As a being who is intrinsically connected to the rest of the world—whose personal wants are the whispers of the universe—your longings are not arbitrary, but essential. They are not whims, but movements of the divine. The deep wellspring from which your true nature flows is both unique and part of the divine unfolding.
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “The eye was placed where one ray should fall, that it might testify of that particular ray.”
While it is impossible to deny who we are—how can we be anything other than ourselves—paradoxically, we learn through the course of our lives to be more or (in many cases) less pure expressions of what resides in our heart of hearts. Being ourselves is the most natural and simple thing in the world, yet it can take quite a bit of effort.
To truly be living beings, we must surrender to the deeper truth of who we are, found through the exploration of what we love the most. It is when we are inspired, lit up, and aligned that we will find this wellspring of our eternal nature. And when it comes right down to it, anything besides being and doing what we love is, quite simply, a waste of our time.
“You are the perfect expression of the universe exactly where you are in this moment.” ~Alan Watts
Let’s not get confused on this point and think that life is easy and that our true nature will unfold without effort if only we are connected to it. All great works of art require effort and sometimes sacrifice. At times, our confusion about who we are can lead us to fixate on people, places, things, or ways of life that are not in alignment with who we truly are. In these moments of forgetting our self, we can be convinced that attaining the object of our desire will confirm something about us that we desperately want to believe (or disbelieve). These experiences can leave us wondering if we can trust the expressions of our deeper nature’s wants and desires.
But we can also use these moments to show us the nature of our own heart instead. We may learn through them what is not real and true, and we may find the opportunity to slip more deeply into what is. We can learn through these experiences that some love affairs are dalliances while others are romances that cross lifetimes, but all are beautiful teachers about the nature of our soul.
We can also sometimes be deeply disappointed by the twists and turns of life—what was once so clear and certain falling away as if it never was. We can feel in the words of Jennifer Welwood’s “The Dakini Speaks” that “life has broken her secret promise to us.”
In situations like these, we might start to doubt our direction and our deeper nature that called it forward, thinking that “we have been wrong before” and perhaps “it is better to save myself the heartache.” As we do this, our essential nature becomes more and more abstract and less and less realized. Or confusion increases and our investment in what is less ourselves does too.
Once we get confused and disconnected from our deeper nature, we are lucky if we can remember that our lives are meant to be an unfolding of our selves to ourselves. We are meant to be guided by our love, our happiness, and our dreams. We are meant to have our hearts broken as well so that we can continue to expand into bigger and truer dreams.
We really only have this one job in the course of our lives: being who it is we truly are. Navigating the pains that make us hold back and shut down. Finding, loving, and caring for what we are by our very design. Learning to bring that into the world with each opportunity. Living the paradox of knowing and not knowing ourselves.
Why do we dance this dance of being ourselves? Because there is a sacred fire burning in each one of us that demands a life fully lived.
The mask is the outer expression of who you are. It is also called the persona. Your mask makes up much of what you might think about when you think about “you.” How you choose to cut your hair, what you wear, and how you connect socially are all a part of the mask or persona that you choose to put out to the world. Sometimes the mask gets a bad reputation. New age rhetoric and self help books tell us to be authentic and to be our true selves. Some spiritual traditions emphasize dropping the illusion of the self for a deeper connection with the spirit. Let’s also consider the benefits of the mask.
The mask is a useful and important part of who we are. At its best, the mask is an outward expression of who we feel ourselves to be on the inside. It can be the creative material of our deeper expression. When our mask is in alignment with our deeper nature, it feels authentic and is fun to play with.
On the other hand, when we overly identify with our mask, and think that it IS who we truly are, we live a life of subtle or not-so-subtle anxiety. We suffer from feelings of emptiness and feel a profound loss of meaning. Our defenses are grounded in our mask. When we live in these defenses, we can find ourselves caught in the drama of life, fighting often, or feeling the victim.
