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“The ‘self-image’ is the key to human personality and human behavior. Change the self image and you change the personality and the behavior. …Self-image sets the boundaries of individual accomplishment.”

There is going to be a war between how we imagine other’s see us, and how we desire to see ourselves. This is huge, the success at this position is just short of a superpower. After this we will control our self-image, and our self-image controls what we can, and do, in life. You need to know the difference between identity, which refers to how others label us, and self-image, which is what you think of yourself. 

So far we have picked up Journaling, and then two positions, both of which affect self-image. When you say, “I am the man in the arena.” that is a self- image statement as is, “..the martial artist..” So now we are at the third position, “..the Ronin..” and we have to make that solid. 

Before you began your Musha Shugyo, you thought of yourself, pretty much as they did. You might have agreed pretty much with what your associates thought of, and labeled you. This has to stop. You have to think of yourself as an adventurer on a journey, because you are. The worms will not think highly of the caterpillar, and will call him a fool to climb where the birds might eat him, but climb he must. And you must be a Ronin. 

Obviously the self-image of Ronin works for me. I have studied martial arts for a time, I am familiar with the Japanese mythology revolving about their feudal age, and I specifically think of one ronin in particular, Miyamoto Musashi, as a hero to be emulated. If none of this rings your bell, than pick a hero, or heroine, that does. For much of America from my age group, the mythology was the Western Gunfighter, than came Cop Shows, and now Marvel Super Heroes. Pick anyone that really seems to click with you, and that is the name you use to illicit the third position. 

For now, to really make the point, let’s imagine a story involving a Marvel Hero, such as Captain America. In this story, the forces of darkness have a Super Weapon, that clouds superhero minds so that they forget they are heroes, and think of themselves as average people. In our case Captain America is now working construction, has forgotten what he really is, and feels a certain nagging deep inside that he could lead a happier life, that something is missing. 

On a typical day, he has a long drive to work through crap traffic in his white Dodge pickup. He has a ladder rack on top, and in the back are his tools. He is a hell of a worker, getting there early, and doing more than anyone else. His boss is always glad to see him, he is well liked on the job, and while he smiles and jokes a lot, inside something is bothering him. 

And now he comes to you, who in this story are a counselor, and wants your help. What would you do to restore him to a sense of self that reflected who and what he really is? How about if you gave him this book to read? He says to you, in one of your sessions, that “Ronin,” doesn’t feel quite right. So you suggest that he replace that with, “Captain America.” and instruct him to use the mnemonic each day when he awakes, and just before he goes to bed. 

You have him journal each day, and he does so, and each day he digs a little deeper into himself. He loves the movies you recommend and often discusses them with you during a session. As he sees himself in the Arena, it brings up deep feelings, and his access to mindfulness and flow brought on by the driving exercises acts to counteract the spell cast by the dark forces. End of little story, Captain America’s self-image is restored. 

Now it’s your turn. A friend of mind dropped dead from a brain aneurysm. He was a find fellow, and I hired him to clean my house, which is how I met him. In our conversations he would refer to himself as a, “toilet twirler,” not a glorious identity. I mention Thomas to start you examining your identity and self-image. 

So how do you describe yourself? What is your self-image.? If you want, you can play with various self-images, and self-esteem tests available on the net. But the creators of those test assume you want to be just a better version of what you are. These aren’t tests for those on the Hero’s Journey. So this might be part of your journaling. Benjamin Franklin did this. He made a list of all the noble attributes he desired to possess, and then rated himself every day. You can do that. 

What I do is create a spreadsheet, and in the left-hand column I list personality/achievement vectors I am working on, and in the right hand column I list statements that inspire or remind me of what I am trying to accomplish. Which is a good time to tell you that I am trying to climb the same mountain you are. Our project is ourselves, and working on it feels so good that we will never stop. There is no Hero Test where suddenly you are done and receive a badge or medal. This is our never ending adventure. 

And you must realize this, by naming yourself as an adventurer, seeing yourself this way, and not caring how the others see you. Remember Clark Kent, the mild-mannered reporter for the Daily Planet, who was in reality Superman, and all the other superheroes who have secret identities. I would suggest that you borrow this idea. You have an identity, given you by the powers that be, and now you have an entirely different self-image. Now it should be clear what I mean when I say that you are a spy for yourself. 

Your self-image is like a script for a part you will play. Most often this script is handed to us by our families and culture. It is your job to change it. You can’t be the hero of your own life if you don’t take that role and write the script for it yourself. You need to realize what your self-image is, [toilet twirler] then construct a new one {Ronin] and make it real. 

