I have been struggling in my pursuit of discovering my ‘true self’ or ‘identity’ and have come to realize that I have been living in the conflict of duality.
Duality of my ‘story-telling self’ and my ‘experiential self’. I’ve been struggling to reconcile and both have been working at cross purposes thereby taking me further and further away from my true self.
I realize that my own identity has been shaped so much by the stories I have heard from childhood and that which have influenced my understanding of reality. My parents with all good intentions have been continually narrating stories about the world around me; from people, to politics to environment to food to relatives and so on. Each one of those stories have had a deep impact in the way I ‘experienced’ life.
For example, my parents have had a very difficult life especially in their relationships with their siblings, relatives, parents and friends. I have grown up listening to stories about how they were taken advantage of and how this one is good or bad; deceitful or helpful; useful or useless and so on. Most of them were stories of horrific experiences. I realized that as I grew up I became increasingly suspicious of my relatives and kept limited or no contact with them. I despised them even though they did not harm to me in any way. Whenever they met me they were very loving and affectionate and I had wonderful experience being in their company. This really confused me quite a bit. I had avoided contact with these relatives of mine for almost 25 years purely based on the stories narrated by my parents and kept myself from experiencing it myself. I am not suggesting that the stories were not useful, they did. Some I felt were not ‘true’ for me and that is what bothered me.
Got me thinking! Isn’t it the way all of us have been deceived into not experiencing the moment and basing our action on the stories narrated to us. How are we deciding our action? Is it really my ‘self’ which is deciding or is it the powerful story which guides all my action?
Isn’t it similar when we are asked to swallow a bitter pill? Carefully woven stories are narrated to us in order for us to believe that something beautiful is going to happen if we take a bitter pill. It stops us from experiencing it ourselves and make a choice. Oh! come to think of it, are you really ‘choosing’ for yourselves or the stories are guiding your choices?
Even governments weave stories and make us believe that a draconian policy will eventually lead to days of great prosperity and growth. You would have found that it is so difficult for you to extricate yourselves from such Intricate web of stories. You know that it is no good or a sure path to failure yet you end up believing the story. You take the pain and convince yourself of the story and start believing in it.
Come to think of it you never really experience it. All your real experiences are clouded by the powerful narratives in your mind. You are never in the ‘moment’. Isn’t it the way we taste our coffee or tea in the morning? Or do you really taste it as a connoisseur?
You would have seen that you have already completed your cuppa without realizing it as you were so caught up in reading the stories in the newspaper.
In fact our story-telling is so powerful that we start to prime ourselves to ‘conform’ to what we have heard or told ourselves than real experiences. This story-telling method is being used to shape our experiences. You have stories about every aspect of your life. Family, relationships, governments, religion, economy and the list is endless.
I realized that I am culpable as well. My wife and I have been in the presence of our son narrating stories of our experiences with relatives and friends and that has shaped his mind without a direct experience. He hates those who we hate, likes those who we like, keeps a distance from those who we keep a distance and so on.
Come to think of it, my own understanding of ‘self’ is so deeply influenced by the numerous stories that I find it difficult to extricate myself from it. The moment I feel that I have come near to it, the mind gets another conflicting story to deal with. So the search is endless. Is that why the gurus term it as ‘infinite self’ which transcends the body and into consciousness?
Aren’t your decisions shaped by the stories you heard or read about? I am tempted to give another example of a restaurant menu. When you read that a particular dish has been made from hand-picked ingredients by the Chef himself and comes from great farms of Eden, you are inclined to choose or try that particular dish. You don’t know for sure if the Chef really went all the way to hand pick the spices; do you?
Have you denied yourselves an ‘experience’? Have you been caught in the intricate web of story-telling? Is it possible to extricate ourselves from this duality?
Have you killed your ‘true self’?