Our deeper nature exists as the part of the self that is differentiated from the oneness of everything, but fundamentally expresses our essence. This is often called the true self or the core self. This is distinctly different than the no self that is discussed in Buddhism. The no self is when we are able to completely step outside of our personal identity. In this space we are able to connect with the infinite. There is a lot to learn from this experience of the no self. I find it is the true self that helps most people live fully and create a life of meaning.
As I mentioned, we can live our lives believing our mask is our true self. Often times, this illusion only gets dismantled when we have significant crisis that pushes us to question how we have come to see ourselves. As our mask is challenged, we go searching for something else and this search can lead us in the direction of our deeper nature.
We do not need to wait for crisis to begin our journey. Some of us feel a call to look for something deeper and more significant. Some of us are fortunate to have maintained a strong connection with our deeper nature. Others of us might experience a generalized sense that there is more to our life than what we have previously lived. But regardless of how we start, the way that we get there is by challenging the hold of the mask, dismantling the beliefs and emotions that hold us to experiencing the world through this limited view, and learning how to express our deeper nature through the filter of our mask.
In my LifeWork Community program I teach a number of ways that we can more productively work with our true self and bring its expression through our mask and into the world. The following are some of the areas that I address in my program and questions that you can use to support yourself in moving towards living your true self.
People sometimes believe that you do personal development work if you are broken, but that is not really the case. Yes, it is true that hurt people work on themselves to feel better. However, it is also true that the best place to start your work from is a place of total acceptance. When we do our personal development work from a place of more and more appreciation, we gain so much more for our efforts.
What is one thing that you get on your case about that you can start to accept about yourself?
Personal truth can sound like a lofty concept and like it is detached from everyday life, but this does not need to be the case. Our personal truth can be a felt and lived experience. In fact, it is. When we live our personal truth we feel happier, more loving, and more energized. When we step out of integrity we feel less happy, closed, and like we have lower energy.
When do you feel that you are connected to your personal truth? What does it feel like to you?
Forgiveness is a pathway to healing. Healing is a state of harmony and peace. When we hold onto grievances from the past the pain of these events is carried in us and is reflected in the world around us. We continually activate the pains so that they can be healed. The idea is not for us to suffer through life but to become aware that the pain is there so that it can be transformed.
What are you carrying from your past that needs to be let go of? What needs to happen for you to be ready to let it go?
Our most highly attuned state is a creative state. Creativity and its expression are the result of being able to be in the present moment, spontaneous, and positively focused. Creativity is a form of healing and an aspiration of conscious growth. We cannot create without the willingness to see more than what has previously been.
How can you nurture creativity in your life?
People crave a sense of meaning and purpose. Without it, we often feel lost at sea. The trials and tribulations of life are hard to weather because we face them with no sense of what to do with them. We may even end up feeling victimized by life and see ourselves transform into a perpetrator. When we have a sense of meaning we create a pathway through the challenges of life and create a sense of inner peace.
What is most important to you? Why is it most important?
What other life might you choose if you could choose more than one? Or, what is the archetypal expression of something that you are living out in your life that you can more fully embrace?
We often focus our attention on being our “true” selves and although this is a worthy process, it has it’s limitations. Our “true” self can have many faces and if we explore them we may come away with the realization that we are far more complex then we can imagine. As Walt Whitman famously wrote “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes”
Kids express themselves in this way so easily. They play being a princess one moment and then a pirate, a spaceman –or in my case it was often a goat—the next. This allows them to explore the many possibilities of what they want to become. It allows them to expand beyond their daily limitations and the importance of this type of thinking is something adults often forget.
While there are a lot of benefits of knowing what we think, what we like, and who we like, it can also become a way of turning off and shutting down. It can become easy to habitually respond rather than take in the whole situation. We can become set in our ways and stop growing.
So, what might you learn about yourself by stretching outside of what you have come to identify with? How might that actually lead you home to being more of who you are?
Want a way to explore new realms of who you are are who you could be within a supportive and fun space? LifeWork Community offers you the tools to more fully all of who you are and better your life as well as that of your family and community. Learn more here