Be Your Own Fool

God Chose the Foolish Things of the World to Put the Wise Men to Shame

Meditation teacher Stephen Levine has some wise council for all of us on the spiritual journey.

“Trust your own process, no one knows what needs be done for your healing better than you.

Walk no one’s path but your own. You are the path. Trust your vision. Be a lamp unto yourself.

Don’t be someone else’s fool, be your own fool.”

We have all experienced this life in our own special way. We have all endured our own personal

struggles. We all have our individual strengths and weaknesses. In the quiet solitude of our own

meditation practice, we confront the ultimate truth of existence in our own unique way. We must

trust in that way, in our own spiritual practice.

When we compare ourselves with others or try to navigate our spiritual journey by following

others too closely we can lose our way. There is nothing wrong with benefiting from the wisdom

and experience of someone else but ultimately we must chart our own course.

We must examine our own lives and our own experiences and follow our own intuitive response

to that experience, no matter what the cost, no matter how foolish we may appear to others.

Trust Your Own Vision

When I think of the expressions, “trust your own vision” and “be your own fool,” I think of Miguel

De Cervantes classic novel Don Quixote. I think of Don Quixote’s mythic quest of love and self-


The character of Don Quixote has become a mythic archetype and a hero to readers down

through the ages. And that is because Don Quixote personifies the individual who courageously

follows his own dream no matter how foolish that dream may seem to the rest of the world. He

was in the truest sense, his own fool. A fool who in the end puts wise men to shame.

His story is a mythic tale and, like all mythic tales, this one can be interpreted on a number of

levels. It can be read as a children’s fantasy tale and it can be read pedagogically as a classic

piece of literature designed to educate and enlighten.

In the novel, Cervantes tells us how his character Alonso Quixano falls in love with the ancient

tales of chivalric knights. He loves their sense of honour and their devotion to righteousness. He

becomes enamoured by their courage and their unquestionable willingness to stand up for the

week and less fortunate.

It is reported by the local priest that he has gone mad from reading too many books. His friends

and family get rid of all his books and refuse to give him access to them when he returns home.

Don Quixote becomes so moved by the many heroic tales he reads that he decides to change

his name and his life so that he may revive the age of chivalry and become a knight in shining

armour himself. With his companion Sancho Panza (his squire), Don Quixote sets off on a

number of adventures in pursuit of love, righteousness, and all that is good.

The pair stumble into a series of comedic misadventures in which Quixote imagines the

mundane world of the Spanish countryside as something more exciting and dangerous. In one

memorable episode, he attacks a row of windmills, believing them to be gigantic knights. This is

the source of the common phrase “tilting at windmills” to mean attacking imagined enemies.

Quixote evades attempts by friends and countrymen to safely bring him back home. Throughout

the novel despite appearing to be totally mad, the opinions of others mean nothing to him and

he proves his own honour and goodness to himself and that’s all that matters to him. In doing

so, he also wins his friend Panza’s love and devotion. After numerous adventures, humiliations

and deeds of honour, he exhausts himself and returns home to die.

Cervantes’ humorous tale teaches us a valuable lesson about the wisdom of being your own

fool, following your own destiny and doing so no matter what others may think.

Through the self-same process you may find out allot about yourself, your own courage, your

honour and dignity. You may discover the meaning of your own life.

Follow Your Own Star

It is so important to wake up and pay attention to your own life. Your life is the path. No one

else’s. When we get caught up in comparing ourselves to others or trying to evaluate the quality

of our practice by what someone else is doing or not doing, we lose sight of ourselves and what

truly matters. We lose our own way.

We must be the captains of our own soul, having the courage to follow our own star. In his

inspiring poem Invictus, William Earnest Henley tells us;

“Out of the night that covers me,

Black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance

It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate,

I am the captain of my soul.”

The Buddha always encouraged his fellow monks, men and woman alike, to rely on themselves.

He tells us;

“The whole secret of existence is to have no fear. Never fear what will become of you, depend

on no one, and you will be freed.”

Let Go Lightly

To be your own fool, you need to “let go lightly” and enjoy the process of your life. Letting go of

your own self-absorption and negative desire. That means being self-reliant but never taking

yourself to seriously. Allow yourself to make mistakes and enjoy the freedom to express your

own creative imagination.

Don Quixote exemplifies this quality; he didn’t mind looking like a fool in order to express his

divine sense of self or his love.

We often hold back from expressing the genuine love we may have for others out of fear of

looking foolish or weak-minded. It takes courage to love and even more courage to express our

love openly and that is the essence of living lightly and living in the light. Our love is the light and

the essence of life itself.

Be a Lamp unto Yourself

“You are the light of the world. Do not hide your light under a measuring basket. Let it shine out

to everyone.” — Jesus Christ

The message of Jesus was always the same. Always about love, realizing the beauty and joy of

love in your life, feeling love at all levels of life and expressing it freely to others. Once when

asked about his willingness to obey the Hebraic law he said;

“There is only one law that was necessary to follow and that law is written on your own heart, to

love others as you would want to be loved yourself.”

He knew that if one obeys that law all other laws and commandments are respected and


Be Your Own Fool

We are all fools in our own fashion. We don’t have to look too hard or to find flaws in ourselves

or anyone else. All the great saints and seers from all the world’s religions have offered us much

from their own flawed and imperfect experiences. When we examine the history of their lives,

we see that they all looked foolish at times in the eyes of the world.

What makes them all unique is that they all had the courage to think outside the box to shift the

philosophic paradigms of their times and to help us realize ourselves from an entirely new


The most important thing of all is that they all promoted love, lived love and encouraged us to


This admonition to be your own fool is not an attempt at self-deprecation. It is not a trivialization

of one’s ability to take part in one’s spiritual exploration. It is the realization that we are all flawed

and imperfect human beings who are faced with the challenge of your own spiritual quest.

This quest is your opportunity to understand your life and humanity on the most profound and

deepest level. There is no one more important to listen to for direction on this quest than

yourself. We can have teachers, mentors, advisers and elders to advise us on our personal

quest but ultimately we must take responsibility for our own spiritual destiny.

Through our meditation practice we must fathom the depths of our own hearts and realize our

potential for compassion, love, equanimity, joy and love and have the courage to live it while not

being afraid to be our own fool.

Always remember that God chose what was foolish to put those who think they are wise to

shame. Don’t be afraid to look foolish. Be your own fool.

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Sangha Without Borders is currently physically located in London, UK