Said the devotee, "I came here to find myself. Can you offer any advice?" "Yes," replied the Sage, "stop trying to find yourself. Let yourself be itself."
The self seeking itself is the self being sought. How odd, a self seeking itself. Yet, for many of us, this is a good beginning.
* * *
When I write, I use a grammar and style checker. Often, I ignore its suggestions or corrections. I learned there is no one correct way of grammar or style. After writing many years, it became clear the best way to write is, for me, my way. The writing might not measure up to some standard of correctness or excellence, but it will sound authentic for arising naturally. Writing with naturalness does not mean writing badly, only writing freely. Hopefully, others will feel that energy of realness and freedom, that flow, and that is how I want to live - naturally, authentically, spontaneously. Other writers' wisdom guides me, yet that wisdom is not inflexible, for wisdom, unlike laws or rules, is flexible. I want to write - and live - like a tree grows.
* * *
You cannot be natural by thinking you must be and, then, trying to be for you feel you must be. This is like saying, "You must be yourself." How odd! that one must be what she is. How? Would one rightly tell the Sun, "You must shine" or a bird, "You must fly." Would one rightly say to a plum tree, "You must become a plum tree." Yet, how many children are raised on this sense of necessity arising from religion, social mores, educational systems, and parents who project super-ego expectations on them. When shaped to a must-world, you will must others; then, we have a huge problem, a lot of persons going around thinking how others ought to be or do, and it is, of course, how they think they are to be and do.
* * *
The Ten Commandments have shaped much of the world, and this reflects a parental, authoritarian worldview. Is it working well? I cannot fathom all the Christians who are saying they follow Jesus. Yet, we are to obey those Ten Commandments, they say, seeming to give little notice to Jesus' new ethic in the Beatitudes, preferring the Ten Rules, which include as property the wives along with the asses. Likewise, they ignore the right treatment of others - the "neighbors" - which meant those of one's people, not those outside it - Is this part of the root of racism, genderism, and colonialism in much Christianity? Jesus extended "neighbor" to everyone, not by rules, but by love, by what lived within himself, not what the so-called authorities said should be and be done.
"Must" and the encouragement to be true to ourselves and each other, to express authentic goodness, creates disharmony. Harmony arises from being and acting in accord with Nature, not rules and commandments and law. Love is the sole unifying force in our world, a gentle and humble, yet powerful force.
* * *
Moralists and religionists have created widespread pretension by presenting righteousness, love, kindness, patience, and all virtues as something we must do and can attain by trying to do, something God is very upset with us about, if we do not do. Then, we can go to a church on Sundays and tell God how much "He" must be disappointed in us, as we know we have failed "Him" again. I wonder what would happen if there were a church confession beginning, "I confess and celebrate how happy you are with the goodness I have shown to others this week, for being true to myself, even when disappointing thereby those who say they love me and want the best for me, ..."
* * *
Goodness - so humanness - by necessity is trying to draw a straight line by drawing a circle. If you say, "You must love her," that does not work, for necessity and love are disharmonious. The only way to love anyone is from freedom not to love her. If you say, "You must be patient," likewise, that will not work, the apparent patience will be permeated with a sense of obligation, and that demand itself is a root of impatience. So, one remains pretending to be patient, all the while churning with impatience within. This is like meditation, the moment you try to meditate, you are moving away from it. So, learning to meditate means not learning to meditate. And, if you meditate, do it for you do not have to do it. Do it for you want to do it, the same way you would eat a chocolate sundae or take a casual walk in the wood or play with your grandkids - for you wish to do so. "Why do you meditate?" "I want to." "Why are you kind to persons?" "That is who I am."
* * *
All this is saying, in some way, the relaxed posture of being is essential to goodness in our relating with ourselves, others, and Life. And goodness is naturalness. When we reconcile ourselves with that we are, we will act graciously. We will be glad to learn how to do it even better. Otherwise, our effort to be a good being will be, to an extent, a pretense. Like with meditation, becoming acquainted with our natural being is learning not to try to be our natural selves, and being naturally expressive of goodness means to stop trying to become a good person. As chapter 57 of the Tao Te Ching reads -
The more laws and restrictions there are,
The poorer people become.
The sharper men's weapons,
The more trouble in the land.
