The unexamined life
“The soul becomes dyed with the colour of its thoughts.” ― Marcus Aurelius
It’s been said of me (often) that I go too deep.
I wouldn’t deny it.
But given life is such an amazing thing, why wouldn’t I want to know more than the superficiality that we’re apt to fall prey to? (I accept it might come from a place of insecurity, but I think it’s driven instead by innate curiosity. You know, the sort of questioning that doesn’t seek a definite answer but finds meaning in the experience of self-inquiry.)
For many people to have a goal and pursue it is enough, but having been there myself — i.e. I’ve reaped the benefit of my super-human efforts — I know now it was never enough. And when I say ‘enough’, what I mean is that it took me no closer to my true Self but, instead, left me feeling bereft of meaning.
I’ll save you the detail of the ‘aha’ moment, but, in early 2010, I saw for the first time how much of my life I’d invested only to come up short in the Self-discovery department. Of course, I could have ridden roughshod over said moment, i.e. buried it along with all the other misgivings I’d experienced in working in cubicle nation, but this time I knew, if I valued my life, I needed to sit up and take notice.
In short, I needed to look inside for the answers and not outwith.
And so it’s been for the last six years.
Instead of trying to mask questions like Who am I?, What’s the purpose of life? and What does living a spiritual life look and feel like?, I’ve allowed myself, not in narcissistic way, to enquire within. I’ve read many books, watched videos and attended a few retreats. They’ve covered all manner of things that were hidden from view for the previous 40 years and OMG!…what a revelation. Not only have I allowed myself to be exposed to thinking and philosophy that one can only be described as radical (see the work of Tony Parsons and the Open Secret) but I’ve allowed all my previous assumptions to be tested well past the point of destruction.
I’d like to report that I’m living in some nirvana state where I’m at peace but that would be a lie. Sure, I’m more settled but I sense there’s still a long way to go in the unfolding department, if only because I need to get past my thinking, egoic self.
I don’t mean to suggest that I want to zone out (what does that mean anyway?), but I do want to arrive at a place of inner quiet where I’m not constantly torn apart by trying to make sense of my circumstances.
At this point, part of me would like to scream (or cry) by dint of the almost constant struggle in making sense of a world that’s intent on deforming my soul but I know it wouldn’t do any good.
But I digress.
Further, it would be nice to report that I’ve found a system that I can slap on my soul to reap inner peace, but you and I both know that, despite the number of Gurus who report they’ve cracked the Self-inquiry code, there’s no one-step programme but simply a range of less and more powerful insights that have and continue to take me closer to true Self.
When I say true Self, all I’m pointing to is a space where we can be one with everything and no-thing.
If I was able to persuade you of the merits of self-inquiry, where would I suggest you start? I’m not sure, but one thing’s for sure, if you can’t make sense of what’s going on inside your head, i.e. that stupid inner critic, you’ve no chance.
To be clear, you won’t improve your situation if you think you can change the outer world or, worse still, you can’t disidentify with your thoughts brought about by how you currently perceive the outer world.
As the late Sydney Banks said:
“Thought is not reality; yet it is through Thought that our realities are created.”
In the end, if you’re looking to make real change in your life and those you connect with, you won’t do so by looking for an external fix, no matter how appealing. You have to go deep within and ask yourself the fundamental question:
Are you your thoughts?
And stick with that question long enough to understand that whilst you can’t override your thoughts, stop them arising or mask them completely, you can stop judging long enough to understand that what you see and hear isn’t always what it seems.