Thursday, April 06, 2006

Who I Am and Who I Want to Be

A while back I left a message for Nagajuna on his birthday:
A very wise person once told me this: "You are right now exactly who you need to be, where you need to be, and who you are is exactly what the Universe wants you to be."
He then posted about the comment I left, writing about the difference between who he is and who he wants to be -- and whether or not that is a reconcilable contradiction.

I clarified my previous comment with another one, which I then added to again today. I am editing and posting the ideas here because I think they are relevant to living an integrally informed [Buddhist] life.

Maybe these ideas are only relevant to me and my small worldview, but writing them down and sharing them helps me keep in mind that this whole life I sometimes get so caught up in is more and less than I can comprehend.

So here are some thoughts on being:

I think what my friend meant with that statement is that wherever we are in our lives, it's exactly where we are supposed to be in our personal evolution. That may mean we are dissatisfied and we want to be better in many ways (certainly, that is where I am). But the thing is, we need to learn to love ourselves exactly as we are, flaws and all, because in truth, that is how God (or whatever we want to call it) loves us.

One of the hardest things I faced last year in therapy was the realization that I felt unloved, and unworthy of being loved, by God (I'm not Christian, so that may sound silly, but God is the best word I have for the Eros of the Kosmos).

I'm working on that hole within me. And part of doing that is learning to accept myself exactly as I am, whether I am satisfied with me or not. God accepts and loves me exactly as I am, whether I like it or not.

At this moment in time -- right now -- I can wish to be different than I am, but all the wishing in the world -- and the anger, frustration, fear, sadness, joy, and so on -- can do nothing to change the fact that right now -- at this moment -- I am who I am.

So why do we cling so hard to some other version of who we should be?

Because we are living in the realm of ego, and ego is never happy with what it has/is -- it always wants more.

However, we have the option of deciding to change who we are at any point we choose to do so. It doesn't happen immediately, but we can say that next year we'd like to be more patient or more compassionate. So we do some inner work in meditation, art, therapy, and/or writing, and we do the things that others have verified might help us make the changes we desire to see in ourselves.

If we are dedicated, we will see those changes at some point.

I don't believe in fate or a preordained universe. But I do believe that the Kosmos operates with Eros as its driving force and that the more we can align with that force (which means disidentifying with our small, fragile egos as much as possible) the more we will feel that who we are is who we would like to be.

But here is the other part of that original quote I posted -- and this might be only my issue: We seldom allow ourselves to be exactly as we are and to be okay with that. What's more is that we should be loving and compassionate with who we are at this very moment.

As far as I can tell, I will never be as compassionate with others as I want to be until I can feel that same compassion for myself. Part of developing that compassion is to act as if I have already mastered that skill as I go about my daily life. It's a synergistic process -- we work from the inside out and from the outside in.

But we have to do the inner work. We have to develop understanding and tolerance for who we are at this very moment as a way toward that compassion. We may need to do talk therapy, or we might need to write a narrative biography, or we might need to work through free drawing or finger painting to find the place inside of us that we can feel compassion for -- whatever it takes.

And I know there are a lot of Buddhists who feel that meditation is all that is necessary to resolve our inner issues and develop the compassion of a Bodhisattva, but I disagree. If we have traumas or maladaptations at any of the developmental levels, the only way to "fix" that is to address the issue directly.

However, as we engage in that process, we must do it gently, with as much compassion as we can muster, and with the heart of a warrior -- tender and open. It may take a months or it may take years, but it will take as long as it takes, no less and no more.

The difficult angle for me most days is to be aware that at the mundane level, things are hard and it seldom feels as though we are who we want to be. But at the same time, at the absolute level, things are exactly as they are and that is exactly how they should be.

[Images by Alex Grey]

1 comment:

Steve said...

Bill, I believe that feeling frustrated with who one is now and wishing to change CAN lead to change, especially if, as you suggest, they motivate one to use skillful means to achieve that change. Unfortunately, most of us merely wallow in our wishes and frustrations without working effectively to bring about the changes we desire. And I'm not sure that the changes we desire always stem from ego. Perhaps some of them stem from a deeper aspect of our being seeking to know and fulfill itself more fully. Whether that deeper aspect is or is "driven by" Eros, I don't know. But I certainly agree with you that "the more we can align with that force (which means disidentifying with our small, fragile egos as much as possible) the more we will feel that who we are is who we would like to be."