Big Mind, Big Heart, Dennis Genpo Merzel

This is a very original spiritual book.

In this book, Zen Master Dennis Merzel combines two teachings: Zen Buddhism and Voice Dialogue Therapy, from traditional psychology. He does this in order to effectively help us pass through the “gateless gate.”

Voice dialogue is where the therapist asks to speak to one “part” or “personality” of the patient, usually fear, the damaged one, the victim… He lets that part of him express itself so that you can accept it.

Here, Merzel takes Voice Dialogue therapy and uses it to speak to the “voices” of the non-dual: the Way, Big Mind, Big Heart… He allows each voice to say what it has to say.

Now, this seems like a rather ridiculous way to practice spirituality. But it seems to work for most people.

In the version I bought, the book came with a CD. One of the tracks is a recording of him performing the Big Mind method on the interviewer, and she immediately recognized what she was. If you listen along and do what he says, it works.
The book is divided into four parts: one where he discusses the method. He says that if you try to find the voice he asks for, it won’t work. You have to let it surface. As soon as you try, it’s over.

The next three parts all deal with different aspects of the psyche: the first with the dual mind, dealing with voices like Fear, the Damaged One, Desire. The next deals with the non-dual mind: Big Mind, Big Heart, Integrated Free-Functioning Human Being… Finally he deals with integrating the dual and non-dual minds, because this is where a lot of people tend to get stuck: they hang out in the non-dual and don’t hold anything from the dual world as having any significance. This part speaks to Supreme Wisdom, Intention, and Zazen Mind to name a few.

He also gives tips for how to meditate: exactly how to sit, etc. And the meditation that comes on the CD is ver nice: it consists simply in asking to let the Non-Seeking Non-Grasping Mind present itself.

It works. You can try it right now. (Watch out: don’t seek or grasp the Non-Seeking Non-Grasping Mind!)

I’ve started to use this in my regular meditation practice if my mind is particularly noisy.

So the big question: does this process at all work?

I’ve concluded (for myself anyway) that it will let you realize what you are through asking to speak to Big Mind. And that is great because it allows the masses (us) to bypass years of spiritual seeking.

BUT. I don’t think this process works well for clearing up. Clearing up is the process that happens after the initial awakening that “clears up” all your neuroses and allows you to embody what you’ve realized.

The best resource I’ve found for post-awakening work is Adyashanti’s “The End of Your World” (book review coming soon!)

But Big Mind Big Heart is an interesting read, and iI did find it helpful in that it addresses all aspects of awakening and the spiritual process: what you are, compassion, mindful interaction…

Favorite quote:

“We have many words to try to grasp the ungraspable, because grasping obviously requires two things – that which is being grasped and one who is going the grasping – and reality is no two, not dual. It’s not graspable.”

The Verdict:

Definitely a new breakthrough way to look at and practice spirituality. I’m still not convinced it is useful for clearing up.


A Brief History of Everything, Ken Wilbur

In order to understand why I consider this a personal development book, while most consider it philosophy, check out my last blog post here.

The basic gist is that personal development is a lot more than just getting a better job or a better relationship. My vision of personal growth is an optimization of your self, and that includes developing a large-scale, all-inclusive map of the world.

Books like these are a good place to start. In the same category I could also recommend Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari (I won’t do a review of it, but you get the point).

What is A Brief History of Everything?

This is Ken Wilbur’s attempt to map the entire cosmos. Pretty big feat, but he does a good job.

I’ll attempt to explain his theory in a somewhat simplified manner.

In the first part of the book, Wilbur explains the structure of the universe in terms of holons. A holon is a whole that is also part of another whole, and can be just about anything. For example, an atom is a holon which makes up molecules which make up cells which make up living organisms. This can also be seen in language: letters make up words which make up sentences which make up paragraphs.

Another basic idea is that evolution is based upon the premise of transcend and include, among other things.

Think about that for a minute. That means that in order for you to grow as an individual, you not only have to transcend but also to include your past self. This can be seen if you study developmental psychology.

