Overcoming Limitation: That Which Needs No Definition

The other day I was accused of not being in alignment with yogic philosophies after channeling a dharma talk about overcoming duality. I was approached in a way as if I should be ashamed for what I had said. It really got me thinking about the constant web of illusion the mind attempts to ensnare one in on at any given moment. The illusion that there is a “right way” and a “wrong way” to be. It really got me thinking about the indoctrination of guilt.
Guilt is an emotion that can stifle the creative energy of a human being. Guilt is crushing to the individual, as it can be translated that if one is different, they should feel guilty. If one is expressing their truth and it is not in line with the widely accepted truth of the mass indoctrination, they should feel guilty. It is quite suitable that guilt and moral obligation seem to be the negative undercurrent of all religious dogmas.
As a teenager, I began to perceive my own emotional turmoil around feeling unworthy. I noticed how often I cut myself down. How often I felt unworthy of being successful and would oftentimes sabotage myself. I noticed how terrified I was to express myself or stand up for myself if I incurred an injustice.
I sought to define myself through certain identities as a way to protect myself from feeling vulnerable and also to justify my worthiness for existing. I identified myself as an artist, a healer, a yogi, a vegan, a traveller….
I recognized after some time that I, as well as my ancestors and probably their ancestors too, have been programmed to feel guilty for even being born in the first place. This creates a need to justify one’s existence to feel worthy. This concept serves societal order. It serves falling in line with the status quo and living a mundane life. The very idea that “I am…” fill in the blank, leads to having to conform to those thoughts.
 If one feels “useful,” then they are “worthy.” From childhood, we are taught to be consistent with our behavior, our beliefs, and our gender, and to uphold these standards through our actions. We are told to stay within the framework of all of the labels given to us. “Ladies have manners,” and “Boys don’t cry,”are just the tip of the iceberg. From a young age, belief systems are imposed upon us, not intentionally usually, but because this is how things have been for generations. It’s called conditioning.
Oftentimes, this conditioning goes without question long into adulthood….we stick to our beliefs and definitions of ourselves like glue, lest we be labelled a hypocrite.
Well, I call bullshit.
“Be consistently inconsistent.” OSHO
The moment we label something, we have to maintain that reality. This can lead to forcing a facade of being a certain way, long after that energy is no longer serving our highest good. This creates a disconnect within ourselves and can lead to a lot of suppression of what is naturally arising in the present moment.
For example, I was a vegan for many consecutive years. I wore the identity proudly, and would often criticize others who did not eat a plant based diet. I felt I did good when educating people about the reality of animal cruelty and although it did shed some awareness and help some people, it also isolated me from many of the people closest to me. I wasn’t portraying the information in a loving way and the more I would argue my points, the more I entrapped myself into sticking to my opinions as the only right way to be. Then came a time when I started to faint, and became very weak. I tried everything to help myself, and eventually the only thing that helped me was eating some animal protein. I had to abandon the egoic identity of being a vegan to maintain my health and vitality. I felt like a hypocrite.
The moment we label something, we limit it. If I call myself a yogini, I am held to maintaining that image to myself and the world. Due to the reality of human experience and the vast array of emotions that can play out in a lifetime, I may not always uphold this title in a way that is exemplary. Therefore I prefer to not call myself a yogini, nor be called a yogini by others. Rather I attempt to adhere to the science of yoga in a way that is nourishing and allows me to blossom as a compassionate being. No need to proclaim something that may not always be true, maybe today I’m a yogini but tomorrow I’m too lazy to practice? Am I a failure because I didn’t do my pranayama? Am I failure because I didn’t adhere to the ethical rules perfectly?
To expect consistency in ourselves and others seems to be a reasonable request, but if examined a little bit deeper, one can see how it can create undue pressure on ourselves and the ones we love to fulfill expectations. For example, it’s like being in love. For many years two people may be deeply in love, if that truth changes for one of them, it is their right to express this shift and implement a change in the relationship. If the person experiencing this change does not embrace this shift because they are holding themselves to always being consistent, they may stay in the relationship for years to come, long after they are ready to move on. This is not only stifling to the individual experiencing a change of heart, but also dishonest with the other person. To say be consistently inconsistent is much like saying- be free to be who you are every single day, and know that who you are today very well may not be who you are tomorrow.
Each day there is an opportunity to change our mind about how we feel. There is an opportunity to shift our perspective and shed old belief patterns. To give ourselves this freedom also implies that we have the same compassion and acceptance of this truth for others as well.
It is a natural human tendency to want to categorize ourselves and others, but perhaps it is something that we can all ideally overcome. A good analogy for this is looking at the night sky. If you look at it from the inside of a box, with only a little peep hole to look out of, you will have a narrow perspective and will only see a small portion of the stars. If you look at the sky from a wide open field, your perspective will be expansive and you can see the full spectrum of stars.
“The barn burnt down, now I can see the moon!” Unknown
Every time we seek to identify ourselves through external circumstances, we are building a box around us. One that does not leave us much room to grow. Just look at house plants. As they grow, the pot they were once in will eventually become too small. If the plant is transplanted into a larger pot, it will continue to flourish and grow. If it is left in the pot that is too small, it’s life force begins to wane, and eventually it may die, for what purpose is there in life if one’s growth is being blocked by a rigid container?
The rigid container is all of the ways one may seek to identify themselves through strong opinions, labels, and accomplishments.
“Nothing fails like success.” OSHO
If our self worth is only based on perceived success, we will surely suffer if that success falls away one day. If our self worth is only based on being “good” at external pursuits, we will surely suffer if one day we are no longer able to perform those actions. Anything that must be maintained can become a source of striving, and striving often times leads to suffering.
The moment we open our hearts to the idea that we are worthy and perfect because we exist in the first place, we become capable of dropping the need to proclaim our identity or maintain a certain image. We become open to accepting the idea that all of life is unfolding in utter perfection, the proof is in the fact that it exists at all. This can lead to liberation from all need to justify why one is “good enough” which inevitably allows for a deeper level of self acceptance of all aspects of experience.
To let go of labels, leads to freedom to be “who” we are in the present moment, without clinging to the past or pushing towards the future. We can arrive fully in the present moment and enjoy what is arising, without trying to change it. Even if a negative feeling arises, we can ride the waves without drowning in them, or pushing the feeling away because it doesn’t fit with the image that has been constructed of ourselves. When we allow what is arising to be expressed through feeling fully, that which doesn’t serve our highest good can fall away easily, no need for the guilt or pressure to always be the same person the world perceives us as.
As we learn to hold this space for ourselves, this acceptance then starts to occur with all of life. This provides fertile ground within one’s heart for compassion to bloom. As we cultivate compassionate acceptance, a deep peace arises. This is the peace that will end all wars. This is the peace that will allow each person to feel love as the backbone to all of life. It starts with our relationship to ourselves, as we are, in this moment, no labels needed.

1 Comment

  1. Anonymous on June 15, 2016 at 2:44 am

    This resonates with me deeply today.Thank you sisStar.

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