By Adil Bhat
In a world marked by anger and chaos, there is a need for the self to evolve – what Renu S. Persaud, Professor at the University of Windsor and graduate of University of Toronto, calls ‘The Mastery of You’. The book, ‘The Mastery of You’ will be released by Waldorf Publishing USA on October 15, 2017. Her ground-breaking writings and speeches on self-worth and the development of a strong sense of self have been widely acclaimed and regarded.
The author is of the view that ‘The Mastery of You’ enables us to understand the Self above all else. The book is partly autobiographical, highlighting poignant – and sometimes painful – experiences that took courage to tackle, and even more courage to write about for a public. “My ultimate goal for humanity: the kindness revolution,” says Renu.
In conversation with Adil Bhat, she shares her experiences that led her to write on a subject like this and also opens up a Pandora’s Box on the journey of the self.
Adil Bhat: What is the idea behind The Mastery of You? How should this idea transpire in reality? Your thoughts.
Renu S. Persaud: The Mastery of You is an extension of my life, my research, and experiences. Early in my life, I had a particular experience that triggered my interest in the importance of self-worth. My realization drove my interest to pursue academic research in order to understand how self-worth is shaped by one’s own knowledge of the Self and further, what happens when we fail to give attention to nurturing our individual sense of Being.
AB: There is a point in the book where you talk about the Paradox of Selfishness. What does it mean and how do you place it in recent times when the space of person-to-person interaction is shrinking, perhaps, because of the encroachment of technology in our daily lives?
RSP: Life is imbued with paradoxes and I share a poetic passage in my book about life’s ultimate paradox.
Historically, we are socialized to be giving, and empathetic toward others. However, we must reconsider what we mean by giving because there is so much suffering around us. Ultimately, attention to others at the sacrifice of time for the Self is counter-productive. I believe that by being selfish, placing the needs of ourselves first, enables us to treat others selflessly, and with empathy. Therein we find the paradox. We can ruminate on how others have betrayed us but the greatest form of betrayal is self-betrayal. Technology has enriched our lives. Efficient ways of doing things have altered our interactions. However, balance is the key. I believe that the value and depth of our personal face-to-face interactions can never be replaced by technology.
AB: What is your understanding of “Self”? How should it impact and reflect in one’s pursuits of life? Going by the title of the book, do you suggest a Mastery of the Self can make us both better human and social beings?
RSP: My understanding of the self is manifold. It is the core of our identity and existence. It too is paradoxical because it is simple, yet complex. It is layered, and can be stripped away without nurturance. The self is not the same as the spirit. The spirit is how the self feels. While we may use spirit and self interchangeably, we are utilizing multidimensional concepts. The mastery of you will always lead us to the attainment of a strong sense of self; indeed this is what makes us better social beings. By knowing you first, you become better positioned to understand and show compassion for others even if their reality is different from our own. This is not mere tolerance; it is a will guided by acceptance.
AB: Your book is also in part your personal account. Could you tell us something from your life experience that helped you shape the ideas that dominate the book?
RSP: I firmly believe writers and scientists, or for that matter any vocation we choose to pursue is coloured by our experience. The process of choosing a topic to research is a subjective undertaking because it is grounded in the passion of a scientist. We form understanding and interests by our subjective reality in association with things and the environment. My personal experiences early on in Canada have shaped my interest in the Self and my ideas about self-betrayal. These experiences ensured the path of my scholarly work and in turn came to fruition in the scope of my book.
AB: You have defined self-mastery as scientific inquiry. Could you elaborate on this point?
RSP: Scientific-inquiry is based on universal values, objectivity, logic, and constancy. In most human societies on earth, we can observe that we all laugh, cry, love, fear, and feel pride. We can extrapolate from this that there are predictable elements of social life. Applying that logic to self-mastery means that when individuals pay homage to the self, when they practice the art of self-mastery, they become predictable in their actions to be compassionate and care for others. This is caring that moves beyond the surface. If there is one thing that is constant is that society is in a state of flux. To simplify, the mastery of you nurtures our ability to act with respect toward others. In this way we can extrapolate that the act (mastery of you) will always lead to a predictable outcome (compassion.)
