Sunday, June 29, 2014

Discovering Your True Self

How my personal journey of self-discovery began with a fall.
 by Isabelle Meiring 

I remember the entire tray flying out of my hands, the hard stone tiles knocking against my knees. I descended to the ground and lie there for what felt like an eternity. Just as I was able to comprehend the pain shooting through my legs and elbows, the cool sticky sensation of the mayonnaise running down my chest brought me back into the present moment. There I was, in the cumbersomeness of my body which fell like a ton of bricks.

I was magnetised to the ground, sore, sticky, bloody, and before I could stifle any reaction, I began to cry. Slowly I lifted myself up, wiped the mayonnaise off my hands onto my skirt, and stood up straight.

Just then, I looked up apprehensively,  trying not to pay attention to a room of more than thirty faces staring in my direction; all that caught my attention was a mirror directly across from me on the far wall.

I saw a woman. She looked as though she resembled someone I knew very well, but at the same time she was a stranger. She looked unhappy, anxious, and insecure.  Her job as a waitress was unsatisfying; she seemed meek and downcast. Although beautiful, she seemed incredibly sad. Her hair was dyed, her face heavily made up, her clothes mostly plain and black.

It took a second for me to come to realise that I was staring at myself.

Mayonnaised-up and in pain, I stared at this woman staring back at me. I had no idea how I had become this woman, but at that moment, I understood that the call to return to my true self had been issued right then and there. “If this is not me – who am I?” I thought.

I decided to actively embark on the mission of recovering whatever it was that was truly myself, by chipping away everything that I knew was not.

This, I believe, is the great adventure of our lives, which is what makes it the ultimate, ongoing adventure of dis-covery.

Thomas Merton, in his book New Seeds of Contemplation writes: “We have the choice of two identities: the external mask which seems to be real...and the hidden, inner person who seems to us to be nothing, but who can give himself eternally to the truth in whom he subsists.”

This truth resonated with me strongly. I realised that we have succumbed to this way of life, and nurtured the psychology of being two different people most of our lives; one hidden, and the other a persona, the outer shell reflecting the way in which we would like the outside world to see us.

For most people, when asked ‘who you are,’ they answer with their job title. Some would answer with their given names, a family history, or even draw a family tree, or maybe relating their childhood events and giving a timeline of their own growth into adulthood. Most of us answer this question through stating facts such as our place of birth, where we live, our hobbies, or even our star signs.

Although we might love all the little things that make up the life we create for ourselves, at the end of the day, these things and ideas do not fully define who we are.

When you embark on a journey of self-discovery and try to unearth the part of you that exists behind all of these worldly aspects, it rekindles a pure freedom within you which might have been lying dormant.

One of my favourite authors, Oriah Mountain Dreamer, wrote the simple, hard-hitting line in her book The Call: “We have been sold a life-style, when all we ever desired was life.”

A close friend of mine, upon realising this himself, termed this state and process of discovery, individually and collectively, “Progress in Regression”; the art of moving forward through un-doing, or un-becoming; giving away and letting go, but discovering something pure. This is the process of truly making and living life, not merely creating and acquiring a lifestyle.

When practicing the art of progress in regression and stripping away all of your extraneous layers, it might be daunting to see what you are left with. Some may not like what they see, and others honestly won’t even know what they are looking at, or how to feel. But this is the route to real peace and acceptance of who you are at your core.

When you see yourself in your purest form, everything else becomes secondary. Your persona,, self-image, possessions, belongings, others’ expectations and views of you, thoughts and belief patterns inherited externally; all these facets are impermanent and changeable.

It is written in the pages of the Bible, in the Gospel of Thomas: "If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you.” This means that once you rediscover or uncover the essence of your true self and your unique and natural gifts, you will truly be content and fulfilled in yourself and your surroundings.

This change and process of discovery can bring about a lot of fear. But one of the mantras I live by is: move toward that which you fear most. I can say, from my own experience, that for all of the things I have been afraid of doing, once I faced them head on they turned out to benefit me and allow me to grow as a person so much more than I ever would have imagined. So embrace change, because it is often the catalyst for something even greater in your life.

Psychologist Angela Caughlin states in her book, Journaling Through: Unleashing the Power of the Authentic Self: Seven Benefits of Unlocking the Wisdom Within:“Congruent is one of my favorite words. The word congruent describes someone who is the same on the outside as they are on the inside,” .

It is this congruency which one aims for. Once you reach the state where your inner thoughts, desires and values mirror the person you show yourself to be to the external world, you truly gain harmony between your inner and outer life.

Now, to reach this state you don't need to throw out your plasma-screen TV, and put on sandals, pack a sleeping bag and live in the mountains to paint the sunrises or write about the birds kissing the skies for the next 30 years; we are in the modern age for a reason, and you are needed here, as much as anyone else. It requires balance, and knowing what your true self craves versus what your constructed self seeks. There are great spiritual teachers and lots of ways to be spiritual in the modern world.

The greatest gift in life is Love. Love yourself. Go on and strip that which does not resemble or resonate with that innate true self. Then, learn to love what you are left with, and get used to loving you.