Wilbur then presents his theory of four quadrants. He says that every holon has 4 aspects:

  1. The inner subjective (I) in the Upper-Left Quadrant
  2. The outer objective (it) in the Upper-Right Quadrant
  3. The collective subjective (we) in the Lower-Left Quadrant
  4. The collective objective (its) in the Lower-Right Quadrant

It looks something like this:


He gives the example of the thought of going to the grocery store:

  • The inner subjective would be the thought itself
  • The outer subjective is the chemical and electrical processes of the brain to produce the thought
  • The collective subjective is the cultural beliefs and ways of being that allow the thought to mean anything
  • The collective objective is the societal structure that houses the culture

This theory is pretty sound. I didn’t find anything wrong with it.

The next main idea is the evolution of Consciousness of Spirit or however you want to call it. If Spirit is both the manifested and the unmanifested, the evolution is basically how Spirit comes to know itself.

Here are the levels:

  1. Sensoriphysical (matter)
  2. Phantasmic-emotional (body)
  3. Rep-mind (mind)
  4. Rule / Role mind (mind)
  5. Formal-reflexive Operational (mind)
  6. Vision-logic / Centaur (mind / soul)
  7. Psychic (soul)
  8. Subtle (soul)
  9. Causal (spirit)
  10. Spirit / Nondual (spirit)

The idea is that Spirit knows itself first as matter, then the body, then mind, then soul, then spirit. This all sounds very complicated, and it is a difficult concept to summarize. But if you want a roadmap of the human psyche, this is it. Or one of them, at least, but most of them follow the same approach.

The last 4 stages are all realizations of Truth, Nondual realization being the deepest.

Most people today are at Formal-reflexive, which is basically a rational mind. The next stage, the centaur, comes when you start to become aware of the mind as its own entity and dissociate from both the mind and the body in order to effortlessly use both.

This is the next stage for most of us, so briefly on how to get there: paradoxically, in order to develop true trust in yourself, you have to doubt everything about yourself.

The “self” you have to doubt is your ego: who you think you are, the idea that you are separate from reality, your mind, all beliefs, rationality and logic, your judgements, your self-biases, your moralizations, morals, culture, emotions that you are a slave to… doubt the shit out of this stuff, and in only a few years life will become effortless.

You will be able to trust your intuition, your body, your compassion for others, your direct experience, and creative muses. Now how much fun does that sound? (By the way, Wilbur doesn’t explain these details. Check out’s video on Developing Self-Trust for a more detailed explanation).

So together with the 4 Quadrants and the Spectrum of Consciousness, Wilbur provides a wholistic map of the whole cosmos.

A good portion of the book discusses the stage of societal development we’re in now in terms of the Quadrants, and the domination of the “IT” Quadrants in today’s world.

Additionally, he has some very interesting things to say on gender wars, ecology, and psychological pathologies.

This book is written in the form of a question-and-answer, based on discussions Wilbur has had with people about his theory. This format works quite well for explaining it. You can also tell that the author is well-versed in literature, citing philosophers, psychologists, and thinkers throughout the ages.

All in all a good read. I would not have minded more examples, but the theory is surprisingly clear.

The Verdict:

Would recommend for anyone looking for wholistic growth.

Favorite quote:

“The whole game is undone, this nightmare of evolution, and you are exactly where you were prior to the beginning of the whole show. With a sudden shock of the utterly obvious, you recognize your own Original Face, the face you had prior to the Big Bang, the face of utter Emptiness that smiles as all creation and sings as the entire Kosmos—and it is all undone in that primal glance, and all that is left is the smile, and the reflection of the moon on a quiet pond, late on a crystal clear night.”

What’s the point?

Happy New Year everyone!

I hope you have a wonderful year filled with much happiness and joy!

My advice for the new year is the following: don’t set new year’s resolutions.

There’s a very simple reason for this. What is the new year? It’s the Earth going around the Sun once more.

Now is that really a good motivator? Is it coming from an extrinsic motive or an intrinsic one? Which one do you think is more sustainable?

So if you’re serious about a resolution, you can keep that goal. But instead of it being based on a revolution of the Sun, find a more personal and intrinsic reason to pursue it.

For example, you want to lose weight, and 2017 is the year to do it. Great. Keep that goal in mind. Now try to find a reason for losing the weight. Do you want to be around when your kids grow up? That’s a true reason. Do you want to be able to go on adventures you never thought you could and truly experience life? Another good reason.

