Author’s bio: For sixteen years Lesley Edwards pursued inner spiritual development with the Brahma Kumaris. Her career took her into teaching and she gave herself wholeheartedly to her work with children at various schools in London. She was equally committed to her spiritual quest. As a student and teacher with the Brahma Kumaris, she was a much loved and respected member of the BK family. For almost four years she conducted a largely private battle with MS and eventually cancer. She passed away in June of 1999, but the legacy she left in the hearts and minds of all who knew her was a vision of tremendous courage, selfless service and a serene acceptance of her role amongst us in this lifetime.
During her last five years, one of her main areas of focus was the development of self esteem. She designed and ran courses throughout the UK sharing all that she had learned on her own journey. This is the second of two articles which she wrote before her death. As you will see from the profound and articulate way she talks about this most important topic, she has done her inner work, and speaks to us directly from her own experience.
THE HOLY GRAIL OF HIGH SELF ESTEEM
Lesley Edwards goes straight to the core of the challenge that faces us all, every day—the rebuilding and the maintenance of high self esteem.
In the first article on building self esteem (see The Beauty and the Beast) I described the first two steps as Knowing Yourself, and Accepting Yourself: to know and accept yourself as you are, good and bad; and to know and accept yourself as you could be, making the choice to realize your full potential for positive transformation, and appreciating the spiritual process that makes this possible. Having understood and accepted where you are coming from and where you are going to, the next step is to commit yourself to the journey. The challenge of building true self esteem is a pilgrimage in search of the Holy Grail. The Holy Grail is our worthiness, our purpose in life, our dignity, our beauty, true love, and a satisfying, peace of mind. Journeys can be dangerous things. Sometimes it’s safer to stay at home with the comfort of denials and attachments and support systems that tell us how wonderful we are—blissfully ignorant of all the work that needs to be done. It is when we venture outside our comfort zones that we get tested and challenged.
PROTECT YOUR SELF
The third step to building self esteem is to protect yourself. This means be careful. You have enemies. There will be forces at work that will try to stop you getting to your ‘Soul Room’, that inner space where you can sustain your soul consciousness and cultivate your conversation with God. Voices will call out to you from the other rooms. “Where are you?” “We need you here!” They will prevent you from knowing and learning from God, the master architect of your new self.
On a pilgrimage it is often best to travel alone, at least for the substantial part of the journey, while you are regaining your self esteem. The purpose of your life at the moment is to find the Holy Grail. But that is not an end in itself. What is most important is what you do with it when you have found it. Then the purpose of your life is to give, to express, to share what you have found. It is true that in a sense you cannot separate the two, for in giving, expressing and sharing you also discover yourself. But it is a fine balance and one that is easily lost. So make sure, if you are traveling closely with others, to give yourself plenty of space.
While Noah built his ark, people came and laughed at him, and teased him. “What on earth are you doing Noah?” They thought he was mad. It may be that others won’t understand why you want to go to your Soul Room to be quiet and to know God. The cocoon is not the most attractive phase in the life of the butterfly, but it is an essential step. No cocoon, no butterfly, simple as that. God has a preservation order on you at this time. Trust, and have faith that if you keep going inside to find power, that the power will do its work.
Protecting yourself is a lot to do with the relationships in your life, your relationship with yourself, with God and with other people. Put your relationship with yourself and God first. Your lessons will come through other people, but don’t lose sight of who is learning and who is teaching.
Relationships with others are a way of knowing ourselves on a deeper level. They are intense and interesting and real. We need someone to bounce off, to mirror back to us our reality. But we need to be wary about what they are mirroring back, which reality, which identity. If you are on a pilgrimage to find your true identity then be careful what other people see in you, because you will see yourself with those eyes too and this could give you a false sense of security; you think you are fine, when really there’s a lot you could be working on. When you are close to someone, your perception gets mixed up with their perception; sometimes you can’t even tell whether your feelings are your own or theirs. If they are not seeing themselves clearly, they will project what they don’t like in themselves onto you, and if you are not doing your work properly you will project what you don’t like in yourself onto them! All relationships are an exchange of power, people competing for energy: A and B taking support from each other until A no longer has the energy or the interest and withdraws affection. And B, having become dependent, is then unable to find that energy either from within or from anywhere else.