The more ingenious and clever men are,
The more strange things happen.
The more rules and regulations,
The more thieves and robbers.
Therefore the sage says:
I take no action and people are reformed.
I enjoy peace and people become honest.
I do nothing and people become rich.
I have no desires and people return to the good and simple life.
*Gia-Fu Fend, and Jane English. The Complete Tao Te Ching.
In naturalness, which is in Spirit, we are not living to be something or to fulfill an imposed criterion outside ourselves, we are living who we are. We are living from the Truth within, not dictates imposed from without. We are lawful without concentrating on the law; we are good citizens without focusing on being obedient.
A seeker said to the Sage, "I hear you say you don't obey the law. Is that so?" "Yes," the Sage replied. "Why, if lawful, would I need to obey the law?"
* * *
And to live who we are, we celebrate who we are. Many persons have never been given permission to be content with and celebrate themselves apart from accomplishing something that pleases others. What does this say, when we are only celebrated upon some milestone or accomplishment. We are taught to compare ourselves with others, to compete, and we call this to excel. If we can excel, we are commended for our performance. Is this being commended for ourselves, however?
I see bumper stickers on vehicles, saying things like, "My child is an honor roll student at ...." Well, I wonder if that child is a joyful child. I would like to see a bumper sticker, "I love my child as my child is, period, honor roll or not." Or, "My child has never been on the honor roll, but my child is a happy child and as worthy as all the children on the honor roll." Or, "My child was not on the honor roll, and that is just fine with my child and me." Now, that would be great to see. That is better than someone advertising their child's accomplishment before the whole world on, of all things, the bumper of a vehicle - as though others want to know. How about, "My child visits the elderly in the local care home"?
We become defined as performers, not beings. So, to some extent, we internalize early expectations to get approval, and this is the start of losing naturalness and likely our self-love. We may succeed unnaturally, however, and, so, never be content within. We start posing as a lifestyle, divided, with the observer-self habitually asking, "How will others view me, if I do this?"
I am not saying to try to force yourself to be free of all selfconsciousness, to destroy the observer-self aspect. We cannot be free trying to force ourselves to be free. We have an ego; self-consciousness is part of our existence, our naturalness. And, with patience and graciousness toward ourselves, we can become freer to express ourselves naturally. Since we grew out of our naturalness, it takes time to grow into it. Likewise, a degree of self-observation and restraint is part of living among and respecting others. I might enjoy dancing naked in my room, but that does not mean doing so on Main Street. Freedom is not merely to do, but to choose not to do; otherwise, freedom is mistaken for being unruly, thoughtless, and reckless. Hence, natural does not equal, "I'll just do what I want to." That is not an authentic self.
* * *
As to self-love, we find, finally, there is no conflict between loving ourselves and loving others. Instead, they are one act. When I love myself for that I am, love will flow from me, love will be my life and joy, and I will not need to feel good about myself compared with anyone else. I will be free of the burden of purpose, united with myself and, so, the world of all-things. I will be like an apple tree. I will celebrate being an apple tree.
an apple tree
has no purpose for its existence
has no meaning other than itself
nothing added to the expression of its beingness, goodness
one thread in the tapestry of life
an apple tree
is an apple tree, that's it, that's all
produces apples for
it's an apple tree
receives from the Sun, soil, sky
gives apples to be eaten with enjoyment
how utterly odd
the human being can spend
so much effort seeking
the or a purpose for his or her life
the meaning of life itself
who he or she is
nothing added that separates
feel the dance inside your bustling body
feel the glory of Earth's flowering freshness
feel the spaciousness of wide-open sky
morning cloud mass
humid streams of smoothly flowing droplets
like an aqueous lover
so we are
invited to fall in Love this moment
and we are
to breathe calmly
to walk contentedly
to laugh gleefully
and we could be silent
lifting our selves into the Sky
and all this
with no purpose at all
one with the joy of doing it
*"This Blissful Emptiness." May 21, 2018.
* * *
*(C) Brian K. Wilcox, 2020
*Brian's book, An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, can be ordered through major online booksellers or the publisher FirstBooks. The book is a collection of poems based on mystical traditions, especially Christian and Sufi, with extensive notes on the teachings and imagery in the poetry.