That’s my little pep talk on the new year. But in the same mood, I’m going to talk about what the hell is it that we’re aiming for anyway with all this personal growth?

Keep in mind that this is my idea of what growth looks like, yours could be different.

And I don’t think it is not what most people think of when they think of self-development. Most people think of only a couple of areas of life, most of which are pretty shallow. They think physical health, business skills and financial freedom, relationship skills, and a little mental fortitude.

I’m not saying these don’t have a place, I’m just saying that these are very externally-focused goals and will not bring about a deep change. Don’t get me wrong, I also study these topics. But the way I do it is mostly a means to a much deeper end.

Intrigued? Read on.

Part of this vision is a complete understanding, optimization and transcending of my self.

Lots of interpretations of that sentence, I know.

Some of the things that that includes is meditation, observing how I act, doubting my ego, doubting beliefs, becoming more natural, uncovering childhood events that explain how I act, and ultimately Enlightenment. Kind of an act of unwiring and rewiring.

This view incorporates both psychology from the West and spirituality from the East. Combining the best of both worlds to understand how we work.

The best part about this is that it’s a completely personal journey. Every man for himself. You can get the tools from other sources, but it’s not like a business book you can read and apply.

Another thing I’m aiming for is a deep understanding of reality and answering deep questions of Truth. For example: what comes first, consciousness or matter? What makes justification valid?

The more you understand how reality works, the more you will be able to appreciate it and stop living in your own little egoic world. It is the ultimate union of psychology and philosophy.

Being able to understand reality holistically means you can be at peace with it.

This all comes down to increasing your consciousness, which is your ability to see reality clearly.

High consciousness is:

⁃selfless and giving

⁃fearless and courageous

⁃not worried

⁃focused on direct experience over belief (which frees it from dogma)

⁃committed to truth and accuracy

⁃values learning and growing rather than tradition, free of culture

⁃intelligent machine


⁃spontaneous and organic, can find solutions on the fly

⁃takes 100% responsibility, especially for emotions


⁃big-picture thinking

⁃hyper-aware of back-firing

⁃characterized by indiscriminate love


So not a bad set of goals. Think how much better your life would be if you had all this.

Growing your consciousness fundamentally rests on six pillars:

1.Increase capacity to love

2.Increase capacity to feel happy independent of circumstances

3.Increase capacity to be intellectually open (entertain ideas and opinions that I am          unfamiliar with without getting emotional or defensive about them)

4.Increase capacity for self-governance

5.Increase capacity to face fear

6.Transcend selfish and protective motives

Now most of these are pretty broad, but you get the picture.

Another thing I think is important is life purpose. You need something to keep you grounded, and a way to impact the world in a positive way.

And this is where traditional topics of personal development come into play. You can’t be optimized on a bad diet. If you can’t manage a business well, how will you ever have time to do all this work? You may understand on an experiential level that you and your girlfriend are one, but you still need to know how to relate to them in their world. You have to learn the ins and outs of business in order for your life purpose to have an impact. Don’t discount the more basic, external sides of personal development.

I want to reiterate that you are completely on your own for this journey. Very few people ever consider, or even have a clue as to what this is all about. The good news is that so far it has made my life a whole lot richer in only about nine months. I can only imagine what this’ll turn into a few years down the line.

So if something here sparked your interest, good. Listen to that little voice.

Happy new year, and stay tuned for more!

How to DO Personal Development

How to DO Personal Development

This question had been bugging me for quite some time. A lot of people say they do personal development or self-help without actually doing any work.

And yes it does take work.

The thing is, most people just passively read a book, and assume they have grown.

But personal development is a lot more active than that.

To get results, it has to be.

So in this post, I’m going to give you MANY ways you can start DOING personal development, some of which I’m sure you’ve never thought of.

Ready to start?

Let’s go.


