Self Governance

by Joanna Van Der Hoeven

Far too often we allow our emotions to control us, dictating how we react and respond to situations and perhaps not in the best way.  Some would argue that our emotions are what gets things done, however, something done with anger, for instance, may not always be the best way forward. 

Discipline has become a bad word in our society.  What we need to do is to reclaim this word, along with duty (which I will elaborate more on in another blog).  We need to sit down with ourselves and take a good, long, hard look at our emotions and the roots of these emotions, finding out why we react to situations the way we do, discover underlying patterns and unravel the threads that are loose, or about to snap, reworking them into something more harmonious. 

If we work on a situation based on an emotion of anger, hate or jealousy, then the outcome will most likely not be conducive to creating compassion and harmony with the world.  Exploring the roots of these “negative” emotions, we will realise that the underlying thread is one of fear.  Anger is another expression of fear. We become angry at our partner for not behaving in a manner that we think he should. In reality, we may be fearful of losing our partner, or of changing feelings for him, of not having enough control in our own lives, etc.  Hate is based in fear, as we fear that which is the Other, separate from ourselves, the unknown.  Jealousy is based on fear of change, our own insecurities and fears created out of past experiences.

What we need to do it to sit down with our feelings, to better understand them and in doing so, better understand our selves.  In creating a safe space to sit with our feelings, we can engage with them openly and honestly.  Creating a haven, a sanctuary in which to perform this task, we can explore the deepest corners of our minds.  For me, the goddess Nemetona helps in this exercise. 

She is a goddess of sanctuary and sacred space. She is present in my home and in my heart.  Human beings have such a craving for safety and security, and within this goddess we can find that wherever we are.  Not only does it help with emotional discipline and self-governance, but the two are intricately woven together, with self-governance creating that safety. Let me explain.

If we are ruled by the tides of our emotions, we will never settle, never find a place that we can call a sanctuary.  We are subject to the peaks and valleys of an emotional long hard slog, and never really find a good breathing space in which to find some respite.  If we do not have that sanctuary, we have no place to breathe and to truly connect with our emotions. And so an endless cycle of repetition is created. 

Finding time every day to simply sit and breathe is a great way to begin.  In a safe, comfortable place, whether indoors or out, we focus on our breath, in and out, breathing in the air that our ancestors breathed, that all living things breathe.  We breathe out into the world, exhaling even as the trees exhale in the deepening twilight.  Sharing this beautiful moment, this sacred breath, we come to an awareness of ourselves, of our self and how we currently feel in the world at this particular moment. We can call upon Nemetona to hold this space while we simply sit and breathe, honouring Her for all that She is with a return to the stillness at our core.

It’s not easy, taking the time to simply breathe, to meditate on our breath. Our minds will try every trick in the book to distract us from this present moment and this one little act.  It is with discipline that we return to our breath again and again, each time we find ourselves wandering off mentally, or shifting our bums restlessly.  You have to really want to find stillness – it doesn’t just happen. You have to be disciplined enough to achieve it. It won’t simply suddenly appear out of nowhere, nor can it be spoon-fed.  Discipline will not allow any passivity.  We must take full responsibility for our selves and for our world.

After breathing, we can take some time looking at our feelings and emotions without attaching to them. Again, we can ask Nemetona to help us, to hold the space and to guide us to explore our feelings without getting too involved, wrapped up once again the in the emotion.  She won’t do it for us, however. We can look at our fear, at our anger, our impatience, our joy and our happiness.  We can find the roots of these if we don’t let them take control over our minds, and therefore live in better awareness.

For not only do we have to be careful of the negative emotions ruling our behaviour, but we must also become aware of the more pleasant emotions. Far too often we experience a beautiful emotion, and crave that emotion for the rest of our lives.  We will never be able to recreate that experience, for it has happened and exists only in the past. All we have is this present moment, which is always changing, moving forwards.  If we try to regain the feeling of joy that we had on our wedding day every time we look at our loved one, we disregard other emotions and feelings that will eventually come and bite us on our backside.  We may not notice the present moment. Focusing only on positive emotions doesn’t work – we are human and we have negative emotions too.  Those who deny them, who suppress them, will face some pretty hard demons at some point in their life.

So we sit, and we meditate day after day, breathing and coming to an awareness of the present moment.  We are able to take the time to look at our feelings and get to know them better, thereby allowing ourselves the opportunity to break from negative patterns of behaviour into more purposefully led lives.  Discipline and self-governance are not things to be afraid of, nor are they something to shun as not in keeping with our freedom of expression.  We are better able to express ourselves when we are not ruled by our emotions, allowing us to see what lies at the root of our souls, and thereby what lies in others’ souls as well. 

This is the heart of compassion.  When we understand ourselves we can better understand others, and see their fears, their patterns being created. We can work with them to help create new patterns, or we can simply walk away with respect and not have their patterns reflected in our own.  We can only help those who want to be helped, and this includes our own self.

So please do take the time to sit, every day, and be in the present moment. Become aware of your breathing. Call upon Nemetona or any other god to help you find that peace, that space to explore your feelings, should you so desire.  Look at your feelings and better understand them for what they are.  In doing so, you will no longer be ruled by them, but instead be able to respond in the world with an awareness and mindfulness that can only create harmony.  We come to understand each other in a very deep and meaningful way when we take what we learn of ourselves and relate that to others. In this, we can see that we are all related. 

We are not restricting ourselves with self-governance, but allowing ourselves to open to the world with the eyes of compassion and hearts that are true.