by Leatrice Evanne Asher
God has given you one face, and you make yourself another.
—William Shakespeare; from Hamlet
Freedom is waking up to the true condition and conditioning of the human. Once awake, we can begin to detach from that which we are not.
We create and recreate ourselves continually by acting out roles of our choosing, a kind of desire-driven day-dreaming creation. This may not seem all that significant, but it is, very significant. It is how we have strayed from what is authentic and true by thinking that we are these habituated thought creations. In our present state, we don’tdistinguish fantasy from reality nor do we differentiate role playing from our genuine identity apart from the mortal human. Embedding ourselves in these dreamlike creations has handcuffed us to human existences . . . for eons.
These personifications are maintained through agreements with other doers who are also acting out their particular roles. We are all players. This isn’t conscious consent. Agreements are formed beneath the surface of our everyday consciousness. We need others, as they need us, to be what we think we are. Since we don’t know that we are all doing this—forging and strengthening agreements with many doers in a lifetime to give credence to the illusory person we refer to as I—the likelihood of altering this course and going against the tide of human behavior is difficult to imagine. But not impossible.
Most relationships are based, at least in part, a goodly part, on unconscious, unspoken censoring which allows relationships to carry on. When unsettled feelings arise they often are not truthfully communicated, if communicated at all. When we disavow what we know is our “true,”usually because of fear, we end up with a backlog of unexpressed truths. Many of the ills of the world: ailments, anger, confusion, addictions and other difficulties, are directly related to this accumulation of unspoken or distorted feelings.
Fear—of retaliation, of being unloved, of being seen as less than perfect, anda host of other fears—usually silences us from telling ourselves the truth, speaking it to others. Those same fears also distance us from the ability to Know.
Sometimes we can self-talk our way out of a fear but usually we’re not able to simply not be afraid. It’s helpful to acknowledge the fear instead of trying to get rid of, deny or judge it. When we allow feelings that make us feel uncomfortable, like anger, fear, guilt, shame they become a companion, rather than something we struggle against. This acceptance opens the door to more transparency in our undertakings. Courage is not about eliminating fear, or other bothersome feelings. It is remaining steadfast in the face of them. If we can abide in that intention much can be revealed that was previously unknown, including our belief in that which is not real—the entity we equate with the word I and that is referred to as ‘ego’ in this article.
Family, friends, the people we interact with daily, provide opportunities to practice truthfulness. Most of us would not think we are less than honest. If you think that you already speak the truth, be that truth this moment. Ask yourself if you have spoken what you have sincerely felt in encounters you’ve had this day. You might realize it’s not so easy to be vulnerable, to alter firmly established patterns, to disengage from wanting to be perceived as a particular someone.
Although every interaction provides opportunity to be honest this isn’t to suggest that we should stand on a soapbox and disclose every thought and feeling that arises. We know when and with whom we most often need to beforthcoming.We start with ourselves! Nor should this be thought of as an opportunity to waylay others with judgments about their behavior. It is to take stock of our proclivities, even, especially, those that cause us to squirm.
While truth telling may elevate a relationship, it may also end it.If one person starts to more freely speak their truths and the person or persons with whom they are relating find this off-putting, it’s likely these relationships would soon lose connectivity. In the absence of shared intention,role-playing dyads would wither away because it takes at least two people to form an agreement.
Life is the habitat through which thoughts pass; and that is all that they are doing—just passingthrough. Not realizing that these thought forms are evanescent we grab onto them to fulfill our desires, make them static. When we attach our desires to these fleeting forms—people, situations, things—we will be disturbed by them as well because it’s the ego that attaches itself to things. It’s also the ego that reacts by feeling hurt, threatened, abused, jealous, angry if these objects don’t offer up what it wants. The difficulty with trying to unshackle the human from earthly desires is that the ego is so enamored by, and satisfied with, its creations that it can’t imagine, hasn’t the experience to imagine, anything else that would fulfill those longings. So it continues. The doer in its true state is unattached to anything that could be named.
We are so mired in perpetuating an identity of our making that we can no longer see how this desire has disconnected us from a waking up state. This is the crux of the predicament and how we continue to hoodwink ourselves. Although we persist in concocting our own reality, even if unknowingly, we are not irrevocably stuck. We choose to embody these characterizations because this I that we have created wants to indulge in a manifestation of its choosing.But if the desire to “know thyself” is stronger we then start to bring awareness to any posturing that is misleading. Misleading others is also misleading ourselves.
We all have a name and a personality to which we attach ourselves. We also create labels such as teacher, mechanic, accountant, musician; as well as familial labels, political labels, and so on. We use these labels to further distinguish who and what we think we are, how we wish to be perceived. And we concretize all of that into the human that we then present to the world. Labels do have a purpose, providing specificity when needed, but they can also be restrictive. When we place weight and authority on making distinctions between things it becomes more difficult to disassociate from them and the feeling of self-importance they may afford. It takes fearlessness to willingly be nothing; that is,to not require any sort of attention. We are conditioned by so many factors that even with the experience of waking up to our fabricated self we may still inhabit roles applicable to our situation in the world. At least we can be cognizant of not giving them unnecessary weight.
When we witness ourselves wanting to be seen in a certain way, that witnessing is the transformative factor. We can’t change what we don’t know exists, but once seen, our attention can then be more purposefully directed to how we perpetuate an imaginary I. Rather than continually animating the identity we’ve become wedded to, try questioning the attraction for and need to manufacture and embrace false images to begin with, however unwittingly. For instance, in any moment, we can stop and ask “What exactly do I want right now?” Speak the truth. If you don’t you will feel unsettled. The only thing that will fix the unsettled feeling is to speak the truth. We may have to dig way down to find it because we’re so used to tamping down feelings that we think we can’t handle, but those feelings are there waiting to be acknowledged.
