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  • Dr. Shelly Harrell

Weekend Wisdom: Know Who You Are

Once you know who you are, you don't have to worry anymore. -Nikki Giovanni

When I selected this wisdom quote did not anticipate how much would come up during my meditation! I invite you to unpack it with me.

At the most obvious layer, it is about how knowing our personal characteristics can inform our lives. For example, I know that I am a "morning person" and I use that knowledge to optimize my days. It is about also knowing our gifts and our strengths so that we can create fulfilling and meaningful lives of purpose. It is about knowing what brings us joy and makes us feel alive, so that we can intentionally surround ourselves with these things and create these experiences.

As we get deeper, it is knowing our vulnerabilities, our wounds, our reactivities, our triggers, our shadow side. Sometimes these aspects mask themselves as something else, or hide behind protective internal walls and we do not see them clearly. Sometimes a person close to us will point them out, or we come face-to-face with them when parts of ourselves show up in ways that we are not so proud of. They show up in those patterns we find ourselves repeating and how we can get in our own way (like habits that are hard to break, or the dynamics of our most intimate relationships). It can take awhile to really get to know these parts. We may meet them multiple times on the life journey, but they are hard to look at and we often don't stay long enough to REALLY get to know them.

In The Lion King, Mufasa imparts the wisdom of self-knowledge to Simba-- "Remember who you are" (the power of James Earl Jones' voice delivering this still gives me chills!). This ancestral, cultural, communal knowing of ourselves is knowing that the nature of who we are is that we are connected beings (ubuntu). Knowing ourselves is knowing where we come from and who/what we carry within us that extended beyond us. This part of self-knowledge requires us to engage the process of reconnection, to come back home to our collective self-- over and over and over again. It reflects the healing wisdom of Sankofa and the importance of knowing our history. This reconnection is what grounds us, roots us, and brings us home to the truth of our connectedness across time and place-- to each other, to ancestors, to descendants, to the natural world, to Spirit.

The deepest level of knowing ourselves is about experiencing and connecting with the "self" that transcends the physical and the material. It is knowing that we are more than our circumstances, more than the conditions of our lives, more than the labels put on us, more than the stories we have been told about who we are, more than what we have or acquire, more than what has happened to us. It is knowing the spiritual core of our being. Many of us have glimpsed this, but are challenged to sustain the connection. Yet, it is when we can live from this deep experience of who we REALLY are that we can emancipate ourselves and get free. Simultaneously, we must always recognize that our collective freedom and our mental-emotional freedom are interdependent.

The empowering and liberating energy of self-knowledge can only be realized fully when it is deep and multilayered. To me, THIS is what Nikki Giovanni means when she says that self-knowledge is frees us from worry. One of the reasons I advocate so strongly for mindfulness and meditation practice is that it opens up space for this deep and multilayered self-knowledge to evolve. Meditation is that sacred visit we take with ourselves to see what is happening in our minds, hearts, bodies, and souls. Coming to know ourselves is always about truth-telling and meditation provides a space for truth to emerge. And, as we know, "the truth will set you free". I invite you into the journey of knowing the truth of who you are.

With Peace, Love, and Soulfulness,

Dr. Shelly Harrell


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