Here’s a new word I learned recently. I found it on Jonathan Carroll’s Facebook page, and he found it on this neat Tumblr. As is often the case for me, I’m not completely sure how to pronounce it. But I love it all the same.
Metanoia – the journey of changing one’s mind, heart, self, or way of life
At a party this weekend, someone asked me what I’d been thinking about lately. I was momentarily flummoxed because I’ve been so busy and preoccupied, I don’t feel like I’ve been thinking as much as I normally do. But now, a few days later, I realize the best answer would have been, “I’ve been thinking about metanoia.” Because really, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about self change over the past few years.
At its heart, metanoia involves crystallizing priorities and learning to know yourself as well as possible. It’s hard to change something when you don’t understand what’s there to begin with. Strangely, it sometimes feels more like remembering than anything else. Remembering who you are, and remembering who you’ve always been. That knowledge becomes the starting point for whatever change you wish to create.
“Remember who you are.” That was my advice to a friend of mine this weekend, the only words I had to offer. It’s so important, isn’t it? Because without that, we can become so very lost or muddled or distracted. And we worry about what happened before and what is going to happen later and we compare ourselves to other people and measure ourselves against other people’s visions of who we are, instead of remembering that other people have nothing to do with our essential knowledge of ourselves. Good people can help support us while we take the journey, but it’s a discovery we must make on our own.
So metanoia is essentially taking yourself by the hand and saying, “Hello, you. Let’s take a walk down by the stream and lay down on the mossy bank and talk for hours and hours. And I will do my very best to listen carefully to what you have to say. I will listen to the good parts, the parts that make your heart soar and your body sing and your mind dance. And I will listen to the dark parts, the parts that are difficult and scary and secret and that you maybe wish weren’t true. And I will love you for all those parts, even the parts that I want to change, and then together we can decide where we want to go next.”
Remember who you are, my friends. Treat that knowledge like the precious thing it is.