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Buddha statue, Kamakura, Japan

Image via Wikipedia

Lately I’ve tried to get my thick skull around the idea of “self”. We all seem to have a pre-recorded message in our heads that says we are “something”.  Others may label us but I’d say we humans labels ourselves in far worse ways.  You can start with simple labels, such as father, mother, sister, brother, dog, etc.  But when you are alone and thinking about yourself and your life, how do you think of your “self”. Do you even care? Is it true?

If it is a critical voice, is it true? If it was true in the past does it remain so now? People do change, I’ve seen it. I swear! Of course that’s like a UFO sighting it’s so rare.  Some people can not change the self because of mental disease, others simply refuse to.  In my case, I am not just an artist, daughter, sister, friend, victim, hero among the dog community.  When I am my happiest I am not aware of a self, I am not aware of my “self”.  I am simply being.  When I paint, I become completely unaware of anything around me but, when I become “self-conscious” the critical voice comes in and defines me instead of liberating me.  I am much better at it these days but it takes constant reminding to stay present.

When I am horribly self-conscious, on the brink of an anxiety attack, I have to try to remember the moments in my life where I am not defining myself, I am just being. Thoughts come and go, come and go. If I latch on to one thought it ruins my whole day, especially if it is a negative thought…or negative experience. But right there, I’m labeling it by saying negative. The past is just that, the past. From each experience I try to learn even if it is the smallest detail, I try to appreciate it.

The other day I had an experience that some might consider negative, and for a moment I almost got right onto that old path but somehow I was so relaxed, so present, that nothing mattered in a good, bad or indifferent sense. I just was.  It’s funny because even as I drove home I almost forced my “self” to put the old pre-recorded message on but I didn’t. Even later when the self-conscious part of me felt vulnerable I was able to let go, and there were no drugs involved, I promise.

We label ourselves with rules and regulations so that we feel safe and that there is a sense of control in our lives, but that is an illusion as well. We cannot control others, we can only control ourselves, and how we react to situations; or not react, just be. But we can change that rule book. We have the unique ability to lead any kind of life we want, even if in a prison…and we all know there are many forms of prison, eh?

So my thick skull remembers to just “be” and then it forgets, and then it remembers, etc. But as those Buddhists like to say, “we are not our thoughts”.  Personally, I just want to live, work, garden, sing, dance, cook, paint, feel, live, etc. Not necessarily in public.

Again, the truth sets me free no matter how ugly or beautiful that truth is…there go those labels again!