Since the end of last year, I’ve been on a quest to simplify. I’d realized that my physical environment and day-to-day habits had gotten a bit too hectic and crowded, so I wanted to streamline.
I donated/gifted a lot of stuff, I repainted my dark blue living room a beautiful light-filled color, I streamlined my goals, took a break from blogging, and even have managed to (mostly) be less possessive about friendships (ie let them flow in and out without grasping).
It has been a breath of fresh air.
But, I forgot to clean out one major thing: my brain, my thinking and my constant quest to need to ‘understand’ everything, or at the very least to give my experiences a label.
I’m sure that most of us ‘seekers’ have the same bookshelf filled with volumes on spirituality, meditation, angels, Tolle, Osho, shamanism, Sufis, mystics, Toltecs, Buddha, tantra, chakras, and many, many more.
Am I forgetting anyone???
At a core level, these books have been such a gift – I’ve had countless insights reading them. I’m very grateful for this. But at a certain point, they are just a point of departure, and it’s time to move beyond them, to have real-life experiences, and to decipher things for ourselves, in our own unique way.
Though my physical space is clear, the ‘problem’ for me is that I haven’t stopped filling my brain with trying to define everything around me. And guess what? My head is exhausted and is completely cluttered.
When we rely on other people’s definitions, there is a filter between us and the experience. We are seeking to gain understanding and purity – to get to the Source. But in putting a label, or someone else’s definition, we are diminishing the purity of the experience that we sought from the very beginning.
For some reason, for some of us, there is great comfort in having some perception that we either ‘understand’ something or can at least define it. When something happens in your life and you can connect it to some ancient teaching, there is a sense of comfort or relief.
It’s like being comfortable with too much physical clutter in your house. It’s a barrier. It defines you. There is fear in letting it go, as though you will cease to exist. I keep re-reading the same books as a means to know myself more, but in at a certain point, continually referring back to them is more about fear of sitting with the (beautiful) emptiness, fully trusting what I already know, and finding my own way.
When we finish school (whatever level) there is a trust that you have at least enough basic knowledge to go out into the world, and that whatever you don’t know, you’ll figure out. I’ve been reading these books for years. I’ve re-read them. They have been read.
It’s like I’ve taken a sailing course (five times), I have the boat, I have the compass, I have the ropes (and even the life jacket – two of them – just in case), but I’m afraid to fully go out there and experience the water for myself.
In the back of my mind I’m thinking: Columbus would do it this way. Magellan would do it that way.
But how would I do it? Not that I even need to tell anyone my experience, I’d just be happy to have the experience without needing to put a label, qualification or story to it. Just be. What if the ocean is sometimes clear and serene and the next day it is one big fucking storm. Is that ok? Is that ‘normal’? Of course it is! Just look out in nature where these cycles happen every day and you don’t see a whale or dolphin batting an eye.
And so I’ve realized that I got rid of physical stuff and emotional stuff over the past few months, but I’m still defining my experiences through other’s traditions, perceptions or teachings.
I’m holding onto the books and the teachings like a pair of old pants that I don’t want to put in the thrift store pile. Noooooo! What if I need those one day?
But what if I’m just me, as I am with no need to define?
The one who has green juice for breakfast and a cupcake for dinner. The one who could care less about driving an old car but who likes to buy a pair of really nice shoes a couple times a year. The one who doesn’t speak to her own mother (I’m working on this) but whose friends know they can call any time day or night with a problem and I’ll be there.
I don’t see this book on my shelf because it lives in my heart. We each have our own book. No one can see it, but it has a lot of information for us if we trust its wisdom. It’s here every day, but sometimes I keep looking outside, the way perhaps other people define themselves by the car they drive, how skinny they are or their job title.
For many of us labels provide comfort, and continual spiritual seeking is still grasping and labeling and defining if you aren’t fully comfortable just being who you are. There is a place for this, but there is also taking it too far.
So today I’m taking another leap. I’ve already cleaned out the house, and many other things, and I’m leaping to a space of not seeking or needing to know.
Guess what I’ll be doing instead?
That’s right…just living this sometimes mundane, mostly extraordinarily magical life…with no need to define.