Unpacking Some Spiritual Clichés
In the world of personal and spiritual growth there are some terms that have been thrown around so often that they almost have become meaningless, or nebulous at best. “Be here now, be present, be who you are, be authentic, be transparent, just let go, transcend the ego, believe and you shall receive” ... the list goes on. I thought it might be helpful to “unpack” some of the terms and explain some of the concepts, hopefully giving deeper meaning and practical application for them in your everyday spiritual life.
Let’s start with “Be Who You Really Are” and “Be Present.” “Who or what exactly is who we really are?” you might ask. This concept is interchanged with a lot of variable wordings: Authentic Self, Transparant Self, Higher Self, Who You Really Are.
I teach what I call “Five Essential Life Skills,” with the first one being “Remember who you really are.” But heck, how are you supposed to “remember” if you never knew in the first place or if you have forgotten so thoroughly that the memory is not accessible? In this case, I invite you to begin with one of two other alternatives to remembering: inviting or imagining.
You may want to start with an invitation. Simply asking your “higher self/authentic self, who-you-really-are self” to reveal itself to you causes you to become more aware and attuned to the signs and evidence all around you. One of my favorite quotes is by Vivekananda: “The breeze of Grace is always blowing, but you must set your sails to catch it.” By asking this essence to be known to you, you are in essence, setting your sails.
Either simultaneously or alternatively, you can imagine instead. Imagination is the seed of creation. By imagining what your higher self would be like if you knew it, you are very likely actually describing it.
List what you imagine or consider to be “spiritual qualities and characteristics.” Notice I say spiritual, not religious. By contrast, religion can sometimes be run by the same force as ego—my way vs. your way, right vs. wrong, my God vs. your god—while spiritual qualities tend to be more cooperative, embracing, and inclusive. While you may use other words, most of us have a relatively similar set of words to describe spiritual qualities: compassionate, present, giving, understanding, discerning, wise, intuitive, caring, enthusiastic, energetic, willing to learn, a risk taker, great sense of humor, honest, faithful, devoted, resourceful, creative, gratitude, etc.
Now, consider the positive qualities of small children before they have been “contaminated” by the world around them. They are inherently playful, funny, creative, honest, imaginative, curious, wonder-filled, loving, joyful, enthusiastic, and are adventurous risk-takers. They are authentic and in the moment with their emotions; they laugh when they are happy, cry when they are sad, and forget about whatever it was that upset them as soon as it is fixed or something new happens. They are natural learners, wanting to know what everything is called and how things work. They are creative and imaginative; able to build a magnificent fort out of a few blankets and chairs. Children are able to take compliments, simply knowing of their own worth and confident that the compliments are true. Small children get along with others regardless of race, religion, gender, or disabilities, as they haven’t yet learned to judge. Small children are forgiving, as living in the present moment doesn’t allow them to hold a grudge. Children are closely aligned with their esteemed-self because they haven’t yet had life experiences that have separated their egos from their spirit. Small children know their divine essence. All they do is an authentic expression of who they are. Funny how these are very similar qualities to the spiritual list we made previously!
Here is the good news: This is not only true about the children outside of you, but also about the child inside of you. You were like this as a child, too! These child-like qualities are an expression of your soul and represent “who you really are.” The good news is that these qualities never go away; they just get covered up. Our access to them gets blocked (by ego, beliefs and choices). With a little concerted effort, we can regain access to all these child-like, esteemed, spiritual qualities again.
So, what is the contrary to our authentic selves? Our ego run amuck. Ego is not the “bad guy,” it is just the misguided guy. Motivated by an intense desire to protect us, it resorts to a whole host of unconscious and uneducated means of doing so that usually lead to the very thing we are trying to avoid. In an effort to keep us from getting hurt, our ego minds put up obstacles to being loved and being loving.
When you find yourself operating out of self-doubt, self-degradation, criticism, jealousy, possessiveness, fear, manipulation, pessimism, dishonesty, selfishness, manipulation, argumentative, controlling, critical, demanding, defeated, lacking in faith, full of doubt, passive, withdrawn, uncaring, etc., you are operating from your ego, rather than your authentic self.
Practice self-observation while you read the different lists. Notice how your body feels when you read words like “loving, compassionate, wise” vs. words like “judgmental, manipulative, jealous.” With practice you will be able to feel the difference between your higher self and your ego mind, just as you can feel the different energy of the very words that describe their workings.
In essence, “who you really are” or your “authentic self” is the aspect of your being that is most closely aligned with universal spiritual qualities. I define being authentic as “Knowing your own Divine Essence and living in alignment with that essence.”
How do you get to “know” that essence? The “how to” leads us to a whole host of other clichés to unpack, like “Be here now.” What does being present mean and why do we need to master it? This will be the topic of my next post!