Taking charge.

No matter how daunting the obstacles & some are great indeed, there comes a time when the individual has to take charge of their existence. Victim mentalities are entirely understandable, but ultimately they inhibit personal healing & development. Hanging on in quiet desperation.

At some point or another we discover that we sentence ourselves by the thoughts & beliefs we hold on to. No other person is involved. At the level of individuality I am what I think. Or believe. Individuality is an entity created by family, school, peer group & inclination.

Individuality equals ego. In the search for personal freedom a damaged ego needs bolstering. Damaged egos need careful nurturing. But when one is ‘happy in one’s skin’ the next step of personal liberation presents itself. It is to address the question of one’s identity.

To question one’s own identity gives rise to the ultimate question of philosophy: ‘Who am I?’ or, more accurately: ‘What am I?’ This question, if asked sincerely, is the first step to personal liberation. Plato essays this process in his ‘Allegory of the Cave’.

In practice the first step is to begin to observe that one’s own thoughts come and go. Mind is innately friable, it vacillates. It passes. We all have known an occasional change of mind & sometimes we have also experienced a change of heart. Thought, belief is not permanent.

There are deeply-held beliefs that appear to be permanent, but under examination what is really shown is the personal degree of attachment. We are closely attached to those ideas, concepts, opinions & beliefs upon which we build our individual identity. But they’re all chimeras. Our politics, our religious affiliation or non-affiliation (atheism) are all aspects of our identities which we might die defending. Crazy.

Once having realised the unreliability of undisciplined mind and heart the next step is to bring a gentle discipline to our use of them. This step requires decision, intent, endeavour and practice; it IS practical philosophy. It needs stillness & silence (pace Eckhart Tolle).

To be clear, I am not speaking of personality here. An introvert will almost certainly become a liberated introvert. Ditto extrovert. An austere person will become austerely free and a hedonist will retain a zest for life even after self-realisation & personal freedom. Personality is fine, it adds entertainment to existence. ‘Identity’ is the issue. Are we to remain small, or identify with the large?

This was Nelson Mandela’s point when quoting Marianne Williamson, who puts it in a Christian context, but the religion is not essential:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

In the practice of observing the movements of the mind it may be realised that self, unlimited consciousness or awareness, is ever present. Self has no other true identity other than its self. It is neither male nor female, good nor bad, short nor tall, fat nor thin. These opposites are all dualities. The self is one, it is truly non-dual. It is singular & alone (all-one). And it is universal & limitless.

It is only by being true to oneself (Hamlet: Polonius/Laertes) & by knowing oneself (The Delphic Oracle) that personal freedom is achieved. And, what is freedom / liberation? It is freedom from the tyranny of the mind, from random, limited, iterative, circling thought. Freedom is transcendent. It transcends the self-imposed mental & emotional limits. It opens the heart & mind to a larger infinite existence.

Once free of the mental & emotional tyranny ‘I’ become master or mistress of the mind & emotional landscape. All become part of the play. Mind then becomes what it is in potential: a great mental and emotional instrument. Reason & freedom become the mark of one’s existence.

Just as one wouldn’t identify with a vacuum cleaner or toaster (except for comic effect) so identity with the mind departs & peace is found.

In freedom one remains true to oneself, honest and happily at peace. This, I would contend, is the greatest gift you can give to the world.


This ‘rant’ or thesis was originally tweeted within the discipline of the 140 character maximum on 26th January and has been barely edited for replication on the blog. In so doing I believe the terseness of the original is beneficially preserved. There is much here warranting a more fully developed blog post and it maybe that I will review the subject more fully later. In the meantime I hope you enjoy the message contained herein.

Stephen Coulson

@philositect on Twitter


  1. Luke said:

    So what is this ‘larger infinite existence I’m open the heart & mind to’ because it would seem that the above just describes another heaven, another God, be it ourselves, or in a vaugely Buddist nielist sense lack of our selves… and with this practice of midfulness, are you not just suggesting another set of discaplines, based around another form of non religion scooping up various bit of convenient in vogue estern influenced philosophies, with a bit of ‘the Matrix’ thrown in for good measure – without of course the bizarre need for all those weapons and the silly coat.

    The above may sound like some kind of harsh attack of your words, its not meant to be. I have just read so much and heard so much around this subject and honestly now I’m not sure in the big sceme of things it really maters if I play the piano or sit with a fag and watch Jeramy Kyle.

    To what end do ‘I’ become master or mistress of the mind & emotional landscape? Really are we not just a biological ‘vacuum cleaner or toaster’ we may enjoy making toast of cleaning up crap even in a quietly calm manner…but we are all the same just making toast! One day perhaps to be recylced as a vacum cleaner.

    ‘In freedom one remains true to oneself, honest and happily at peace. This, I would contend, is the greatest gift you can give to the world.’

    Do such people get things done? Are you honestly happy and at peace? I know some people who seem that way, largely because they live in a little unreal bubble…ie ‘living life is easy with eyes closed-misunderstand all you see’ others who achieve it with there fix of what ever….I’ve tried both, but find life quickly wakes me up with pain. And I’m Glad of it. I’m not sure despite, lots of facebook picutres with dolphins on telling me to be around ‘happy peaceful people and avoid angst’. That these are a gift people are a gift to the world such and aspirtation seems shallow.

    To kick the arse out of song quotes…’for well you know its a fool who play it cool and makes his life a little colder’ swap happy/peaceful for cool if you like the same meaning is there…I think I would prefare a discontent that rants away and maybe kicks the odd chair from under peoples feet and slaps the odd politician.

    Isn’t it the angst, the disatisfaction with the world as it is, that creates the change…ie as Oscar Wilde would put it, ‘the unreasonable man, who modifies the world to him?

    Ok there is my response…I hope you are not in some way insulted by my comments.Though not my intension, I seem to be often interpreted that way . Please go ahead and delete them if you wish. I am not dogmatic about any of the above views and will drop them in an instant if I find better. Please excuse spelling/ignorance and poor logic etc. I am not used to this kind of dialogue. My past attempts have often ended with potplants been thrown at me, divorce etc.

    • kool*son said:

      Thanks Luke, your comments are much appreciated. There’s a lot to be said about sitting on the stoop smoking and watching the world go by, or even watching Jeremy Kyle for that matter (although that’s not my taste). My (obviously failed) attempt is to essay that there comes a point when the anger has to go and peace and contentment need to be sought. Unrestrained emotions do not, in my experience, lead to a sense of equanimity, neither do manic thought patterns. If one is to move away from the turmoil then some effort has to be made to move towards emotional and intellectual balance. You might read my post on meditation for a fuller exposition of the ideas that informed this post. Its not woo-woo new age dreaminess, it is hard dedicated work to be true to oneself and ultimately to seek the highest level of Maslow’s self-actualisation. It’s a genuine goal in life. Good luck.

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