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On Becoming Ourselves

Wayne Dyer begins his book, Your Sacred Self, with this quote: “All my life I wanted to be somebody. Now I am finally somebody…. But it isn’t me.”

It seems like there is much truth to this! We spend the first part of our lives trying to be what others want so that we get good grades, get into a good college, or get a good job. We definitely want to be liked, included, have friends, find someone to love. 

Then we hit about mid-life (sometimes younger, sometimes older, sometimes never) and we ask ourselves if this is who we really are. We’ve glimpsed that there must be something more to us, to life. We’re just not sure how to find it. Dyer would tell us that the way to do that is to begin looking inside – to find ourselves and to find the Divine at the same time.

The spiritual path, whether we recognize being on it or not, is about coming home to our Self, with a capital S. The first half of life is about differentiating, individuating. It’s a journey of conscious discovery of the ego, the “self” with a small “s.” The second half of life is about returning to (or becoming) our true, authentic Selves. It’s about living from our souls.

In the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus was preaching this exact concept thousands of years ago. He said, “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”

Jesus almost makes it sound cryptic, but honestly it is very simple. Bringing forth our True Selves saves us, sets us free, fills us up, brings us joy, makes us whole. If we do not bring forth our True Selves, if we live to please or control others, if we deny parts of ourselves, if we are not honest about harmful or unhealthy behaviors, if we live convinced that we are less than, unworthy, sinners… all of those things, and more, crush our souls, leave us empty, fearful, and unfulfilled.

Who is our True Self? It is the radiant, loving, beautiful, unique light and energy that is within you. It is that which you are passionate about, that which you were created to do and be. It is even your individual style, talents and character. 

I would suggest that anyone who lives a grouchy, cynical, critical, fearful, negative existence and justifies it by saying, “Well, this is just who I am,” is completely disconnected from their True Self and, in fact, may not even know they have a Self deeper than all the negativity that is ruling their ego.

We all have behaviors, baggage, stories we tell ourselves, attitudes that we sense (or perhaps know) are not true to our deepest nature. It’s a process of reflection and diligent self-awareness to recognize when we have slipped into our comfortable habits and once again forgotten the self deep within who desperately wants to be set free to help us live a more peaceful, joyful, whole life.

It’s not always so easy as flipping a light switch and suddenly living true to ourselves.

Albert Schweitzer once said, “The path of awakening is not about becoming who you are. Rather it is about unbecoming who you are not.” 

Think about it: what would you “unbecome”? What rut have you gotten stuck in? What behavior do might you need to leave behind in order for your beautiful, radiant self to shine through? Perhaps it is guilt, shame, anger, a need to be right, a need to please or control others, or a feeling of unworthiness. Perhaps it is a propensity to enable, or a fear of being vulnerable, or a refusal to forgive or ask for forgiveness.

Caroline Myss, in her book Entering the Castle, talks about a woman who was a screamer – hysterical behavior was her way of creating chaos, controlling her family, and getting everyone to do what she wanted. Just the thought of her screaming was enough for her husband and kids to cave in to her demands. The thought of becoming rational was incomprehensible to this woman. She absolutely could not conceive of herself not screaming. She actually went “blank” when Caroline asked her to name an alternative behavior. She felt powerless – voiceless – without screaming, and she was not about to give it up.

This strikes me as a terribly sad, empty way to live – controlling others through fear, and having so lost touch with your core that you don’t know there is more within you that is loving, kind, gentle and unafraid. Her behavior did more than keep the her own soul from emerging, she made it an unsafe place for anyone else in the family to live authentically as well.

A few years ago a clown tweeted about an incident she encountered when doing face painting for kids at a picnic. A four-year-old boy asked her to paint a blue butterfly on is face, but his mother interrupted and said, “No, he doesn’t want that.”

“Butterflies are beautiful, shouldn’t I paint what he wants?” asked the clown.

“No, give him something for boys.” Then she turned to the father, a big guy in a jersey, and said accusingly, “Do you want your son to have a butterfly on his face?” He said, “No.”

Now this poor four year old knows his father would be ashamed of him, too. Well, the clown really tried, but the mother was so scared of her son wanting a butterfly that she made the clown paint a skull and crossbones on his cheek.

When the clown was finished, she asked the kiddo, “You want a little blue butterfly, too?” He nodded.

Mom interrupts, “You didn’t ask me.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, I thought this was for HIM.”

“I’m his MOTHER. You need to ask me.”

Someday, when that little boy has grown up, if he wants to discover his True Self, he’ll need to unbecome the shamed child, and release the Self in him that embraced little blue butterflies.

Rita Mae Brown once said, “The reward for conformity was that everyone liked you except yourself.”

Bill Grimbol was sharing a story the other day about a recent reunion of his from St. Olaf College. Each of them were included to submit a little biography on themselves. One of his college friends, Mike, entitled his Queer Olaf, and talked about what it was like to pretend to be straight while he was in school. Because of his willingness to open up and be vulnerable, to “unbecome” straight to his classmates, twenty other men from that class came forward who had all done the same thing. They talked about what it was like pretending – trying to walk "straight," hold their books and comb their hair and do other things the way straight guys did so they wouldn’t be outed. All of those men pretended to be straight until they were in their sixties. They also talked about the grief they experienced from losing out on being themselves for so many years. 

If we do not bring forth what is within us, it takes a toll on our souls.

Let me end with something from Mark Nepo:

The center I once glimpsed is all around me,
a landscape I now live in,
and I will not pretend any more.
If those I love can’t recognize me
with my soul out in the open,
I will no longer retreat
and show what is familiar.

Nepo goes on to say, “You do not have to do anything to be loved, and being who you are does not let others down. This needs to be repeated, and often. Simply be who you are, and love what is before you.”

I invite us to accept the sacred quest to find ourselves – again and again –  to work on becoming ourselves and unbecoming that which we are not.

Love & Light!