 Buddha said, “We are shaped by out thoughts.” Ronin uses this incredible power to shape himself.

 A large part of your journaling will have to do with framing what you wish to become. A large point of the mnemonic is transformation. “What we think we become.” Your life is controlled by a story you didn’t write.

 It is so much a part of you that you don’t even know it is there, but you use it to organize your experiences. What happens to you, what you expect to happen, and the way you remember things are all forced to conform to your inner narrative. This production is like a movie with characters, events, a plot, and scripts.  I suggest that you can write your own story, and your own script.

Then cast the superhero to play the part, and then become the part. This might produce an immediate doubt in your mind. How can that be anything more than your self-image fighting to maintain loser status. To make this happen create the ideal, then work to shape your self-image towards it, and then you will become it.

Let’s call this representation of the ideal an Avatar. I name him Ronin and he is the idealization of myself transformed by the mnemonic. And this is how the mnemonic changes you. In your journaling you write your ideal, where you wish to go, what your avatar will be. You collect examples from your favorite movie and novel characters, and dwell on them. You have the unspoken thought, question , what would my avatar do in this situation. Or, for example, “What would Rambo do?” You might tend to dress, walk, and move like your avatar. This is creating your own self-image.

We have already begun to create the tools that will assist you in writing a new self-image. You have begun to journal, and this has made you more self-aware. And that is crucial. You can’t change what you aren’t aware of. When you changed your value system to pursuing what you are, rather than what you have, you set yourself free of the scripts that are made available to you, and began to create your own. Just this much alone could be called a superpower. If you pursue excellence, are self-aware with your journaling, and consciously work to create your own self-image, the change in your life will be huge.  The rest of this chapter will focus on creating your own self-image using various techniques. One of which is observing the scripts made available to you. 

Let’s talk about Dragon Babies. You would not have picked up this book if “Ronin,” did not resonate with you. When you declare yourself to be “Ronin,” in your daily mnemonic, you are connecting with your avatar. This will fashion you into the hero of the story that is your life. Right now you have such a story, and it creates you, and your world. You see, the world in terms of your story, and you act in terms of the script that you have written for yourself, or most likely others have written for you. An example of how this works is dragon babies. I heard on the radio a study about why dragon babies do so much better in life. Dragon babies are those born in the year of the dragon. They do better in school, and in life in general, for utterly no reason other than that their parents believed in the Chinese Zodiac. Before they were born, their parents had written their life story for them, and then after they were born, they were convinced of it.

So who wrote your story? You have a narrative that you didn’t write; It has characters, structure, and mostly others created it. If you think this is fine, you are reading the wrong book. I doubt you would want strangers putting their hands in your pants and playing with your parts, why would you let them in your mind to tamper with your soul?

I want you to consider that if you write a new narrative for yourself, and with it a new identity, you have begun to change as a person. You have already experienced this indirectly, and temporarily.  After you see a movie, are you not changed for a short time? When you leave the theatre, with the theme music ringing in your head, are you not standing a little straighter, perhaps a little more aggressive, or whatever emotion you felt?  Make this permanent. Accept a new identity, and with it a new narrative. At first this might seem ridiculous considering your life situation, so I want you to imagine things in a certain way. This might be called the do-it-yourself dragon baby exercise.

 Imagine that some popular figure, or hero from your favorite movie, were going to live your life. How would they act? How would they stand and react to the difficulties you face each day? I don’t want you to imagine a very muscular figure pulling out a sword and laying waste your office staff. Instead imagine them going through your typical day, looking like you, wearing your clothes. Let’s say you are a Marvel Comic fan, and for this exercise your avatar very much resembles Captain America. 

First see him dressed in whatever clothes you wore to work today, but standing in his Captain America posture. How would others react to him? How would he react to those who normally vex you? Consider that Miyamoto Musashi worked construction, Luke Skywalker was a farmer, and Neo a software engineer. They all had day jobs. And now there is you, or the new you.  The dragon babies achieved more because their parents beliefs wrote a successful script for them. You can do that. 

There is the thought that heroes are made not born. And this making is something they do themselves. So when you are on Hero’s Journey, it is a path that thousands of walked since the caves at Lascaux. You may inherit a bag of goodies, but what you are, and become, is up to you.

This is what so many are strugguling for. And you can give it to yourself right now. See it, become it, visualize it,

Kite Zen!