I recently connected with an old high school friend, from thirty years ago. It struck me how his recollections of who I was as a teenager were so different than mine. I was quick to discount his version, thinking he only knew my outside (that quick to laugh girl), while I knew my inside.
But then I thought about it some more.
To be who I am today (who I do like and love), there must have been both: a carefree, loving, laughing teenage self and the insecure self I remember. I had thought my version (the insecure one) was the “true me”, but now I realize it was not. It was a one-dimensional story I created out of the parts of my experience that had left mini-scars.
“Your past is just a story. And once you realize this it has no power over you.” – Chuck Palahniuk
The concept of reshaping our stories, healing our past is not new. What struck me differently this time, is how it relates to the concept of self. It left me wondering why I need to identify who I am: when I was a young child I was this, when I was a teenager I was that, in my twenties this, in my thirties that, in my forties…
“Thinking, or more precisely identification with thinking, gives rise to and maintains the ego, which, in our Western society in particular, is out of control. It believes it is real and tries hard to maintain its supremacy.” — Eckhart Tolle
Why is there such a need to identify with the self? This person I call “me” is a compilation of stories I have told myself about the various experiences I have had. Over time, I become attached to these stories and define myself by them.
“Your thoughts are not real. Your thinking is not reality: it is an interpretation of reality. No thought has any more authority than what you give it.” – Robert Holden
Yet the person behind the story no longer exists. The only person that truly exists is the one who is sitting in this chair typing this very minute. And she will disappear in the next moment. I will attach meaning to who I think she is, what she did, how she felt. I will write that chapter in my mind. But what then? Does it have to influence the next chapter?
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” — Viktor E. Frankl
When I am present to the moment, breathing in to the space, I can choose to untangle those tendrils and free myself to make an infinite number of choices. When the tangles are tight, I can still name what is coming up, be with it, then release it. Every single moment gives me that opportunity.
“…The unflinching light of mindful awareness reveals the extent to which we are tossed along in the stream of past conditioning and habit. The moment we decide to stop and look at what is going on…we find ourselves battered by powerful currents we had never even suspected – precisely because until that moment we were largely living at their command.” — Stephen Batchelor
It is up to me to choose whether or not I want to continue to replay the past, repeat patterns and in doing so, miss the opportunity in each moment. Choosing to be present allows me to traverse from ego to soul.
“Ego is simply an idea of who you are that you carry around with you… The problem is that we have allowed our egos, the part of us which believes that we are separate from God and separate from each other, to dominate our lives.” — Wayne Dyers
“Surrender means surrendering who you are not, so that who you really are may emerge. You are not what you think, you are not what you believe, you are not what you like or dislike. Those are the adopted filters which speak through you.” — Yogi Amrit Desai
And the more I detach myself from my ego and live in my soul, the more I open myself up to all that I am meant to be.