The Education of Self

JoAnna Bennett

JoAnna Bennett, O’Brien Communications Group

30 July 2020

We are almost in our fifth consecutive month of the pandemic. The changes it has brought to our individual lives vary greatly but are likely part of our routines by now. We may still be working from home. We likely have our masks ready to grab when we leave the house. And while some parts may still be mystifying or frustrating, if you’re anything like me, you’re beginning to accept the reality.

Life has taught me the feeling and deep understanding of impermanence. Nothing that is can ever always be. And I’ve accepted the current vulnerabilities knowing full well that they will not last forever. At some point, we’ll break through to the other side of this.

Aside from accepting the impermanence of my new way of life, I’ve also homed in further on my self-reliance and self-reflection skills. Since I’ve been homebound, I’ve had more free time to challenge myself and my beliefs. I also ran across this quote from Rumi and it lit off a few ideas in my mind:

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

I think this quote can be extended to much of what life has to offer. We can replace the eighth word, love, with any of the following words and it would still hold true: success, happiness, freedom, education, friendship, sanity, and — possibly most important, a minor departure from the original — self-love. Most of our challenges come from what we project onto the world or what we deflect from ourselves. And if this pandemic has taught me anything, it’s to focus more on myself, rather than on what anyone else is projecting or deflecting onto me.


Let’s focus on education for a minute. The Rumi quote would be adjusted to read, “Your task is not to seek education, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against being educated.”

Stay with me here, but the adjusted Rumi quote falls quite nicely into an idea Napoleon Hill scribed 83 years ago in the book Think and Grow Rich.

“An educated man is not, necessarily, one who has an abundance of general or specialized knowledge. An educated man is one who has so developed the faculties of his mind that he may acquire anything he wants, or its equivalent, without violating the rights of others.”

By digging deep within ourselves, we can erase barriers we’ve previously built that hinder our growth. If we let go of our inhibiting obligations, we can acquire much. And we can do so by rising with others, not tearing them down. When we violate the rights of others, we are merely projecting our insecurities onto them.

If you’ve yet to really challenge yourself and your growth during this pandemic, I challenge you to dig deep. While we may be educated in the institutionalized sense, unless we can educate ourselves in the mastery of our own experience, we’ll fail time and time again.

Here’s to success. Here’s to education. And possibly most importantly, here’s to self-love.