Identifying yourself as a role
Think of all the roles you play in your life, from mother or father, provider, democrat or republican, atheist or christian. May be you are a student, doctor, lawyer, policeman, drug dealer, psychiatrist, software engineer, accountant, salesperson, American, Indian, Chinese, South African, Brazilian, Canadian, or Italian. Whatever you think you are you have over the years created this way of identifying who you are by one of these roles or associations. Our sense of self is often all wrapped up in what we do, the roles we play, and who we associate with. This sense of self is of course impermanent as life changes and results in changes in your roles.
Clinging to these roles
Clinging to a sense of self and then creating an ego based on your roles makes for a very limiting existence. Are you really one of the roles you play everyday? I know people who have been crushed by the loss of a job or a spouse because their whole identity was wrapped up in that job or person. There sense of self was all about some external factor and their life seemed over when this association was broken. Carrying around some false sense of ego and self only limits your happiness and separates us as human beings. You are not what you do for a living, you are not a political party affiliation, you are not where your ancestors came from, and you are not a culmination of all the roles you play each day.
Fruits of selflessness
I was reading the Wise Heart by Jack Kornfield this morning and there was a quote by Dipama Barua “In my mind there are only three things: loving kindness, concentration, and peace”. These are the fruits of selflessness, not of someone burdened by the self. As you approach each day think about the times your behavior and thoughts are tied to this sense of self. Does this false sense of self result in happiness?
A role is a role not you
As someone who has lived too many years thinking that my sense of self is what I did for a living; I’ve begun to realize I was terribly wrong. The more you can separate the roles you must play from who you really are, the more joy and openness will permeate your life. Being selfless doesn’t mean you don’t have a sense of your own value as a human being, but it does mean you can now focus on thinking for yourself and you can be more open to valuing others.
In my last post I wrote about Right View which is the first step of the Eightfold Path. As you recall the Right View helps us see things as they actually are. The second step is called Right Intent, and builds upon Right View. Right Intent means that you are committed to the path and you are passionate about pursuing it. To have Right Intent also means that you understand the equality of all life, and practice compassion for all living things, including yourself. Without Right Intent you have little chance of following the path. With Right Intent you begin your journey with passion and compassion, and the realization that it is your own desires that are the cause of your suffering.
I was sitting on the yoga mat today meditating as is my custom in the morning after my yoga practice, and I had a couple of thoughts. Like so many of you I find myself thinking about my next conquest, role, position, material thing, or maybe just what lies ahead that day. I always try to turn off the noise when I meditate, either by forcing a thought pattern that will override all these future oriented thoughts, or sometimes I just try to sit and listen. I’m getting to be about 75% sucessful at this most days, but it’s not yet perfect. If you cannot just sit and listen to the sounds around you and drown out the chatter in your mind then you might try focusing your mind on the following themes:
- Now – Think about now just sitting on your mat, tell yourself there is only this moment. You might repeat the phrase “live in the moment, now is all we have” or something like that.
- Compassion – You may also consider just thinking about compassion. You might say to yourself “I will be compassionate with everyone I encounter today”. In addition to this you might say to yourself “I will seek to understand and not judge”. Again use your own words, just focus on the theme of compassion and the words will come.
- Grateful – A third method I use is to just spend some time reciting a running list of what you are grateful for. This might include your family, spouse or significant other, children, friends, pets, dwelling, your work, your health, or anything else that you are grateful for.
Often I use all three themes during meditation. When it is all working you feel in the moment and you are enjoying just sitting there. You may find that this is one of the most wonderful moments in your day, when you are really present and not working towards something or for someone else. You will also find that sitting on the mat as I call it prepares you for the challenges of the modern world, making it all a bit more easy to be mindful during whatever chaos comes your way.