How to DO Personal Development:

1.Reading books

Classic. Books contain SO much great information. I’m sure you do this already, just know that acquiring the information without doing anything is the same as not knowing.
2. CDs, courses, and videos

Again in the acquiring information category, you can get a lot of information through the Internet that you won’t be able to get without going to expensive seminars. Which brings me to my next point:
3. Seminars and workshops

Personal development can seem very lonesome sometimes. Going to seminars gives you a support group for that as well as a lot of specialized information you can’t find anywhere else. Not even the Internet, sadly.
4. Taking and reviewing notes

Whenever I see something I find useful or interesting, I add it to my loooong list of PD notes on my computer. Going back over them is useful because it keeps it fresh in your mind and may remind you of something you’ve been neglecting in your growth.
5. Coaching

Not to be mistaken for therapy! Therapy aims to get people to baseline, coaching aims for success and moving way past the baseline. This can be useful for personal problems and tailors what you need to do for you. I’ll admit that I’ve never had a coach, so I won’t say more about that.
6. Journaling

Getting into the more active forms of PD, journaling is one of the best habits I’ve picked up this year. I love it because it acts as a second brain. I use it for brain dumps, answering questions, defining goals, and capturing those “aha!” moments. I also try to reread it often. It’s almost like you’re coaching yourself by getting you out of you own shoes.

Some great journaling questions are:

  • What would I do if I knew I couldn’t fail?
  • What’s the one thing I can stop doing or start doing that will have the greatest impact on my life?
  • What advice would I give someone else in my exact same situation?


7. Gratitude

This goes hand in hand with journaling. I love the feeling of gratitude, it’s an easy way to feel happier!

Here’s my favorite way to practice it, straight from Tony Robbins:
Sit straight up in a chair. Then pump your arms straight up and down while breathing energetically. This will help energize your body. Put both of your hands over your heart, and feel it beating. Breathe into it. One at a time, think of and enjoy 3 thing that you can be grateful for in this moment. They can be people in your life, a situation, a coincidence, a simple object near you, or anything else. Fill up with a feeling of gratitude!

You can also do this in conjunction with writing them down!


8. Meditation

This should have been first on the list.

This habit holds the most benefit for you. I’ll write a whole other post on the importance of meditation and specific techniques, but for now just know that this daily practice can change your life.
Can you believe we’re not even halfway through the list?!?

9. Affirmations and visualizations

Ah the great PD classics! These are very basic forms of personal development, and can be very useful for newbies in the area. Proper technique for doing these isn’t hard to find on the Internet.

One of my favorite visualizations is one aimed at self-acceptance. This can be found on on Youtube. Self-acceptance is always the one thing we forget to do while simultaneously improving ourselves. We are so focused on what aspects of ourselves we don’t want we forget to accept that we have them, and that they are us.
10. Psychological exercises

Whichever way you slice it, personal development IS psychology. Some good psychological exercises are psychodramas (playing out episodes of your past), or role-playing (acting out different roles to emphasize characteristics). Writing out past traumatic episodes can also be helpful.
11. Sentence stems

This is a fun way to get answers from yourself! How this works is you have a stem of a sentence and you have to write 6-10 endings for it without filtering.

Here are 2 examples from The 6 Pillars of Self-Esteem, Nathaniel Branden:
“If I am willing to express 5% more of myself today ___.”
“When I suppress my thoughts and opinions ___.”

A few more good ones I like:
“In order to please my father, I had to be ___.”
“The biggest thing I fear about leaving my partner is ___.”
“One area in my life where I’m trying to go too fast is ___.”

Try to do each question or series of questions first thing in the morning over a few days to get as many varied answers as possible.

The beauty of this technique is that it is easily applicable to any situation and any new concept you learn about or any problem you may have. And it’s not hard to come up with new ones!
12. Take action, push your comfort zone

Sure, it’s easy to repeat “I am brave” in front of your mirror for 5 minutes a day. Don’t forget you actually have to go do the thing you’re afraid to do. Consistently pushing your comfort zone will be very beneficial in so many way: it increases confidence, lowers depression, and ultimately makes you feel alive!

As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Do the thing and you will have the power.”
13. Mindfulness

Just sitting there. Just being. You’ll notice when you start doing this you’ll feel more relaxed, more fulfilled, and have more emotional mastery.

