This morning I had the thought, “I am creative.” Then I remembered the insight I have been having around the Buddhist understanding of self, or better yet no-self. I have studied Buddhism for years and never really grasped this concept. I’ve always wanted to understand but thought…Hey, I love me. I want there to be a me. There is a me. I don’t really get this no-self thing.
Lately there’s been a shift. I was reminded of it this morning. If I identify a self, my self, as being creative then what happens during periods of life when I am not feeling all that creative, when I have a dry spell? What happens is I beat myself up because I am not creating. I am confused, frustrated, a little angry, judgmental. Questioning my identity. “I am creative.” So what’s going on here? I’m not who I thought I was. I’m no good. What’s going on is, I created an identity that I’m clinging to, and it is not holding true.
Creating an identity around some thing, or concept, is very limiting. It has great potential for suffering. We are always changing and growing, so keeping an openness frees us. Keeps us from being bound, or boxed in. When people ask me if I am a Buddhist, or if I am a vegetarian, I tell them, “I don’t like to define myself as any one thing.” This recent growing understanding of non-identification has allowed me to see how often I do define myself. Maybe not as a Buddhist, or a 100% vegetarian, but as someone who is inconsistent, not very organized , doesn’t care about making money , is a very active, doesn’t watch movies, or eat sugar. But none of these hold true 100% of the time. So that has the potential for the confusion and judgment to creep in, create limitations, and lead to suffering.
Recently my special guy friend helped open my eyes. He called me out on applying so many labels to myself, having too many rules. At the time I thought he was being judgmental. But his accusations stuck with me, and as we went our separate ways, I started to see the truth in his statements. I started to notice how often I would define myself as this or that. Started to notice every time I used “I” and what came after it. Started to see how limiting wrapping my identity around something was. I thought other people were doing this, not me. Self-awareness is such a peculiar thing. It seems like it should be the most natural thing in the world. My teacher told me, it is natural, it’s our Buddha nature. What happens is that we have so many layers obscuring our clear vision. He said we have to pull back the curtain. I liked this visual. I could see myself gradually opening the curtain at the theatre to peek in at the play. Or peering through the opening in my bedroom curtains, to see the big beautiful world outside. With self-awareness, we peer in, not out, to get glimpses into the big beautiful world inside. Inside our own minds.
So, as the curtains continue to part, and my understanding deepens, I trust the light will continue to come in a little more each and every day. And my clarity will continue to expand. Freedom takes patience. Patience. That is another thing I’m working on.
Namaste my dear reader. May peace be with you on your journey.
Copyright Suzanne Norton 2015