly benefit you, what you’ll never regret. This is common sense, right? What is uncommon is people who practice this.
Through wisdom and kindness, not through force, you master your actions. And your actions determine your health. Period.
Self-Governance is our innate power to direct our actions wisely and kindly. We use our own self-governing power to injure and inflict misery upon ourselves and others and we cannot stop. Our self-harming actions create dis-ease, chaos, and despair. There is no way to heal except to change our actions; stop harming ourselves; be kinder to ourselves.
Anything that does not change our actions is bullshit. “Self Mastery” is an invitation to play for real. We want greater Health and happiness and there is a price to be paid; challenges to be met. We must change our behavior. But how? If we are unable to teach our patients to find and wield their power to make difficult changes in their behavior, our clinical effectiveness will be limited to what we can do with medicines and therapies. Teaching self-governance is the Missing Link in medicine and healthcare.
We are innately self-healing and self-governing. We ourselves are the power that heals us. We are simultaneously and paradoxically both the one who suffers and the one who heals.