Another reason to do this is to increase your awareness throughout the day. There are many notions in intermediate PD that you do throughout the day that you’re probably not even aware of, like criticizing, lying, judging, people-pleasing, and resisting reality. Even overeating comes from a low level of consciousness. Noticing when you do these and how they affect you is the first step in changing these habits.

This goes hand-in-hand with meditation. I also like to be mindful for example when doing chores or going for a walk.

Remember, Yin and Yang.
14. Taking a walk

Again on the Yin side, this can be very beneficial. Walking for 20 minutes a day increases your mood, your energy, releases stress, and gets your juices flowing for the day. I love to walk to a park not far from where I live and then journal.
15. Bioenergetics / Dynamic meditation

Let’s stick with the theme of the body. I recommend you check out my review of the Language of the Body by Alexander Lowen. Here’s a brief snapshot of what bioenergetics is: it’s a therapy consisting of releasing trapped energy in the body.

So basically let your body do whatever it wants to. Dynamic mediations by Osho also have the same effect.

Let whatever wants to come out come out. Anger, screaming, crying, laughter, hitting stuff. Yep, hitting a cushion is my version of an hour of therapy!

You will feel so much freer after a session of this, not to mention so much more grounded.

A few other exercises I like to do is opening my jaw as wide as possible and holding it, also the bow. The bow consists of putting your hands wither behind your head or above it, and leaning back and breathing. This will induce a shaking throughout your body. That’s a good thing! That’s your life force being freed!
16. Defining and refining values, vision and mission statement

Again back to the classical type of PD exercises! These kinds of exercises and finalized notions can be useful for grounding your work, especially if you’re just starting out.
17. Introspection

Again on the Yin side of things, introspection is a very important part of PD. Asking yourself what’s true for you, what do you want, reflecting on how you’re life is going, all these things can help release anxiety and clarify some things for you. Seriously, some of the deepest things I’ve discovered so far have come from just thinking about stuff!

I most love introspection on deep philosophical topics such as epistemology, metaphysics, and ultimately the nature of reality. Pondering these things can greatly benefit you in the long term (see below).

Another thing to ponder is the shortness of life. This is the only one you have! Think about that for a while to stay motivated and grateful for what you have.

Who knows what’ll hit you?
18. Theater (say what?)

Yep theater.

I’m sure you’ve never thought of theater as being a means of improving oneself.

I’m here to argue otherwise. Theater has started to become a big part of my life and those around me. For those who don’t know, I grew up in the world of theater (both of my parents are singers and actors), and I always noticed that actors have something the rest of us don’t. I was only just able to pinpoint what that was.


My theory here is that after having tried on so many masks, actors know their own personality very well, they know what fits them. That’s the approach I’m coming at it from.

Also I’ve found that after doing a scene where maybe I play an angry character, I’m left feeling very clam and relaxed. Theater is cathartic in the same way dynamic mediation is.

The last point I’ll make about theater is confidence. Of course! You need to have confidence to go on stage! I’ve seen one friend of mine in particular go from a complete introvert, as in won’t open his mouth to save his life, to cracking jokes at rehearsals!

These three reasons are why I’m putting theater in this list of personal development work.

19. Life purpose work

This is a complicated subject, but an important one if you want to live an impactful, fulfilling life.

Life purpose = how do you become a benevolent force in the way that is most personal to you?

Finding it will take some time, no question about that. Some great ways are doing exercises in books, traveling, working different jobs, generally exposing yourself to more life has to offer, going wherever your interests lead you, and answering questions such as:

If you had 100 million dollars right now, and you had 2 months to use it however you want, what would you do after you’ve spent it all?
20. Questioning and doubting

Now we’re going really deep.

At the most advanced stages of PD, you have to be questioning everything. Ideologies, all beliefs, your identity, ego, thoughts, negative feelings, rationality, societal preferences, morals, knowledge, and the nature of reality itself.

This is where psychology and philosophy meet. You will discover that if you undertake an interest in this area, you will be much more fulfilled and lead a less petty life than most people do.

Also after doubting all these things for a few years, you ultimately come into touch with what you can trust. I recommend checking out’s video on this subject, it will explain it in more detail than I can go into here:

This is an ongoing process for me, and keep in mind I’m not far along it by any means.
21. Enlightenment work

This is the most advanced PD work you can do as a human being, discovering your existential nature. This can be accomplished in multiple ways: Self-Inquiry, Strong Determination sits, mindfulness, and other ways, or a combination of these. Different things will work for different people at different times.


