Know Thyself – Nosce te ipsum – The Beginning of Wisdom

Earth Personal Development Spirituality What Your Father Should Have Taught You Worldview

Every time there has been confusion, worry, and change. It seems that rural folk, connected to the Earth and the seasons have often weathered these best. Now we have evidence that it may be because they are grounded, know who they are, and live with the rhythms of the Earth. Ayurvedic (Life-Truths) science has confirmed the immense rejuvenating power this has.

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In the West, we also have traditions to restore balance and become more self-aware. “Know thyself” is the first of three Delphic maxims that were inscribed in the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi (according to the Greek writer Pausanias (100-180 AD) who wrote what is probably one of the first travelogue’s.) Following it were two other bits of advice for our modern age: “nothing to excess” and “certainty brings insanity.”i There are a lot of people in today’s news who need to reflect on that last one.

Like the wisdom of the West, Ayurvedic medicine has ancient roots, but lately, science has come around to discovering many of the ancient claims were true. Being rooted and living with the rhythms of life, living in balance with nothing to excess, and spending time in self-reflection does, indeed, bring health and healing all of its own. (For more see: )

Cities, they have noted, cut us off from these natural rhythms, the Life-Truths of Natural Law today as they did in the past. One writer in the early 1900s described cities as a polyp upon the landscape parasitically drawing in resources from the environment and producing an unsustainable amount of garbage and poisons in our environment from too many people being too close together and detached from nature. Yet another described the continuing migration from the country to the cities as a “convoy of death” that had to be stopped if humanity was to stay healthy and vibrant.

These may sound extreme but they recognized that as people became more and more cut off from nature and natural rhythms (and dare I say God?ii) they become weaker, more insecure, and less healthy. Could it be that the steel and electronics that surround us interfere with the natural rhythms and electrical fields of my mind and body? I don’t know, as far as I know, no one has studied that. But, in my experience from armored vehicles even if I would be ten feet or more from the tank and in the woods, I could meditate effectively and productively but inside it? Not so much. Cities may not be as condensed an experience of steel and man-made surroundings that I have experienced in the military but instead of a few meters, they can extend for miles. What does that do to the energy fields and natural rhythms we have evolved to be a part of? If being in nature helps us to center and resets our body’s natural health and rhythms what does that say about living in a large city? We don’t know but the massive social disturbances since the time of the ancient Hebrews and Egyptians far before even the Roman Empire tells us that these disturbed people always arise in cities. Rural movements may arise to resist activities forced on them by cities but they don’t usually riot, destroy things, and trample one another like a herd of panicked animals.

There are no more hurried or stressful environments than large cities (unless you count combat, fire, or police response – my Captain once told me our job consisted of great periods of boredom and inactivity interspersed with desperate moments of survival). Especially today. And with the current state of the world, they are even more so. From this natural science, we have learned that the confusion, anger, violence, despair, sickness, and malaise of modern society is exacerbated by our gathering together in cities of concrete and steel, surrounded by unnatural electrical fields, eating highly processed foods, lacking in nutrients, and cut off from the natural rhythms our species has evolved as a part of. You can do something to mitigate this by meditation, surrounding yourself with plants, and spending renewing weekends in nature. However, we never should let ourselves get into this state of exhaustion and stress in the first place. In many ways, our modern society, our way of life, our food, and our environment is quite toxic.

While some advocate simply returning to a simpler life without the technology and bustle, reconnecting with nature, and just turning your back on “the rat race.” There is another way.

One way is to move to a smaller settlement, leave the big city, and commute. That can be problematic with fuel prices unless there is public transportation available. But I have found that it took me thirty minutes to an hour to “unwind” after work and if I didn’t take this time then my whole existence was rushed and my rest in the night was non-existent. The drive home in the city was never restful but sometimes I found the drive through the country or down to the highway to be restful and when I had to commute a half hour on the highway I was fairly centered by the time I got home. If traffic wasn’t bad and stressful. It is this constant stress that makes modern society toxic. We can mitigate some of that by moving to a small town and choosing to change our lifestyle. I remember a billboard in the city where I grew up:

If you wear out your body where are you going to live? [and perhaps we should ask that of our spirit as well.]

Today, unless we make a special effort to reconnect with these natural rhythms, regain our balance, and reflect upon who we are, what we are doing, and why we are doing it we can easily become confused, aimless, and depressed, or conversely we may be hyper, driven, and striving for something that we can never quite reach. Both of these are defense mechanisms our mind engages to overcome stress. Today, more than ever we must here the words written upon the wall of the ancient temple in Delphi: “Know thyself,” “nothing to excess,” and “certainty brings insanity.”

It has been proven that walking in the woods activates the same benefits in the body and the brain that meditation does. There are 74 healing kinds of wood in Japan that have been medically certified to improve your health just by walking in them. Since walking is free, I doubt that big pharma in the west will ever fund the research to certify the healing woods in Western Nations. If they cannot market it they are not interested. This kind of reveals the lie in their existence to help us live long and happily (unless they are paid for it.) However, we can safely assume that our woods in Western Nations can be as healing as those in Japan and they are closer to many of us than the woods of Nippon. Further, getting away from the bustle of the city and electronic energy fields (including your phone and computer) for 36 hours can be enough to reset your body’s natural rhythms and restore your health and balance. I used to camp and leave my phone in my car. Where I camped we didn’t have much of a signal anyway. It can be done. This breaks the cycle of stress and frantic activity and can change the biochemistry of our bodies and brains and make us more resilient to stress. In the current environment, we could all use more resilience to stress. So walking in nature and meditation, as well as eating natural foods are all ways we can restore balance and fortify ourselves against adversity.

These are all simple solutions but they are not easy. Even if we desire to do better it is easy to fall back into habits when stressed. Without self-reflection, we can never be sure we are the masters of our own path in life or if we are being prodded down a certain path by events. Self-reflection, meditation, reconnecting to the Ground of Being, and coming to know ourselves – who we really are as opposed to who the world is trying to make us into – are key to our survival. And that is an important consideration in life, isn’t it?

i – ‘The Ancient Greek aphorism “know thyself” (Greek: γνῶθι σεαυτόν, transliterated: gnōthi seauton; also… σαυτόν… sauton with the ε contracted) is the first of three Delphic maxims inscribed in the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi according to the Greek writer Pausanias (10.24.1).[1] The two maxims that follow “know thyself” were “nothing to excess” and “certainty brings insanity”. In Latin the phrase, “know thyself”, is given as nosce te ipsum or temet nosce. The maxim, or aphorism, “know thyself” has had a variety of meanings attributed to it in literature, and over time, as in early ancient Greek the phrase means “know thy measure” ‘

ii – I add this last part because I have found that mediation in the woods or a park many miles across is a fundamentally different and more beneficial experience than when done in a city and, that I found it very difficult to meditate in a tank. Despite the fact that it was a very familiar environment and silent at the time.

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