Friday, June 30, 2017

Ready Yourself And Walk Into Your Perpetual Groove

By Jon Dunnemann

Whenever I am given the opportunity to teach life skills to older boys and teenagers I always enjoy discussing the great importance of self-awareness, self-control, and self-improvement given how painfully difficult it was for me to not only develop a good understanding of these concepts but to also learn to effectively apply the underlying practices behind them well into my adult life.

As far back as I can recall, I was an impulsive person and someone always seeking affirmation from others regarding my self-worth. To simply blame this tendency on the absence of my father in my early years would be a big mistake and seriously overlooks the necessity of learning how to accept personal responsibility for all of the actions and decisions that we must inescapably make throughout our lives. What we choose to do or not do in every area of our daily living yields significant consequences for us both good and bad.

Let me tell you, my mother to her credit as a single parent did not overlook exposing me to many extracurricular activities and events when I was a boy all of which were intended to foster a healthy, safe, and stimulating platform for a kid's personal growth and virtues shaping.

What laid at the root of my early difficulty though was the refusal to exercise good judgement. I clearly knew right from wrong yet chose the latter anyway. Looking back, I now recognize that this stemmed from my overindulgence and a weak conscience. Experts will tell you that this is never a good thing. Because when this is the case, it’s as if you’re always just itching for a licking. Believe me when I tell you that I got plenty of spankings and whippings as a child and they proved inadequate in changing me. Sure they certainly got my attention and as intended they did hurt. Nevertheless, it was not long before I found a solution for avoiding any form of verbal chastisement or physical punishment altogether: run away! 

Initially, even as a foster youth, trouble need not look very far to find me. I always seemed to be anxiously awaiting the next adventure or dare to do something mischievous. In fact, a number of the kids that I grew up with and attended junior high school with will remember exactly what I’m talking about having routinely edged me on in my immature and irresponsible state for their own amusement or to do their dirty work. I was ignorant then of how little they truly thought of me and how lacking I was in self-acceptance as I repeatedly threw all caution to the wind and ended up engaged in juvenile pranks and reckless behavior - I was buck wild.

The bad habits that I developed were foolish, troublesome, and for me remain deeply regrettably. Fortunately, although I didn't realize it at the time, I was abruptly removed from one of my most familiar and formative settings and miraculously placed in an entirely different environment where everything that I did was closely scrutinized by a household of older African American Muslim men. The discipline that they imposed on me in terms of conduct, focus on learning, martial arts, civic engagement and political activism, and self-awareness literally crowded out the most useless and unwise actions of my past. I also received the added benefit of being made to feel good about being a young, strong, thinking, activist, and African American male. Surprisingly, they did not require that I convert to Islam and become a Muslim.

So for me the questions that I am most eager to humbly speak to with today’s youth are a) How does one begin to recognize their error, b) interrupt their patterned behavior, and c) recover a more mature sense of self? Now I am not about to mislead anybody, hardheadedness, misdirection, and neglectfulness -- these are not simple or quick fixes. In all likelihood it will take years of progressively hard work and ongoing soul searching to reach the center of your fullness and purpose. However, the sooner that you begin to explore and reflect regularly on the important business of your life path then the earlier your life will begin to yield meaning and the happier you will ultimately become with yourself.

Unfortunately, in many cases, the necessary changes will never occur and other people’s lives will be hurt or worse, and further damage may well continue to be done to your own life. On the other hand, as you become more aware of the consequences and outcomes associated with your actions, you will be better able to learn how to control your impulses and use your best judgement, and as the benefits of this inner state of being become more apparent you will also find a perpetual groove that grows out of the recurring experience of successful personal improvement. Ready yourself and walk into it!!