Reality recedes farther from knowability when we deeply embed in perpetuating images. If we can dislodge from some of our routines and habitual responses it’s possible to become less entrenched, less comfort-seeking, less robotized. Try doing things differently. Shake up your world a little by turning toward what you know would be the unexpected . . . for you. Even something like brushing your teeth with your less dominant hand can help to break up calcifications that have developed over time.Altering habits that we’ve settled into has the potential to situate us in a less anchored place, even to show us that that which wants to prevail is not what we are.
Sexual gratification, fame, power and such continually call to us. And we respond. We respond not only from our memory and knowledge of being thrilled by indulging so often, but also by observing most everyone else in the world also succumbing. That pull is strong; however, those burning desires can be directed elsewhere . . . toward Self-knowledge. The question, once again, to ask ourselves is: What do I truly want? If it seems difficult to access that information it may be because we’ve become so masterful at lying to ourselves. Try quieting into the question until all influences have been reduced to what is true for youat this moment.If you are not pleased with what is revealed through this focusing exercise, i.e. discovering that what you actually want may be different or not as high-minded as you envisioned, and you judge it, you won’t want to keep opening to more truths. Better to live true to your inclinations, while continuing to question them than to deny what is desired, which then becomes yet another falsehood.
When we accept the karmic necessity that is the consequence of our hankerings we are acknowledging that whatever rmaterializes before us belongs to us; thus, opening a door to deeper perceptions about the state of our human. So instead of submitting to the habitual reaction or response, which is often easier, safer, we become a more active participant in our life. Usually the word active connotes doing something. The use of active in this context is referring to presence, focus. Focusing, which is sustained through quieting is actually dynamic because it allows a pause to determine what might be needed in any situation. Instead of automatically responding from ego reactions, a space is created for a choice to be made.
Although wakening to reality weakens the desire to concoct any public persona that we might dream up, or embellish those we have already created,awakened earthly beings do not live in an egoless state perpetually. All beings need to attend to whatever arises from present and past conditioning that continues to situate us in human bodies and human relationships. Whatever form that conditioning takes at any particular moment, it’s possible to be present in that moment but also detached enough to recognize disingenuousness—our own or that of others, when it arises. Untruths, once seen, cannot exist if no one is giving credence to them.
We often take ourselves so seriously when there is no one there to be regarded with such gravitas. What we are is a semblance of our longings. Our outer form, along with the persona that we have constructed around it, is an ephemeral entity that wants to be relevant. It maintains this relevancy by taking up a stance in the foreground, resolute. Our perceptions have calcified around this person we then claim to be. We can’t alter our erroneous perception of the human until we have first witnessedthat perception as an untruth.
We feel the truth of an eternal identity of the conscious self but have confused it with a persona, a particular someone that we present to others. This moors us in a version of reality based on sense impressions. Who is Henry Brown, anyway? Who is Alice Wilson? Who am I? Who are you? The answer is: we are the embodiment of ardent desire. We have the ability to become conscious of this desire by desiring to Know.Reality is right here, fathomable, not so deep down. It is this moment.We have all, at some time in our becoming, known Reality, so discovering what isn’t real wouldn’t be a new realization, which will be evident once we have reawakened. But no matter how profound a realization may be, we still have a mortal self with a presence on this earth. If we have not fully released ourselves from the need for its continuance we are not free of human behavior. Emotional states will still arise, relationships will be entered into; in other words, there is more work to do in resolving karma and understanding how to take waking up to perpetuity.
Doers questing for correct information, while attentive to not embellishing their earthly affairs, may, of necessity, find they have fewer interactions with fellow humans. They may even, eventually, be physically distanced from most of humanity as well because the pull of so many doers satisfyingly engaged in fabrications would be too great a distraction. If one is able to resist the enthrallment, beckoning everywhere, it’s imperative not to judge those who may still be under the spell of the senses. Judging—one’s self or others—just adds another barrier that obscures reality.
Should one break free of the allurements, empathy for the human condition, having been a part of that conditioning oneself, will often kindle compassion. This can motivate those who have garnered Light and are more realized to want to help out, in whatever way possible. We need wise men and women who are immune to the pulls of human nature and can contribute to moral and intellectual improvement. The better part of our humanness is that we don’t forsake others. Considering the plight of the human race, the courage and effort needed to prevail, all Beings, regardless of their proclivities, are deserving of our good will. In this way we lend our thinking to the betterment of humanity.
As we awaken to the notional idea of a personal self, given substance through our continued thinking and desiring,the distinctive identity that we cling to will become more transparent; thus, less relevant. Additionally, ego agreements will less likely be entered into. It’s possible to be fully present in this world of ours, partake in the beauty and inexplicable wonderment of fleeting moments while still perceiving that which is not. This is a knowing that we can deepen into as we come to more fully assimilate the Truth of our Being and in doing so free ourselves from the need to be a noticeable someone.
The true men of old
Knew no lust for life,
No dread of death.
Their entrance was without gladness,
Their exit, yonder,
Easy come, easy go.
They did not forget where from,
Nor ask where to,
Nor drive grimly forward
Fighting their way through life.
They took life as it came, gladly;
Took death as it came, without care;
And went away, yonder,
—Chuang Tzu; from The True Man
Published in Light of Consciousness Magazine, Spring 2020