Such a seemingly simple request made of us. But like most spiritual ideals, often so very difficult to actually pull off. Living genuinely in the truth of who we are sounds desirable on its face, but how often do we truly live in such a manner – even when we pretend we are?
The first hurdle is knowing, in fact, who “I” actually is. Most of us live in an unconscious reaction to our entire life catalog of events, thoughts, experiences, and interpretations-in-the-moment – a catalog that predominately resides hidden and mysterious in our minds. A catalog which then requires considerable time and effort to uncover, strip away, re-think, and then apply into our current life. Until then, we spend a majority of our time believing we know what we are about – thoughts, values, ambitions, religious beliefs, etc. – but in fact living out a pre-rationalized path we have made up to conveniently fit our history.
Our second hurdle is knowing what we have truly learned and concluded on our own for ourselves. As opposed to beliefs which are simply echoes of those who have had significant influence on our life experiences, and their interpretations of our experiences. Or who taught “the facts and the truths” to us, an unquestioning listener, who rarely directly challenged and analyzed the veracity of those teachings. In which event we never quite figured out whether those teachings were truly thereby our own, or just the convenient cloning of someone else’s thoughts.
The third hurdle is the dominating weight of the society in which one lives, whether it be a religious, cultural, political, social or geographical group. Peer pressures to get along can be an overwhelming force on even the strongest of individuals. “Fitting in” is a natural desire as another way of defeating our fears of being lonely, of being disconnected from our surroundings. Acceptance of us by many others seems to also quantitatively affirm “I” in spite of our own self-doubts. But such group approval comes at a severe personal price, for a society can be very unforgiving when its boundaries are crossed. So we have to continually ask ourselves exactly who it is that our society is approving – our true self that is being reflected into the world, or a disguised self reflecting a portrait spray-painted onto us by society like so much cultural graffiti.
Discovering who the true person is that resides inside of us is a challenging endeavor. It is a spiritual journey, a personality journey, a journey of discovery about one’s self and Life itself. We use the discovery tools of differing viewpoints, other religions and cultures, other geographies; we explore the thoughts and experiences held deeply in the recesses of our minds. Given what we discover, and understanding that we are now called to live radically differently, it is also a journey mainly for the fearlessly committed. Because it is highly unlikely that the “I” that we discover bears much resemblance to the “I” we have comfortably known. Once one starts such a journey, and thereby tumbles down the rabbit hole into one’s own true self, one will likely never be the same, never see one’s self the same way, and never able to go back to the old self again. Old affiliations no longer work, and a different set of people and environments are required to give support to that newly rediscovered self. It is a long and continuous journey, with occasional companions coming alongside into our life for a period and then leaving again. But it is essentially a journey that must be walked alone.
The Buddha forewarned us that many will start such a journey, but few will succeed. And Jesus consistently warned that the spiritual life – being who you are, with God – would always be a difficult one. But when one’s life ends, who is it that will then be presented to the Universe: the culturally created “I,” or the true “I” of Being?
© 2013 Randy Bell