I’ve been particularly enamored by the trees this fall. I spend a lot of time outdoors, and I have enjoyed watching the gradual shift of colors over time. One of my favorite bits of eye candy are trees with multiple colors. For example, the above trees have green at the bottom, then yellow, into orange, and finally red at the top. I love the variety and expression of colors!
I wonder, would the trees ever judge themselves for being so varied and expressive? I have no idea if trees think in this way, but I sure notice that we humans do. As mentioned in my last blog post, I often criticize myself and others when personalities vary across multiple roles and ways of being. What a hopeless trap this is, to expect myself or someone else to stay static, in a world that is based on movement and change.
As a side note, something has caught my attention: One sneaky way that I do this to myself is with the label “true self”. How many times have I beat on myself for not being true to myself, for “leaving” myself, for betraying myself? Let’s look closely: is there ever a “true self”? Is it possible for there to be one way of showing up in the world? One role or identity that “defines” who I am as a person?
Looking at the words themselves, “true self” references an absolute existence of something, suggesting a thing which is fixed, perfect, and complete. Can I be that? Ever? Can something that is constantly changing ever be held to the label of “fixed”? So right off the bat I’m trying to make my self into something that it cannot be.
I’m more inclined to replace the word “self “ with “nature” due to how self tends to get misconstrued. When I directly look into my experience there does seem to be a “true nature”, but it is not something that is ever content-based. And what that “true nature” is….. well, it’s impossible to really get at with words, but here are some words that myself and others use from time to time: source, this, “beingness,” expression, energy.
There is not a “true me” here somewhere, not one that I can find anyway. There is no one or true way of being. I’m constantly playing out roles, and each role is not my “true self”, it is just one possible expression of being. And yet I make this idea of “true self” to be true quite a bit.
Instead of being fluid with the multitude of roles I play, sometimes I fixate on ways of being and make them mean something as compared to how I see myself, or according to the role I want (see my last blog post). When I do this, I experience self-judgment and/or self-loathing as I’m essentially measuring myself according to a pretend standard, or idea, laden with false beliefs. The more narrow my vision is of who I’m “supposed to be,” the more of my actual true nature is excluded. In that exclusion I am reduced (in my direct experience) to existing in a very small and narrow box. It’s easy to see how suffering is experienced when confined in such a way.
When I experiment with possibilities and ways of being, without demanding that I be one certain way, I can experience life not as static, concrete or certain, but as fluid and expansive. I can then notice that there is no “leaving” myself, ever. There are only moments of fluidity, or moments of holding myself to a standard that is tied to illusionary belief systems.
My true nature is beingness, movement, expression. It’s not a thing, or content-based, but is a verbing, so to speak. There is a vastness here, in each moment that includes everything- not an absolute delineation of right and wrong or good and bad. The mind seems to like to make things absolute, which is why the advice “don’t’ believe everything you think” can be helpful.
The best pointers I’ve experienced for tapping into my “true nature” (into “this”, source, beingness, the expression, or movement) is to deeply inquire and notice: what is limiting, confining, constricting, static? What belief systems, ways of being, roles, sensations, reflect an openness or expansiveness, and which are experienced as closed and constricted? Am I experiencing more inclusion, or exclusion?
I can never really leave myself but I can be dishonest and unaware in my movements. I can be honest with what I am experiencing or wanting or needing. I can play roles without being aware of the play going on. I can have awareness as I play.
I can try to manipulate others and myself into doing things to “get love.” Such dishonesty is not good or bad in and of itself- it’s also one of many ways we show up in the world. It does seem to have suffering as a bed partner though, and keeps me from experiencing the vastness life has to offer. When I’m excluding, I’m back in that box, and I’m not experiencing as many possibilities as I could be. In my experience, the more I exclude the smaller the box I’m existing in, and the more suffering I seem to experience. The more I open up, the wider the vastness of experience, which coincidentally also seems to bring about pleasure and happiness.
In my own experience, the more I delineate or reduce myself to a particular, to the exclusion of other particulars, the more I seem to experience suffering. The more I experience the vastness, the more expanded I feel, and the more I connect with source, my true nature, which feels expansive.
Try this on for yourself: doesn’t it feel delightful not to make yourself right or wrong? Doesn’t it feel good to acknowledge that you show up in a myriad of ways? That to be human is to experience this variety? When we don’t try to hold on to one way of being, we naturally seem to relax the critical thoughts. We experience spaciousness and fluidity. Kindness for others and ourselves feels good.