Inner  Frontier
Cultivating Spiritual Presence

 

Inner Work


For the week of November 11, 2013

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Being Yourself

Introduction

What does it mean to be yourself? After all, who else could we be, if not ourselves? Yet the question remains, somehow resonating with us. At times we feel less ourselves, like when we are thrown off by an uncomfortable situation, by feeling unsure of ourselves or inadequate or anxious and not fully in control. At such moments we feel awkward, perhaps even ashamed; we are not at home in our own skin. These and many other types of difficult moments point to times when we might almost rather not be ourselves, if being ourselves means behaving and experiencing in those unpleasant ways. But to be more accurate, we should say that in those moments we are not fully ourselves. And that domain is where our inner work, our spiritual practice can help, help us be fully ourselves.

To be ourselves means to be who we are, in our core. Again, though, who are we? Who am I? That question itself can and does form the foundation of an entire spiritual path. One effective approach to it starts by elimination, by seeing that much of what we think we are is not who we are, is not essential to the person that is us. This is dropping some of the veils of illusion so often referenced in spiritual literature.

Our illusions about ourselves are of two major types. First are the erroneous beliefs we have about how we act, about our place in the world, our personal status in short, our self-image. We do not see ourselves objectively, as others see us. But our inner work of presence gradually dispels these illusions, as we begin to see and understand ourselves more clearly. This happens as a natural and important by-product of work on presence. It can at times be difficult, making it seem that we are regressing in our personal qualities. But that is a false impression resulting from the dropping of veils, from actually seeing and understanding ourselves more accurately, more objectively. It is a positive sign.

The other kinds of self-illusions run deeper. These involve believing that we are what we are not. Specifically, we believe our thoughts are who we are or at least speak for us, represent us. We believe we are our body. We believe we are our emotions. And finally, we believe we are the center of our personality, our ego. This last is an illusion about an illusion.

Dispelling these deeply ingrained and unquestioned illusions requires developing new perceptions. For example, if we can see beyond our thoughts, into the cognizant stillness of consciousness, we have a chance of entering consciousness, whereupon we see clearly that our thoughts generate themselves, arising and passing through our mind without our intention behind them. Thus our thoughts are not who we are, nor do they necessarily speak for us. This does not mean that we should ignore our thoughts. On the contrary, we want to be fully aware of them, to see what information they offer us, and to ensure that we are not unwittingly falling prey to them, to our implicit attitude that we are our thoughts. Like the situation with thoughts, each of the other kinds of illusory self-images, woven by our emotions, our body, our personality, our ego, and our roles in the world, calls for its own approach toward freedom.

In this series, we take on the major types of illusions about who we are and go further, not by rejecting but by accepting. By being each of our parts consciously, we become whole, we become ourselves. We embrace it all, inhabiting every aspect of ourselves, reclaiming our parts under the all-inclusive umbrella of who we really are: the one who lives in and makes use of our many abilities and talents. We learn that wholeness and healing come through respecting ourselves, not through rejecting our unloved parts. And we learn to live from the whole and not be driven by our destructive, unhealthy emotions and urges, not falling into a narrow view of who we are. This is the way of liberation, the freedom to be ourselves.

    1. Being Your Body
    2. Being Your Mind
    3. Being Your Heart
    4. Being Your Personality
    5. Being Your Relationships
    6. Being Your Job
    7. Being Your Presence
    8. Being Your I
    9. Being Your Conscience

For this week, engage with the question: who am I? Look to see who or what you believe you are, in practice, in your day-to-day reality. Do I buy an attitude that I am my emotions, or my thoughts, or my body, or my personality? What could it mean to be fully myself?


        

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