“I was trying to find a voice. Trying to find my voice. Was I really a “writer?” No. Was what I was doing “writing?” No. I was trying to save my soul.” — Steven Pressfield, Nobody Wants to Read You Sh*t
I’m acutely aware that in sharing my existential angst, I’m not getting to the crux of my message: “awaken, to true self”. Sure, you might know more about me but I suspect you’re left wondering what I’m trying to achieve.
It’s a good question.
The truth is we’re not very good at making the most of our lives. There might be a hesitancy in accepting this or, in some cases, a downright refusal — “I’m very happy with my life” — but you only have to engage with people for a few minutes to realise there’s something missing. Not the money or the fame but something of a higher order. The way I describe it is an unlived self, a self that if realised would make the most of our genius. Not someone ‘special’ or apart from everyone else but the person we were born to be.
(What I’m not pointing to is a peripatetic lifestyle where we think the quintessential grass is always greener — i.e. more money, a better job, less stress, more freedom — but, in fact, an ordinary life where we live fully, at peace with who we truly are.)
From my limited viewpoint, most people have given up on ‘true self’. Instead, they’ve replaced it with a life of ‘doing’, where the only question that looms large is: “What’s next?” This means that rather than journeying within, via self-inquiry, prayer or contemplation, they focus on To Do Lists, goals, dreams and expectations, all designed to fill their waking hours with a slew of jobs and projects. As necessary but fundamentally sad this is, they suffocate any idea of living a higher purpose life and believe their life’s purpose is built around a life of more.
At this stage, let me be so bold as to quote Thomas Merton to see if it makes my ‘transformation’ point any clearer:
“People who know nothing of God and whose lives are centered on themselves, imagine that they can only find themselves by asserting their own desires and ambitions and appetites in a struggle with the rest of the world. They try to become real by imposing themselves on other people, by appropriating for themselves some share of the limited supply of created goods and thus emphasizing the difference between themselves and the other men who have less than they, or nothing at all. They can only conceive one way of becoming real: cutting themselves off from other people and building a barrier of contrast and distinction between themselves and other men. They do not know that reality is to be sought not in division but in unity, for we are ‘members one of another’.”
I accept this might sound like a throwback to the 1960’s hippie movement but what’s wrong with what? No, I mean it. What’s wrong in conceiving a world where we all live together in harmony and at the same time express our undiluted, genius self?
Am I’m setting the bar too high? I might be, but in writing this blog and speaking, I would like to think I could touch a few lives to the point where they begin to substitute a life of doing for a life of contemplation. Or, even if that’s too far, they’re alive to their inner critic where they don’t believe every word of its narcissistic chattering.
The obvious question in all this is the awakening. For a start, how do we know we’re asleep? This can be best described as follow:
“Awakening occurs in the moment where we see ourselves for what we are. We see how enslaved we are to our feelings, our reactions, our stream of uncreated, unconscious, autonomous thoughts. What happens when we awaken, when we “remember our self” as Gurdjieff called us to do? We have the sudden seeing, this moment of profound clarity, this deeply felt desire to awaken even more. To become the “I” that we all believed we were, the “I am” in truth.” — Michael E Gerber
How do we move closer to or get in touch with our “I”? At the moment we don’t, largely because we’re focused on an economic outturn and not fulfilling our higher, spiritual needs. But imagine if we didn’t shun our desire to self-express, to be creative or do something we’ve always wanted to do. And I’m not just referring to things in a career or workplace sense. I’m talking about doing it because you’ve no choice. And not just once but repeatedly. How would you feel? Happier? Less pressured to perform? Or in touch with your soul (for once)?
For some people, especially those that are not prepared to stand apart from their economic self, their awakening is taken out of their hands. That’s how it was for me: one morning I was fine, the next minute I was lying on a hospital bed. That was my sudden shock that made me see something bigger than my false, egoic self previously permitted. Some people awaken more naturally; but that still leaves the majority as seekers. Yes, they might possess an awareness of something vast and all encompassing but they brush over it for fear that it might disrupt their normal, oh-so-ordinary existence.
And that’s where I step in…or at least I’d like to think so.
I’m not promising anything but in inviting, inter alia, the question “Who am I?”, I very much hope that people will make the connection between their thoughts, feelings and actions and understand that liberation will never arise if they think they can think themselves in to a new state of being. (It’s axiomatic that it will and can only arise by unlearning what they know, challenging their repetitive thoughts from the position of witness and coming to terms with universal mind – ‘Oneing’ as Julian of Norwich describes things.)
Is this meant to excite you or turn you on to the thrill of a new life?
I can’t really say.
In my case, it’s not been the most pleasant experience witnessing so many of my previous dreams go up in smoke, but I’ve not resiled from my calling
Let me leave you with one final quote which I think makes it clear that the true self resides in us all, and our job is to make peace with our inner voice and make the most of the life we’ve been gifted.
“Everyone of us is shadowed by an illusory person: a false self…We are not very good at recognizing illusions, least of all the ones we cherish about ourselves. (34) Contemplation is not and cannot be a function of this external self. There is an irreducible opposition between the deep transcendent self that awakens only in contemplation, and the superficial, external self which we commonly identify with the first person singular.(7) Our reality, our true self, is hidden in what appears to us to be nothingness….We can rise above this unreality and recover our hidden reality….(281) God Himself begins to live in me not only as my Creator but as my other and true self. (41)” — Thomas Merton