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Free from “you”

Identity (and why reinvention can be so challenging)

Think about “you” for just a moment.

How would you describe yourself?

When you meet people, what do you typically tell them about yourself?

And if you were to talk longer and get to know someone, what would you share?

How about your friends and the people with whom you have been around the longest? Like family. How would you describe yourself given what they know about you?

Now imagine yourself alone in a room. Just you by yourself. Start filling in the blanks about what you know about yourself that no one else may know.

Start to collect all of these traits and characteristics, adjectives and roles, identities and personas.

Now, imagine that I’m adding everyone of them to a large whiteboard.

I’m neat at first, with columns and rows. But soon I’m adding stuff into any space available, creating half rows and half columns with smaller and smaller writing. Notice me running out of room quickly!

There’s your name, your bad habits, your saving graces, your social security number, your embarrassing secrets, your proud moments, your friends, your talents, your obsessions, your fears, your insecurities, your job title, your favorite foods, your hobbies, the book you just read, your enthusiasm for THESE activities and your lack of motivation for THOSE activities…

They’re all you!


Or are they.

Maybe some of those things are what you decided to focus on and believe in at the exclusion of all other evidence. Maybe that’s what someone told you in kindergarten. Maybe you were given that against your will. Maybe you know others who are MORE those things than you are (and certainly LESS those things too). Maybe you just got so accustomed to it and so comfortable with it and so much attention for it that you didn’t bother looking any further.

Maybe you’re panicking a little right now as you watch me take my big whiteboard eraser to this jumbled up, tangled up list that’s you and start wiping the board clean.

“No! STOP! That’s ME!”

As the last few remnants of black ink remain and the white board regains dominance again, perhaps you’re relaxing a little. Maybe your shoulders have dropped and fallen back. Or your jaw has gotten less clenched. And the tightness in your gut has released.

Maybe you’re breathing a tiny bit easier seeing NOTHING on the board at all.

Maybe the clean, open space is the truth about you.


That nothing was ever nailed down, solid, permanent, real, indelible, fixed or forever.

That the only thing real right now is as far as you can see and beyond. With the steps you can take that open up to even more views. And then from there, more steps that open up to more views.

More steps. More views. More beyonds.

That’s what it’s like. When there’s no “you” in the way.

In lovingkindness,
Alex

This is from my forthcoming book, Nothing Remaining: Zen Talks About Illusion and Authenticity, and is available to pre-order here
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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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