This brings me to the end of the list of ways to DO personal development. If you have any more, leave them in the comments!

I think it would do good to remind everyone (myself included) that personal development at its core is getting rid of neuroses. What are neuroses? They come in many different forms, but all of them are destructive and all of them are self-deceptive. Hopefully now you have LOTS of tools and different angles for working on yourself!

Also keep in mind that you are the only one who can do this work. You can do some of it, or all of it, or take some ways of working and not others depending on where you are in your journey.

Will it take work? Yes. Will it be worth it? More than you can imagine.







The Language of the Body, Alexander Lowen

An introduction to a whole new aspect of personal development: the psychology of the body

The Language of the Body, Alexander Lowen


This book is an introduction to a whole new aspect of personal development, that of the body.

Not simply exercising and eating right.

Alexander Lowen takes it to a much deeper level. He is talking about bioenergetics.

This is a specific form of psycho-therapy based on the mind-body connection. What happens is that often, due to negative childhood experiences (or just the reality of living), an individual can develop certain unhealthy tendencies (called neuroses) such as neediness, passivity, or not feeling. This is expressed in the body in the form of muscular weaknesses, imbalances, or muscular holding patterns.

Bioenergetic therapy has two aspects: to do basic psychoanalytic therapy (based on character structures) and the relieve tensions and fix imbalances in the body, which work in tandem to heal the individual.

The goal is to establish health, which is defined by Lowen in the book as “spontaneity and adaptability to the rational demands of a situation.”

Let’s talk about the book a little bit.

I’m gonna say right off the bat: it’s not a self-help book, that’s for sure. It’s a psychology book, which is more in-depth and comprehensive than the former.

Lowen spends the first part of the book discussing old-school psychological concepts like the ego, the superego and the id. He also goes into the pleasure principle and the reality principle.

About half of the book talks about the different character structures and the psychologic and bioenergetic characteristics they possess. The character, as Lowen states, “represents a typical pattern of behavior or a habitual direction. It is a mode of response which is set, congealed or structured.”

You may know some of them: the oral, the masochistic, the passive-feminine, the phallic-narcissistic, the hysterical, the schizophrenic, and the schizoid characters.

Each of these have their own neuroses, most of them rooted in childhood, and each of them tend to have specific somatic characteristics.

Lowen gives in-depth analysis of each of these, and also brings up examples from patients he’s treated who exhibited these problems.

Here are a few more aspects of bioenergetic therapy to give you a better understanding of what it entails:

A big concept is the idea that the front of the body is associated with tender feelings and sensitivity, while the back is associated with aggression and non-tender feelings. So for example, people with weak backs tend to have trouble being self-assertive, while people with tight muscles in the front of their bodies tend to lack feelings.

Another principle is that of “grounding.” This states that “all energy finds its way eventually into the earth.” Many people who do not show great physical contact with the ground (through weak feet, unsure legs) also exhibit the habit of being out of touch with reality.

I really enjoy this topic, even if it is relatively unknown to most of the world. But I’ve tried some somatic bioenergetic therapy on myself, and it just leaves me feeling great!

I would say this therapy has a lot of potential for the world. Too many people overlook the body when examining themselves.

As for the book, I must say it was heavy to read sometimes. But if you’re on board with me as to bioenergetic therapy, I must recommend it. I’ll try to find one that’s a bit less theory and more practice. In the meantime, I’d check out Elliott Hulse. He’s a strength coach who often uses these concepts.


Favorite Quote:

“To be free of the physical restraints imposed by chronic spasticities, to be liberated from the fetters of unconscious fears— this and this alone would make man capable of that love in which his deepest heart feelings are expressed with his strongest aggression.”


The Verdict:

A very good in-depth look at bioenergetics. A lot of theory, but great view of the practice.

The 6 Pillars of Self-Esteem, Nathaniel Branden

The 6 Pillars of Self- Esteem, Nathaniel Branden


Category: getting to “by me”

The 6 Pillars of Self-Esteem is a true classic of personal growth. It’s called the “definitive work on self-esteem” for a reason!