In an ideal relationship there will be an exchange of high quality love. Some recent scientific research from New York, which has been attracting media attention, has identified three types of love: lust, attraction and attachment. Lust and attraction speak for themselves. They can be lots of fun, but there may be a hefty price to pay in terms of your self esteem, and they will ultimately be distracting for anyone on a true pilgrimage. Attachment perhaps promises a deeper love, but how many people do you know who can’t live without each other, but they can’t really live with each other either? They love to hate each other! So be careful of the quality of your relationships. Are you really ready to love another human being properly? Or do you need to learn to love yourself first?
The things that attract us to other people are often qualities we would like to have ourselves. If we are quiet and gentle, we may find extrovert and confident people attractive. If we are strong and dynamic, we may find gentle and calm people attractive. In either case, the only and real lasting solution is to find whatever quality we are looking for in someone else—inside ourselves. For the power that can be found by returning to the natural state of the soul has all the ingredients needed for the making of any quality.
Within the cocoon of spiritual transformation there is a perfect balancing out of qualities; a balancing of the male and female within us all. For all of us can be strong as well as gentle, responsible as well as free, adventurous as well as cautious. When we see the alchemy of what was once weak becoming strong, what was once idealistic becoming visionary, what was once worry becoming freedom—then relationships change from being dependent to interdependent, from being unhealthy to healthy.
God teaches us to love ourselves. Because He has no hidden agenda He will mirror back to us only our highest qualities. We will not be able to project onto Him our own weaknesses; we will simply have to accept them and own them. He will not project onto us, because He has no weaknesses. He will not take our power away, nor will He withdraw His power, because it is unlimited. Having a relationship with God is necessary when our batteries have run down. And for anyone looking for self esteem that is likely to have happened.
The final step to building self esteem is to empower yourself. Power comes from all sorts of places. Some energy will be temporary, like the buzz of caffeine or cocaine that ends up leaving you feeling low. The energy spurt of a temporary attraction can also leave you feeling deflated when it fades, or damaged when it is not reciprocated. Even riding high on success and achievement carries within it the inevitability of coming down to earth with a bump when there is criticism and misunderstanding.
True energy will leave you feeling quietly confident, contented, satisfied, accepting, loving and at peace. You will feel connected to your own inner goodness, to the source of goodness in the universe and the goodness in other people. You will be stable and calm when things are going well and when things go badly. You will not need to blame or criticize anyone or anything.
You will love yourself—which means looking after your physical needs, eating the right food, taking exercise. You will spend time alone, being creative, meditating or enjoying silence, happy with your own company, and happy in the company of others. You will know your limitations and draw clear boundaries with confidence and calmness when it comes to work and commitments.
To maintain this state of self esteem you will need to be very cautious about what causes leakages to your inner strength. Power will seep away if you are not true to yourself. We all have an internal barometer which will indicate to us when we are off track. Deep within the soul, in the silent Soul Room of our being, is our conscience. It is our inner wisdom, the part of us that knows really that love is a more natural state of being than hate, that peace is more natural than stress. And it knows when we violate our own truth through our weaknesses, compulsions and being influenced by others. Our conscience ‘bites’, we become prisoners of our own conscience. I said earlier that God does not withdraw His power, but we can prevent ourselves from taking the power of goodness from God, and finding strength in our own goodness if we are not true to ourselves. If we deceive ourselves, if we forget who we really are, if we take quick fixes of energy by criticising others, by giving in to greediness or easy options, our energy will leak away. If we abuse ourselves or anyone else in any way we will not have a clear conscience. It will play on our minds. And when we go to our Soul Room there will not be peace, but punishment. Self inflicted punishment, the punishment of a troubled mind.
It is a paradox of spirituality, that real self esteem comes when we in fact go beyond our ‘self’. If we transcend ourselves, if we no longer have any selfish or willful desires, we can become an instrument of God’s will. Then our purpose in life becomes very clear. And it is only when we have a clear purpose that we can have true self esteem. When we go beyond our ‘selves’ then we find the soul. Then our life’s purpose is quite simply to learn to love and to bring peace on earth, in whatever way we can. This may be through composing a symphony or baking cakes. It does not really matter.