February 17, 2018 at 9:36 AM Leave a comment

You’ve seen children playing sports, dancing, singing, working on an art project, walking down a trail, listening to a story . . . and you’ve seen how differently various children respond to the same activity. What delights us all is that child who gets “lost” in whatever the activity is. This is not necessarily the child who is best at the activity. This is the child who is most in the “flow” of the song or the story or the hunt for insects in the dirt. This is the child who is not self-conscious, not looking for praise, not living in fear of criticism, but simply absorbed in the moment. This is the best description I know of “living in the true self.”

It’s easier for children, especially young children, to fall back into themselves. They haven’t been poisoned and punished and pushed into conformity. They haven’t been forced to color inside the lines, to sit with their legs together, to be aware of how they look when they’re playing. They can still connect with that sense of abandonment, freedom, ease. They haven’t been anesthetized into missing the present because they were too concerned about what was going to happen in the future.

Last week we talked about indicators that we are living in our “false self.” Our false self is the self our parents, teachers, society, and culture demanded we become. No matter how gentle or insidious the demands, the forces around us wanted us to be well-behaved, good at things, achieving successes, even in nursery school. “Your child was the first to pick up her toys and sit in the circle for story time,” says the teacher. “Wow, says the parent, good job, kid,” and a neurotically responsible child is born. It can be that well-meaning. The competition and comparison, the roles and rules, the standards and achievements become the way we identify and self-define.

Living in the true self means leaving behind everything that is not true for us. Some of that “imposed self” will fit. Most of it will not. Volumes have been written about the causes and reasons we leave our true selves behind. That’s fascinating to me, but not what we’re about here. This is just an introduction to the topic of false self/true self.

Here are some indicators you are living in your true self, being yourself, accepting yourself:

You have a sense of humor. You are able to laugh at yourself. You are able to laugh with others in such a way that they can laugh along because you have not been cruel or mean.

You walk with people, not ahead of them or behind them. The true self is not superior or inferior.

You are more selfless than selfish.

You have an ability to validate the differences. Someone who is different than you, in sexual orientation or skin tone, for example, does not threaten you.

You are merciful.

You are kind.

You can both give and receive.

You have integrity. You know what matters to you, and you neither shout it from the rooftops nor deny it when it is unpopular.

You are generous with your attention, your time, your resources, your praise, and your skills.

You are hungry to learn.

You are serene when alone or in a crowd.

You don’t miss much because you are living with your eyes and ears and heart open.

You are patient when things go your way, and when they don’t, as well as when people are thoughtless, think while driving, for example, or “bothering” you.

You are probably interested in conservation and things which are good for the planet and other people.

Obviously, the list could go on and on. You can feel when you are living from your true core and being authentic because you are as unselfconscious as we humans ever get. You are in the flow. One reason I have so enjoyed being a therapist is because when I am in the listening seat, I am not thinking about myself. I’m not thinking, “I need to say something clever now.” I am just, completely, listening.

Richard Rohr says that great love and great suffering are breakthrough opportunities for us to visit our “true selves.” Most of us don’t stay there, but visiting is refreshing. Sitting in silent contemplation or meditation is another chance to turn off the monkey chatter of judgment that diminishes us and often defeats us on a day to day basis. In contemplation, we simply sit by the river and watch it flow gently along. I usually sit by the ocean. On a good day, when the monkeys are busy chattering to someone else, I can actually get in the ocean and sometimes feel the dolphins moving the water beside me. As Thich Nhat Hanh says, “When the wave realizes she is water, her fear disappears.” Then we know we are one. Then we have returned, even if just for a moment, to our true self.

Blessings and deep peace. Love, Susan

(I’d be happy to hear from you!)



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