Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about personality and the connection between ego and experience. One of my favorite thinkers and writers, Robert Pirsig, once said something to the extent of, “Personality is what you reflect on others and also what others reflect on you.”
But maybe personality is limited? What if we were to go one step further, and say that soul is what you reflect on the universe and what the universe reflects on you.
On the difference between personality and soul, no words I can offer are as thoughtful as those of the poet David Whyte:
“The personality’s wish is to have power OVER experience, to control all events and consequences. The soul’s wish is to have power THROUGH experience, no matter what that may be.”
Perhaps our basic nature — our underlying foundation, our awareness , our soul— is like a canvas.
Everything that we experience — our interactions with other people and nature, our emotions and feelings, even our thoughts — is like paint.
Without getting and staying in touch with the canvas, it’s all too easy to get overly caught up in the paint. And yet at the same time, we also need to realize that the canvas is influenced — and to some extent, changed — by our experience of the paint.
The more we can be in touch with — fully present for, nestling deeply in our awareness, trying to understand—the paint that is our unfolding life, the richer and more textured our underlying canvas will become. The more we can be in touch with the canvas, the less attached to thrown around by the paint we’ll be.
With every passing moment the canvas is holding, perhaps even becoming, the paint. But with every passing moment, the paint is setting in in a certain way depending on the stability of the canvas, which, though sometimes it can be hard to separate the two, is always lying just a bit underneath the paint.
This, I think, is what the art of living is all about.