AB: What are the main factors that help us build the self? How should one balance between seclusion and interaction? What roles do the two factors have on the mastery of the self?
RSP: The key is balance in the maintenance of the self. Today, technology has taken us further away from that intimate connection we have with others, but more importantly, the interaction we have with the self. Today, even in solitude, we are “connected” and this keeps us from contemplating about things on a deeper level. Just as technology acts as a barrier between you and others, it can be a barrier between you and yourself. Thus, balance is the key; we must maintain a conscious effort to reconnect with our selves.
AB: What roles do parents/teachers and social surrounding play in building the idea of self mastery?
RSP: Parents provide primary socialization and teachers can help to maintain the secondary socialization process. The two are synergistic, really. In The Mastery of You I discuss that parents must provide avenues for children to be “bored.” Constant stimulation can have adverse effects on learning. Children who are given opportunities to connect with others thrive, but they also need opportunities to switch off and reconnect inwardly. The social butterfly effect explains this in the book.
AB: What are the factors that negatively impact the Self and in the process not only damages the person concerned but also his outlook towards life?
RSP: There are many factors that are damaging to the nurturance of the self. Ultimately, as adults it is our responsibility to be examples for the younger generation. I have theorized on the concept of spirit-injury and I analyze the impact of spiritually injurious experiences on self-development. We can move beyond experiences that tear apart our core. While we can have support, we are the ones responsible for our self. Addiction, health issues, violence can all be directed back to a lack of self-mastery (for which I do not have the scope to get into here). Certain experiences create an avenue toward emotional devastation, while others open the doors of fulfillment. Our capacity to manage the negative becomes contingent on how we have transcended injury to the self and spirit.
AB: This book has experiences and insights from your life and also others who you have engaged with in the process of writing this book. Do you think the mastery of self is related to the mastery of the other? Do symbiotic relationships help build the self?
RSP: Absolutely. The synergy is a requisite for a healthy life. Self-mastery gives way to deep and meaningful relationships with our selves, and this kindness of self then extends to a deep and meaningful relationship with others. There is also the domino effect because when we pass on our own ability to respect others (by way of self-respect), they do the same, and so on. I discuss this in the hopes of my ultimate goal: The Kindness Revolution….my next writing.
AB: We are living in an age of violence and chaos. How do you think your book will help the readers?
RSP: To surmise, I would say that my book will help others if they ask themselves the question:
“If I am not kind to myself, how can I be kind to you…?”
And to wrap up, here are a few lines from my book on the idea of self:
Society is comprised of various institutions. My belief is that the Self must become an institution which guides our lives too. The reasoning is quite simple, the Self forms the foundation from which all other parts of our reality is observed, recorded, translated and interpreted. With a strong sense of self, we are driven, and motivated. This is what sets apart successful people from those who do not follow their dreams. To have and hold your Self in high regard is to respect the being that you are, and not one that others want. Another’s belief in you, what they think of you and your talents is secondary. Once you develop a strong sense of self, you are better positioned to ride the waves and tides of life. This road to a resilient and strong self is by no means an easy one to walk. As with all goals and dreams, it takes faith, practice and dedication. To dedicate you to you, means your heart is open for others to do the same. This is where The Mastery of You journey begins, and ends.
Adil Bhat is assistant editor at Cafe Dissensus. Twitter: @Adiljourno
Cafe Dissensus Everyday is the blog of Cafe Dissensus magazine, based in New York City, USA. All materials on the site are protected under Creative Commons License.
Read the latest issue of Cafe Dissensus Magazine on ‘India at 70: The Many Partitions’, edited by Bhaswati Ghosh, author & translator, Canada.
You may find more about the book, The Mastery of You, at www.renuspersaud.com