On Self-Guardianship

two boats.jpg

 

However this happens (and there are plenty of possible theories, a couple of which I’ll mention), we are our own keepers.  We are the ones who live in our bodies, and, for better or worse, are responsible for navigating our lives.

Those of us with a spiritual bent might sense that we’re somehow assigned to ourselves—before incarnating.  Perhaps through some sort of divine contract. As if a benevolent force said (or transmitted) something along the lines of: “Okay, I’m about to send you to planet earth to inhabit a body and live a human life and you’re going to be the one: the one to live that life, the one to care for the person you are about to become, the one to learn its lessons, capice?”  Personally, I have no conscious memory of this happening, yet have the distinct almost incontrovertible sense that it did.

Others understand our inception in purely biological terms. Plenty of very intelligent, very rational people understand the presence of human life on planet earth as a random occurrence. A wild statistically improbable phenomenon that we would all end up here with our human bodies and highly developed brains on this one little planet in a galaxy of billions.

Whatever your belief about how we got here, and where we go when we leave this lifetime, I think we can all agree that each of us is the one living our own individual life. Each of us is our own keeper. In charge of how we conduct ourselves, responsible for making the choices we make. We are each possessed of the ability to treat ourselves with great kindness and care, or to sabotage our daily life, beating up our inner selves mercilessly. We can speak to ourselves (as most of our inner tape loops have been long ago programmed to do) with self-criticism and self-hate, or we can take the time and make the effort to reprogram our inner dialogue to be laced with kindness, even fueled by self-love.  This re-programming tends to be a lot of work (usually requiring the help of trained skilled humans who’ve figured out how to do this for themselves). But for some, prayer, meditation, or a spontaneous life-changing event can ignite the inner practice loving kindness, the commitment to take abiding care of self.

There are many opportunities in each of our lifetimes to forget.

To forget who we are.

To forget to take responsibility for self.

To forget that we are our own keeper.

To fall into autopilot, living numbly, obliviously, perhaps wreaking havoc on ourselves and others.  

Sometimes this happens with seemingly good intentions—like believing it is our job to live someone else’s life for them. We may think we are taking care of this other person, or (if your tendencies are codependent, then plural: these other people, perhaps scores of them).  But what is really happening when we get swept up in the attempt at heroism? At rescuing others? (Side note: if you are an EMT, or a doctor or first responder and you are in the act as of doing this as your job or to literally save someone from dying, that’s not what I am describing here.) What I am talking about is when we attempt to rescue someone else—at the expense of self. When we attempt to direct someone else’s life—and inadvertently abandon our own.

Imagine two boats out on the water, each with a single person at the helm. What happens to your boat when you dive off of it and swim over to the other person’s? This can happen not only through trying to direct that other person, or rescue them, by telling them how to think and feel and behave, but also alternatively, it can happen when you obsess on someone else. When you compare yourself relentlessly to another person. When your focus is on how somebody else is living his or her life, when you’re (to use 12 step language) taking their inventory, you’ve left your boat.  You’ve gone over to theirs. And who’s in your boat now? Who is at the helm? What is happening to it, your vessel, bobbing without a captain in the water?

Your job in this lifetime is to swim your ass back over to your boat and get in the helm. Your job is to care for this boat. Plug its holes, bail it out, keep it afloat. Enjoy being in this boat. Sure, you can communicate with other people in other boats. Collaborate, exchange observations, appreciations, feedback, requests, love. Feel free to communicate with as many people in as many boats as you choose to, but if you want to improve your experience of life, feel connected and cared for, safe and loved, do all this while staying in yours. 

Whether you think you got here to life on earth by random chance, or by some benevolent divine force, the fact is, you’re the one living your life. And you are your keeper. Chances are, you, like all of us, have undoubtedly abandoned yourself many times—most likely unintentionally, but perhaps on purpose. Maybe your own vessel is in such disrepair, you’d rather try to live in someone else’s. But the deal is, you can’t. None of us can. We’re here, in this life, as this person. It takes vigilance to keep coming back to self. To realize when we’ve abandoned ourselves, and to swim back to who we are.

What would it be like to take up the mantle of being your own keeper with the utmost of love, of honor, of commitment and care? What might your day—or life—be like if you kept remembering not only to come back to self, but, once there, inside yourself, to guide and care for who you are with the steadfast presence of a loving keeper?

10 thoughts on “On Self-Guardianship”

  1. I love your analogy of the boat and that it can apply to every person no matter what is going on in their lives.
    Thank you for taking the time to write these beautifully written blogs which makes us take time to make sure we are in our own boats.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Love this Hilary, thank you for sharing your wisdom and beautiful writing.
    This post reminds me of many family conversations! I love your boat analogy, we use the “hole” analogy, as in, “don’t go down the hole” with someone who needs rescue, stay up on the ground, you can shout down to them and try to pull them up and out but “DON’T go down the hole” with them!
    Your piece also reminded me, about 10 years ago Hannah was in college and one of her friends had a therapist who was helping her with family problems, and told her : “detach with love” – we have at times found this to be a really helpful concept!
    Look forward to seeing more of your work soon!

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  3. I love this analogy. Each one of us responsible for navigating our own boat. As a scientist I struggle with the “how and why are we here” question

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  4. I want to chalk it up to science but I can’t ignore the overwhelming feeling that a divine presence exists. If we are here as some sort of educational vehicle for the divine then the more we practice self care, the better equipped we are to help others and with that our relationship with the divine evolves. Healer heal thyself, I always say.
    Sorry about the 2 part comment ~ I prematurely hit send!

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  5. Hilary, I loved this essay. Your analogy is beautiful (much better than the airlines’ “Put on your oxygen mask first”). We must move beyond thinking that self-care is selfish but rather is the only way to be generous-hearted with others.
    Much love, L

    Like

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