Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of December 9, 2013

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Being Your Personality

(Being Yourself: Part 4)

All our patterns of behavior, inner and outer, including our thoughts, emotions, and our ways of interacting with people, taken as a whole form what we call our personality. Sometimes we may try to hide our real tendencies, to mask our personality. But the reality is that our personality itself is a mask, hiding our true I both from ourselves and from others. Our personality enthralls us, so convincing is it that this is who I am. Yet it is a distraction from our self, from the one who rightly could perceive and act and live our life. Instead we give power to our personality, to our familiar patterns of body, thought, and emotion. We let our personality run our life because we do not look any deeper to see beyond it. We do not even have a conception that there is anything deeper in us. It seems our personality is who we are.

Though we take all our patterns as a whole and call it personality, it is not a whole; it is just a bunch of parts, ways of thinking, feeling, and acting that are so familiar to us that we assume this amorphous collection is who we are. It spins an image, a self-image, which we label with our name and substitute for our real self. Some of these parts have ideals, while others wallow in base motivations. Many even conflict with each other: some parts love to eat, but others feel better when not overweight. So here we are living as our personality, as a mass of pre-programmed patterns, reactions, and contradictions. Its complexity hides its pre-determined nature. Nothing really new enters: this is how we have been, how we are now, and how we will be. That may be comforting, but it is also limiting.

One part of our personality is a story machine. It loves stories. It loves to hear stories, hence the popularity of movies, TV, and novels. It also loves to make up stories and tell them, particularly to ourselves. We have the story of our life, continuously unfolding. Our personality tells us the story of who it thinks we are, recounting our history, narrating our present, and foretelling our probable future. We hear this story over and over and believe it. We want to improve it. After all, it is our very own story. If we can improve the story, we improve ourselves. But we are not any story. We are not the presumed protagonist in the story of our life as told by our personality. That story stands between us and our life.

Another part of our personality is the judge and commentator, evaluating everything and everyone, including ourselves. We hear these judgments and believe we are the judge. We hear our inner comments and believe we are the commentator. But again, this is just the judging, commenting, ruminating machine of our personality. It is not who we are. This machine filters our perceptions and stands between us and our life.

So what then? How to find freedom in the midst of all this? First, we cannot rid ourselves of our personality, nor can we effectively reform it. Freedom on this level does not mean removing or changing our personality, it simply means not being taken by it, not having it drive our life, not believing it is who we are. Furthermore, our personality is a powerful mechanism, with a great deal of knowledge about our world built into it. The question is: does it use us or do we use it?

If we fight it head on, we will not only lose the battle, we will also lose part of ourselves. In the end, we can only just be ourselves, we just allow our personality to produce its thoughts, emotions, reactions, speech, and actions, we allow it to spin our image, to tell us our story, to judge, comment, and ruminate. We relax and let it be and let ourselves be. We do not need to be wary of our personality, our image. But what we do need is to be awake, to be the one who notices, who sees all these happenings inside and outside of us. Then, when necessary, we are able to choose our actions rather than allowing them to be chosen for us by our personality patterns.

In the inner silence, beneath our thoughts and emotions, we can abide untouched by personality. Meditation shows us this still place in ourselves. Soaking in that, we become it. Afterward, as our personality returns full-force, we can be in it, we can be it, but without being only that. We have our thoughts. We have our emotions. We have our usual ways of acting. And all the while, we also have the stillness within us. All this coexists, but on different levels. On one level we are our personality, we are our self-image. At the same time, on a deeper level, we are the stillness within. This solves the problem of personality. We are it, but not only it. We can be our self, if we can be our whole self, which includes both the shallow and the deep, the mask and the one who wears it. We do not seek to destroy or overcome the shallow in us. Instead, we embrace it, we embrace ourselves with the compassionate arms of stillness.

For this week, be your personality and be the cognizant stillness behind it.


     

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