Words have a way of trapping us into their confines. They are a poor albeit beautiful attempt to communicate that which cannot be expressed, but only experienced. The danger lies in taking them to heart and deciding that they speak the whole truth. Take your self for instance.
You spend a whole lifetime in your skin, having this unique experience of being, of perspectives, of thoughts, emotions, sensations, feelings and so much more. As hard as you try to share it, it will always be yours alone. But that will not restrain you from trying. From attempting to articulate who you are and who you are attempting to become. What you are is a fluid state of various momentary experiences. Of varying shades that shift as quickly as the colours of a winter sunset. And yet you would like to believe that you can describe yourself and that too in consistent terms. Kind, loving, honest, compassionate; or perhaps lazy, good-for-nothing, a misfit – the list may be long or short. Flattering or otherwise. But it exists. Each of us builds an idea of a self that we then knowingly or unknowingly go about defending and strengthening to the best of our abilities. Because we conform to this list, our memory can be selective and will edit out that which does not support the story we have built. Or the perspectives and evidence that suggests otherwise. We will disown or judge the times when we behave differently from our self image, but rarely question this image itself. We will deny all ‘accusations’ to the contrary and wonder why we feel so restless inside.
Take the example of one who sees herself as the perfect mother. She cannot tolerate her shortcomings on days when she is weary or lost. Seeing herself as an ‘ideal’, sacrificial mother, she may either deny herself the care and compassion she requires, or channel her frustration and anger at someone else in her life. Either ways, she dare not give herself the permission to drop the cloak of ‘ideal mother’ even for an instance. So when her children grow up and move away, she faces the empty nest syndrome because her whole life was devoted to living the image of an ideal mother. Is that all she is? No. She is far more than that one role.
This was just an illustration. If you examine your own life, you will find that you will have similar defining roles or characteristics for your self.
I can give you my own example. ‘Caregiver’ and ‘reliable’ – concise ‘definitions’. A good summary of most of my major life experiences. But when I examined these words closely, I was astonished at how limiting they were. And yet their stronghold was tougher than any steel bars. Not only did others believe and expect this of me, more importantly, so did I. I could not imagine consciously doing anything that was in direct contradiction to these two definitions. But in the world of duality, opposites have to co-exist. There is no light without darkness, nor hope without despair. Clichéd it may be, but that is because it is a well known truth. So I set out to find occasions when I was in fact the one in need of care. And the times when I was unreliable. And no surprises here, I found enough evidence of both. When I say no surprise, I say that to someone else, or even to you as the reader right now, it may seem rather obvious.
The challenge is always for our self. To see through our own blind spots. To shine the light of loving awareness and acceptance on all parts of our self and discover there is nothing to hide, nor any thing to disown. And also nothing that is impossible. We are the potential of all possibilities. Not limited by any ideas or ideals. The more aware we are of all that we can be, the more consciously we engage in this game of life. Trusting that what is required will emerge.
So now, there is no need to force fit myself to some predetermined notions of what I should be like. I can relax and allow myself to be. Now, when I happen to be ‘reliable’, the shift is subtle and perhaps only obvious to me. It does not come from history, or any anxiety of not meeting my own or someone else’s definition of me – but from presence.
This experience of being is no longer coming from habit, or fear. It is arising in the here and now. From being alive to what is asked of me in the moment.
That is freedom. And that is something I invite you to try for yourself.
Photo Credit: Chinmay Kulkarni