I recently heard of St Catherine of Siena’s beautiful phrase “dwelling in the cell of self-knowledge”. We spend most of our waking hours in our work cells or home cells. And almost no time at all in our interior cell of self-knowledge. How can you dwell more in this cell and get to know yourself better?
1. Designate a ‘cell of self-knowledge’
Create a space where you can be with yourself in private. This space need not be a physical place. All it needs to be is a sanctuary from the world. My cell of self-knowledge consists of my journal and a pen. I can sit anywhere in the world with my journal open before me and a pen in my hand, and I am in my own world.
Your cell may be different. It may be a physical place like a room in your home or a park bench. Or your cell may be the half-hour before daybreak when the rest of the family wakes up. Only you know where your cell is, and you have to find it.
2. Spend time in your cell
Once you have found your cell, return to it often. Don’t expect fireworks to happen the very first time you’re there. As with any relationship worth building, getting to know yourself will take time.
Just as you feel more comfortable in any home the longer you’ve lived there, so you’ll feel more comfortable with yourself the more time you spend in your own company. It’s funny how many people can chat for hours with a friend, but feel bored after being with themselves for five minutes.
You have to dwell in your cell often enough to feel completely at ease there. You’ll know that this space has become a sanctuary for you when you start to yearn for it everyday.
3. Wait for yourself to show up
So what do you do during the time you’re in your cell? Learn to observe your thoughts without judging them. Picture your thoughts floating in and out of your mind as they please. There is no pressure to think or not think a certain way.
The same goes for your feelings. Take note of exactly how you feel without admonishment, no matter how strong or negative the emotions. Watch them as you would watch the waves crash upon the cliffs, knowing that the waves have an energy that must be expended.
Writing down my thoughts and feelings works wonders for me. Having to put words on paper helps me to crystalize exactly what I’m thinking or feeling. The process also purges the raw power of those emotions, leaving me calmer and more objective.
Dwelling in your cell of self-knowledge
The road to self-knowledge is not always easy. Sometimes you’ll realize things about yourself that you’d rather not admit. This has happened to me many times. When this happens, you’ll have to learn to accept and forgive yourself in the same way that you would others.
At other times, you will be amazed at the awesome person you are. You have so much potential, so much good in you that often goes unrecognized. When you truly know yourself, you will come to love the wonderful person you really are.