Here’s Nathaniel Branden’s definition of self-esteem: “To trust one’s mind and to know that one is worthy of happiness is the essence of self-esteem.”

This is a pretty broad statement, but you’ll understand once you hear the 6 pillars.

What does low self-esteem look like? It is based on fear. Fear of reality, fear of emotions, fear of exposure, of loss, of humiliation, of responsibility, and believe it or not, a fear of success. Notice that these can be very subtle.

You must also know that low self-esteem is likely to entail self-sabotage. Your subconscious simply won’t let you succeed.

So what does healthy self-esteem look like? He says “healthy self-esteem is significantly correlated with rationality, realism, intuitiveness, creativity, independence, flexibility, ability to manage change, willingness to admit (and correct) mistakes, benevolence, and cooperativeness.” It is all based on self-efficacy and self-respect.

Here are the 6 Pillars:

  1. Living Consciously
  2. Self-Acceptance
  3. Self-Responsability
  4. Self-Assertiveness
  5. Living Purposefully
  6. Personal Integrity

Living consciously means being aware of what one is doing, thinking, and feeling, and what our values, beliefs, goals and purposes are. For example, you might unconsciously know that you’re not giving it your best at your job, but you don’t want to think about it. If you shun the problem, it doesn’t go away. Shine the light of awareness on it first, and you will no longer be a mystery to yourself.

Self-acceptance is the next step: while identifying these aspects of yourself, accept them! Accept that they are there. You don’t have to like them, and you can change them later, but by not accepting them, you deny reality. This step is necessary in order to change anything.

Self-responsability is understanding that your life and your happiness are in your hands. No knight in shining armor is going to save you. For you that might be your parents, the government, your spouse, your employees or a rich friend who bails you out. How’s that been working out for you? Is relying on others getting you what you want? Then understand that your life is in your hands.

Self-assertiveness is honoring your needs, wants and values, and expressing them. It means to stand up for yourself and your beliefs, and to live authentically.

Living purposefully is to use our powers for attaining goals we have consciously (note the recurrent use of that word) selected. Instead of being a cork floating on the sea, you have a compass.

Personal integrity means to live and behave in congruence with our values. This includes being honest in your opinion, being trustworthy, and not being hypocritical.

ALL of these pillars are internally-generated. No one else can raise your self-esteem for you. At least not in a lasting way.

These six pillars are the essence of self-esteem.

Believe it or not all that accounts for one-half of the book. The second half goes into a lot of detail talking self-esteem in a broader sense, such as in culture, in schools, in children, and so forth. This makes it into more than just a personal-development book, but also a comprehensive book on self-esteem as a whole.

One thing I really loved about the book was the different psychological exercises he gives, most notably stem sentences. They are sentences with the ends missing, and you have to generate 6-10 answers without filtering as fast as you can. This gives you and insight into your subconscious.

Here are some examples from the book:

If I am more accepting of my joy_____.

When I deny and disown my joy_____.

If I am willing to see what I see and know what I know_____.

There are no right or wrong answers.

This is a super versatile technique, and at every chapter he gives about 20 different ones. At the end he even has a 31-week program of these for raising self-esteem!

I have been doing the ones related to self-assertiveness since that’s one of my sticking points.

The last point I want to make about this book is that Nathaniel Branden can be stubborn about his definition and defense of self-esteem, and doesn’t understand the next stages of personal development. Just remember, this book is FANTASTIC for getting into “by me!” But recognize when you need to move forward.


Favorite quote:


“We can run not only from our dark side but also from our bright side—from anything that threatens to make us stand out or stand alone, or that calls for the awakening of the hero within us, or that asks that we break through to a higher level of consciousness and reach a higher ground of integrity. The greatest crime we commit against ourselves is not that we may deny and disown our shortcomings but that we deny and disown our greatness—because it frightens us. If a fully realized self-acceptance does not evade the worst within us, neither does it evade the best.”


The Verdict:

One of the great, comprehensive guide for the raising of self-esteem. Highly recommend for anyone in “to me” (but others may find it useful too!).