Adults or kids alike, many of us enjoy dressing up on Hallowe’en in our superhero or super funny costumes. Dress-up is a wonder-filled way to activate the imagination by pretending we are someone or something else. Not only do we get to be experimental and try out new behaviours, but we can do so in relatively safe circumstances with family and friends.
Unfortunately, when playful pretence turns away from authenticity and repeatedly defaults into denial and delusion, our costume becomes the layers of defence used to cover up our true essence. Instead of experimenting with who we wish to be in our ideal — hero, truth teller, martyr, warrior, nurturer, believer, learner, reformer, mystic, transformer — we use the costumes of villain, liar, victim, coward, rescuer, con-artist, doubter, rebel, self-deceiver, and destroyer for the illusion of protection.
I reference the word illusion because F.E.A.R. is an acronym for false evidence appearing real, and, as a result of fear-based social conditioning, most of us learned to fear other people including life as a whole. Thus, our innate ability to learn, grow and merge with our essence was thwarted. Instead of connecting authentically, with each passing year, we applied layer upon layer of fear eventually completely veiling our true being. Is it any wonder, when I ask “What brings you joy?,” many people are unable to answer.
In the pursuit of personal development or spiritual growth, Aristotle (384-322 BC) assured us long ago that “knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” He and his contemporaries did not tell us to search for answers outside ourselves, but rather emphasized the inner journey of knowing oneself in order to know life. The even more ancient practice of yoga teaches Svadhyaya, which is the study of one’s self through self-observation, looking and feeling within, and inner reflection.
Study thy self, discover the divine. Patanjali, Yogasutra 11.44
Today, I have come to learn there is no searching, there is only unveiling. With regard to the human life cycle, mid-life (our late 30’s and 40’s) is when the unveiling of self can seriously take hold. It is almost as if the first half of our lives is for experiencing as much as we can and the second half is for choosing and refining who we want to be and what we want to contribute. But first we must shed much of our early learning and the layers of pretence we adopted.
Accompanying this initial shedding of undesired and seemingly superficial layers, there is a much deeper letting go and surrendering. We find ourselves releasing from the command and control conditioning that created our conformity and had the potential to break our spirits. Liberating ourselves from allowing others to control us can be our first step toward leaving familiar territory for unknown terrain. What likely lies even deeper within our being is a false belief that we can control people and emerging events. Surrendering this belief teaches us we can only control our responses to what or who is showing up. In truth, we have no control over the events in our lives. And thereby, the fear of losing one’s identity becomes real.
Now the process becomes one of shedding the old identity, which no longer serves, and exploring and experimenting with new ways of being. There is a re-acquaintance with the uncertainty of adventure through experiencing the new and unfamiliar. Many identities (costumes) may be tried on for fit, even comfort, until an awareness arises that we do not have to settle for only one or two but are capable of integrating multiple identities, each to then be brought forward as circumstances require. This flexibility leads us to adopt and even enjoy surrendering to life’s uncertainty; now reminiscent of childhood.
No longer seeking wisdom externally, we find ourselves with change and without certainty. However, a new confidence has blossomed, a confidence that comes with experiencing uncertainty; a confidence that wisdom finding is inherent in the very mystery of our being.
For more on confidence, wisdom finding and contribution, click here.