The self help industry has grown by leaps and bounds or rather by books, courses and quotes. It is difficult to escape a quote, an insight, an advertisement on youtube to live more successfully, happily, effectively etc.
The glittering promise of all self help books is that they will improve and dramatically alter our lives.
Recently I was talking to a teenager and asked her, what do you do when you feel down and out? And she said – I watch motivational videos.
I wondered – Do they help?
She said – I feel very good after watching but it is up to me to apply the learning. Since I am struggling to change, I watch some more videos. Again I feel good but procrastinate in developing habits. Then I get frustrated and swear – No more motivational videos. They are useless.
This teenager ‘s situation is common. Self help has become shelf help. Only your shelf is groaning under the weight of books which have not been read fully because of the magical belief that we will get to it one fine day or we may know a lot but we just have to apply the learning.
Self-help books and videos typically present principles, insights, advice and stories which can appeal to a wide range of people in different stages of lives. The truth is that only some of the principles and advice can apply to you and your situations.
Then, how do they help ?
They create a buzz of hope and optimism that is much needed in our lives.
In the magic of reading or watching, there is you, the one who seeks to find meaning, unconsciously projecting your life situations. You relate to the stories of those that are sprawled through the pages. You seek to find an answer to an unanswered question that pulses through you. Sometimes moments of resonance happen. You find an answer which leads to a change of mind, an expanse in perspective and an open heart. Through the video or the book you find yourself magnified in luminous glory, more alive.
We feel that we are contributing to our learning by the mere act of watching a video or reading a book.
The authors and publishers present to us wisdom condensed into a book or video which have been distilled and gleaned from the life experiences and learning of 30 – 50 years.
So then, how can we make the most of self help books and videos and how does it connect with Vedanta?
In recent times a lot of bestsellers have been written on topics like increasing productivity, life hacks, building habits, making money, improving relationships and so on. Each of the authors claim that once the missing piece of relationships or money or habits is found then the puzzle of life will be magically solved. They write with conviction presenting self-mastery as a worthy goal. It is easy to buy into the promise. However, from the perspective of Vedanta it is different.
In Vedanta, self-mastery is a springboard for us to pole vault into self-discovery.
Self mastery is a means to a goal which is discovering oneself as the limitless Atma. Vedanta is open to and encourages you to use different types of self help books and videos to cultivate better habits, have more discipline, have improved relationships and so on.
For self mastery thousands of methods are available and can be used as Vedanta is not opposed to any method.
A person who has self mastery uses his/her/their shaktis to live a life of priorities, align oneself with Dharma and have a relative sense of fulfillment in life.
Self mastery through self help books and videos can be achieved by considering the following factors:
Contextualise the learning to one’s issues
A willingness to apply what is learnt
Self mastery includes connection with others
Self mastery is a means to self discovery
Develop a loving, supportive relationship with oneself
Contextualising the learning to one’s issues: