40 Days to Personal Revolution Law 1: Seek the Truth Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
A MAN WHO WAS LIKE AN UNCLE TO ME WAS A BRAHMACHARYA (A YOGIC RENUNCIATE). HE HAD BEEN THE RIGHT-HAND MAN TO THE FAMOUS YOGA GURU Yogananda for about twenty years before he went on to discover a new path. I remember when I was in my late teens I had a conversation with him that was so profound, I immediately went and wrote it down, word for word, so that I could remember it. It began when I asked him how I could get unstuck from the world of competition that seemed to create so much fear and suffering in my life.
He nodded understandingly “That particular question and a thousand others pertaining to the human predicament can be answered with one word. It’s an ancient word found in almost every spiritual tradition that is now glibly tossed from a hundred thousand pulpits every Sunday of each week. Because of such familiarity, it’s been cheapened, and its deeper mystical meaning has been lost.”
I said, “Please, tell me—what’s the word?”
“Oh,” I said, the sneer on my face making it very clear that the word had associations for me. Quite frankly, whenever I heard that word, aside from its rather distasteful religious connotation, shivers would go up my spine, and I always got the image of a magazine cartoon showing a
bearded elder in a white robe and sandals walking the streets of Manhattan with a sign saying Repent! The End of the World Is Near.
He and I talked some more, and I came to understand that what he meant by repentance wasn’t that we should dwell on where we lost our way and all the ways we are bad, but rather to have the courage to face the pure, unsweetened truth of ourselves so that we can move on and grow in more honest and authentic ways. It is simply the willingness to see in full truthfulness what we need to face within ourselves and our lives so that we may get into the right alignment. As Jesus taught, it is ultimately always the truth that can set us free.
I have since come to believe that the highest form of repentence is self-acceptance. As the philosopher Carl Rogers said, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” You can meditate and do yoga until you are blue in the face, and all you will ever be is blue in the face unless you have the courage to open your heart, face reality, admit your mistakes, and take right action. It hurts a bit, but this is what it means to have a personal revolution.
Not too many years after this conversation, I went through a personal awakening in which I started to feel like I had wasted much of my life on futile things. In the process, I saw how I had hardened my heart, and it pained me. I saw all the ways I had missed the mark. I felt like my heart was cracking open—and I cried as I saw how I’d been wasting my life being prideful, unforgiving, and ungrateful, isolated from myself and the people in my life. I was genuinely sorry about it. I was deeply sad, yet profoundly glad to see these things about myself, because I knew it was an opportunity for a new birth, a new beginning in life.
There is a Turkish proverb that says, “No matter how far you have gone down a wrong road, turn back,” and that is exactly what I did. It was painful, but also one of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced. When the truth entered my heart, it was as though a thousand pounds of emotional weight had been lifted. Much karma was burned in this sacred moment. For me, this was an authentic and conscious experience of growth in my life.
That was an experience that opened something deep in me. It was as if there was a powerful energy system that broke through the membrane that was holding me back in life. Have you ever felt like “Here’s my power, here’s my energy and strength, here are my talents, here is the gift that I was meant to give”—but then there is an invisible membrane that blocks all this from shining through?
In the religious East they say that if you have done a wrong in the past, it has to be
undone. And so perhaps this breaking through is needed in order to see the truth, remap your mind, and establish a new direction. The remapping occurs in the silence of our hearts. Alone and absolutely empty, we acknowledge that there is a lack of right direction and that we need to repent so that we may be rebuilt. The ego will feel that in this deep surrender life ends, but truly, it’s the point where life begins.