… an incomplete telling of how I arrived here…
In my early 20s, I began studying Taoist philosophy. Taoism examines ideas of harmony, balance, and the natural flow of events as the world continues to unfold. It speaks from a place where the “I” (the individual) is an integral, connected part of Nature & the Universe. Not long after, I started asking these same questions of myself & my reality. I was 21 years old, feeling alone, confused, and disconnected from the world & people around me, wasting so much mental energy trying to figure out how “I fit in” to the world… and one day, it occurred to me that when rain fell from the sky, I got wet. When the sun shone, I was warmed. In the wind, I could be blown like a leaf. The “connection to the world” that was so desperately seeking was already present. In fact, that connection was inescapable. So I started to see through this Illusion of Separation, and I thought: “I wonder how many more of my strongly-held beliefs are illusions or untrue?”
And so I began to observe & question everything in my life. What is the body, and what are its sensations? What does it mean to experience emotions, instead of pushing them away? Are my likes/dislikes real? Or just stories I’ve constructed in my mind about my “identity”? Why am I so reactive or defensive all of the time? Can I observe thoughts without engaging them? Can I observe clearly, without judgement? How can I let go of my resistance to the world and simply be blown like a leaf in the wind? …. and what would that be like in a “normal” life with a family, career, & mortgage?
Peering deeply into the nature of reality & my internal world. This was my sole practice for almost 8 years. Through this constant inquiry, I saw through many of my own misconceptions and insecurities which were causing great anxiety & suffering in my life. The practice of self-inquiry isn’t always pretty. Sometimes I was observing parts of myself that I was proud of, but most times I was sitting with & embracing my own doubts, fears, and insecurities.. and learning how not to judge them or myself for having them. During this period, I worked through a lot of “my stuff” (oh… we all have “stuff”. )… And I continue working through more on a daily basis. It’s all part of being fully human.
the “Blah Blah Voice”
At a certain point, I became fascinated by the “blah blah voice”; that constant nagging narrative that we all have in our heads. You know, the one that’s constantly judging and criticizing you. Going on and on about “I shouldn’t have said that, now they don’t think I’m cool. What does that mean about me? Do they know I’m uncomfortable? But I didn’t get the joke. What does that mean about me? Should I read more? Maybe I should laugh now. Haahha. Was that convincing? I should have just stayed home…” blah blah blah blah…
If I had a friend that followed me around all day, verbally questioning, criticizing, and second guessing everything that I said or did… I imagine that after 30 minutes I would ask this person to leave. So why was I tolerating this 16-hour-per-day self-doubting commentary? (… and why are you?)
After several years of practice, I turned my attention towards this “blah blah” voice. This voice kept claiming to be me. “Was this voice actually me? Was I this voice? and if I wasn’t this voice.. then was all of this constant nagging and harsh commentary necessary?”
Is it helpful? (it’s not.)
Does it make me feel healthy and enlivened? (nope.)
Does it help me to produce higher quality work? (actually.. it’s where Writer’s Block comes from.)
Does it contribute to stronger relationships? (quite the opposite.)
I’m Not the Mind.So looked deeply at the inner monologue and began to see that it really wasn’t me. One I saw this, I learned to stop identifying with it’s ridiculous chattering and through practice & time it began to subside. …And when that voice stops chattering, there is spaciousness & stillness. Space to simply feel, to live, & to be. A place of stillness from which I could observe life, thoughts, & emotions without being swept away by them. A mental and emotional spaciousness when my authentic self could blossom and emerge, rather than simply trying to survive in flood of criticisms and self-doubt. With practice and observation, the inner narrative went away.
See… Life with the “blah blah” Inner Narrative is like having the radio on, commercials playing on tv, a jackhammer in the next room, in a room lit by strobe lights, while you’re trying to build a house of cards during an earthquake. Turn all of that stuff off and.. ahhh. Space to simply be. To be as you are.
One of the primary reasons that I teach, is so I can assist others in finding this same place of stillness & spaciousness in their own lives. Discovering the inner stillness positively effects ever moment, choice, & interaction in our lives.
(To learn more about the cessation of the narrative mind, check out Gary Weber’s blog and website)
Then What is “I”?I continued peering deeply. If I’m not “the mind”… then what am I? Who am I? What element has been constant through my life and all of these experiences? What is awareness? What is the true nature of the Self?
These are the questions that I continue to ask and the paths of inquiry that I investigate. My practice, above all else, is that of simply looking. When we practice in this way, we are practicing Understanding. “Knowing about something” is good. “Understanding something” is so much better. I’d much rather understand Spanish than “know about” it. Understanding how a car engine works is much more useful than knowing how it works. “Know Yourself” is a good first step. “Understand Yourself” is so much better.
When we practice observation & inquiry, we’re not really discovering new things inside ourselves. We’re simply uncovering and seeing what was already there. Amazing things that were there the whole time, but we just hadn’t seen it yet. And through this seeing, you will begin to Understand your Self. You’ll start to discover who you really are and all of your highest potentials.
Though this page was supposed to be a story about me… it’s really a story about all of us and our shared human journey of self-discovery. Even if we haven’t yet met, thank you for the things you do. I’m humbled by the privilege to walk this path of discovery, practice, and understanding alongside you!
(Did I mention that you’re awesome? No?)
You’re awesome. Let keep in touch!