03 Jun 9. Don’t believe you are This or That (but let people have their opinions)
This is number 9 out of my 10 commandments. To view the full list click here.
I have a memory from this life, that I believe is my first conscious one. It was the Summer when I was about to turn three when our nanny gave me a Mickey Mouse sticker on my ring-bell on my little three-wheeled bike. I remember I liked it a lot, it made my bike nicer. Already before the age of three I was a person, with a bicycle that was mine and it was now upgraded which made me feel better about myself. Identities of this and that with belongings of this and that. At birth I did not have any concepts of anything and hence no identity either. But already on the first day I got a name and after that more and more layers of who I am, what I should and should not do and what is and is not my possessions were installed in me. I was told I was a cute boy, that I was good at Math, that I was too sensitive to work as a politician, that I was intelligent but also a Mr-Know-It-All. That I wanted to win badly and had problems loosing, that I was a good friend, that I was a bit overweight after high school, that I was boring in bed but later that I was amazing in bed, that my clothes were not so cool and later that my clothes were cool. Thousand and thousands of pieces of information that I received, making me form this complex network of ideas about who I am.
Please don’t believe I am upset with my parents, friends, society or anything. I believe it is necessary for survival reasons to get a sense of an identity while growing up. The problem is that we seem to start building on this identity from a very young age, adding stuff that is neither necessary nor true and we also waste enormous energy in defending the personal identity. It was quite a wake up call for me when I realized that everything I know about myself, all knowledge I have about myself, was given from the outside. It took some time to understand and confess to myself that was true. My first reaction was something like; “No, I sure know who I am. I know my values, how I react to different situations, what makes me happy and unhappy.” But when I dug a little deeper into this I started seeing that almost all this was actually programmed from the outside. Not only my name was given to me, my talents was confirmed or downplayed by others and others way of treating me programmed my reactions. My values would surely be different if I had grown up in Africa, but is there not something in me that would be the same regardless of upbringing and outer circumstances? The story of who I am is not my story, no matter how hard I believe in it. And could I really be reduced to a story about a biological organism, isn’t there something more?
I remember the first time my Guru said to me; “Erik I think you are ready to claim you are not this or that”. I did not know what the hell he was talking about. But then I heard him use this term “this or that” in other situations and finally it hit home. He meant that I cannot limit me to any idea or mental concept, I must not limit myself to a mind-thing.
In silence there is no clear boundaries and all past memories that have shaped me before are vanished. The experience of just being. Not even having an attitude. Nor a reaction.
There seems to be an unconscious pain to be limited to a This or That since it is ultimately not true, and it definitely is not our choice from the beginning… I like being in a night club where nobody knows me, where no one has ideas about who I am. (Since it is difficult not to adjust to fit those ideas)
I am not walking around claiming “I am everywhere, I am the Limitless One or I was never borne nor will I ever die”. No that would just be changing one identity from society for another identity based on spiritual texts. From one mind thing to another. Instead I am trying to do as my Guru have instructed me and not fight with the world. People can have all kinds of opinions about me as being spoilt, arrogant, good looking, a good lover, intelligent, inspiring, promising, funny and so on. Maybe they tell me face to face, or maybe I hear it as a rumour. What I am trying to do is to hear it, but without being formed by it. If it is a compliment I appreciate the intention behind it, but I am doing my best to not believe in the content – adding another layer to the personal identity that I am aiming to totally transcend one day. If it is an insult I am not appreciating the intention (haha!), and I am trying to just let it be.
Someone once asked Eckhart Tolle who talked about this; “So you are telling me I am nothing?”. Tolle replied; “I am telling you you are no-thing”. I liked that. When I am not reduced to this or that I am not a person relating to the world from that narrow perspective, a person in need to add value to my identity and defend it if someone or something threatens it. Instead I can be free to be just me, unshaped and ready to be totally spontaneous here and now – not bound by expectations on how I should behave and without commitment to the old. I have learnt that the natural way of being is ever evolving, always ready to change – since the environment is always changing. Therefore I was particularly happy when I visited my old office the other week and my previous boss who is now my friend asked me: “So, who are you today?” What a great question!! It showed me that he has seen that I am not stuck in a consistent pattern any more, that I am evolving. And it also shows me that he gives me that freedom to evolve, that he is not trying to put me in a box.
We are so good at putting each other in boxes, because it feels more safe when we can predict each others behaviors. That is why many friends, and especially parents if I may generalize, don’t like it when we change. That makes their life more unpredictable, now they may have to question who they are as well! Then it is much more convenient to label each other as This or That and probably 99% of humanity is stuck in this. Even though the intention is not evil, rather a matter of survival, this fixation has become a prison. I will keep doing my best not to believe I am This or That, and I will also try not to put these labels on others. This, I have learnt, is the key. Only if we don’t put others in a box will we be freed ourselves. That is how the mind works. It is difficult and requires awareness, but my God life is much more fun without prejudices. Instead of meeting a mental story of you that I have in my head, I may actually meet You.