The question that really matters
Doesn't it freaking annoy you when you meet new people and the first or second question they ask is: "So, what do you do for a living?", to which someone could proudly reply "I am an environmental engineer". So WHAT? That doesn't tell you anything about me, worse...you probably already stuck me into a categorical drawer "engineer - problem solver and good with numbers" plus the classification "environment freak". I make it a point to respond "I am passionate about helping others empower themselves to their fullest potential and am also part-time employed at the municipality where I lead the implementation of projects to achieve climate goals and encourage citizens to act for our future".
Doesn't it freaking annoy you when you meet new people and the first or second question they ask is: "So, what do you do for a living?"
It has happened about twice in my life, where I would meet someone (girl or boy) and we would end up talking all night about everything. EVERYTHING. Until the time came to say goodbye and we laughed so hard, realizing neither of us knew each others name, job, age or where they were "originally" from (I hate that question too...what do you mean originally?). This was truly magical and I remember thinking that this was one of the greatest conversations I had.
"We believe in a personal, unique, and separate identity — but if we dare to examine it, we find that this identity depends entirely on an endless collection of things to prop it up: our name, our "biography," our partners, family, home, job, friends, credit cards… It is on their fragile and transient support that we rely for our security. So when they are all taken away, will we have any idea of who we really are? Without our familiar props, we are faced with just ourselves, a person we do not know, an unnerving stranger with whom we have been living all the time but we never really wanted to meet. Isn't that why we have tried to fill every moment of time with noise and activity, however boring or trivial, to ensure that we are never left in silence with this stranger on our own?" (Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying)
This passage really stuck to me. And it suddenly clicked with all the questions I have ever made to my existence, some questions that have been extremely helpful in getting to know myself. I have and still am on a journey not only to know myself, but to live my higher purpose. In this journey I have learned to listen to my inner child, nurture and embrace my shadows and inner demons as well as love myself unconditionally. The most important lessons for me was probably primal trust, letting go of control and utter self-love. Ever since, the saying "you can't give love until you love yourself" has gained a whole new meaning. And the beauty of it, love is indeed infinite, and just like energy it resides within us and surrounds us.
"Perhaps the deepest reason why we are afraid of death is because we do not know who we are."
We are all different in our beautiful individual ways. But does it really come down to our possessions and our work? What happens when we are fired? Or our house burns down? When our partner leaves us or our parents pass? When you break a leg and have to give up the Olympics? Are we defined by our community, our job, our daily activities? What really makes me me and you you in this life? Stripped away from your name, from all your material possessions, your home, your nationality, from your relationships (family, friends, coworkers, etc.), from your (good) looks, your make-up and genetic form, stripped from all the medals and certificates you have achieved in life...who are you? Who are you when you are dead? When you are literally stripped of everything, but the memory that remains of you. If you are like most people, the thought of this somehow tightens the throat. It gets difficult to breathe. What a horrible thought!
Strip away all possessions, looks, relationships and achievements. Who are you?
This is the most powerful loving "sentence" I have and use. When things get hectic, stressful, when doubt and fear seeps through my cracks. When things are going incredibly well, I am laughing and in good company. I stop. I breathe, close my eyes and know "I AM".
There is something very powerful about these two little words. I can't describe it, but it's a feeling pretty close to the feeling Rumi's quote gives me "You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop." Maybe it has to do with the fact that my 1st chakra and primal trust were issues that I really had to work on. Maybe it clicks for you too.
I stop. I breathe, close my eyes and whisper "I AM"
So what are the powerful questions that really helped me define myself? I invite you to do this exercise:
Step 1: Who am I?
So this is a question I worked with while I was trying to grasp the concept of primal trust and embrace one of my many fears. It's best done with a journal, or use a computer if you type faster than you write.
Write freely, there is no right or wrong. Write a page or two about yourself, your own Autobiography. Give it a title. Like "Truly <insert name>"
When you are done, take a highlighter and highlight anything that does not mention your home, your family or partner, your car or credit card, your body...you get the point.
Now read what is left and think about it. This is you. Is there more? Feel free to expand on your autobiography, making sure you leave out relationships, material possessions, achievements, looks, etc.
Step 2: When I die...
This is an extremely powerful statement that I encountered while doing my manifestation rituals the magical days between the winter solstice on 21st December and Epiphany on 6th January (in German, "Rauhnächte").
Imagine you have lived your long life to the fullest. We are now in the future. On a separate piece of paper, write down how you would like OTHERS to talk of you during your funeral and after. What would they say about you? Write down the things you would like to be remembered by.
Now, pretend you died suddenly this very second and are the soul that left your body, lovingly looking at the person you embodied. On another page, write what YOU would remember of this life, after you have passed. What were the really important experiences? What would you never want to miss out on for the world? Are there any regrets or things you'd like to do differently? Anything you'd like to say to those important to you?
Step 3: Dear future-Me, ...
If you are still up for it, something beautiful I find is to write yourself a letter for the future. Write anything you like for your future-You to remember or be reminded of. Anything you want him/her to know. Then hide the letter somewhere and forget about it. Set a timer in your calendar to remind you in 1, 2, 5 or 10 years (the choice is yours) of the letter and where to find it.
Get yourself a nice cup of tea, hot chocolate, a snack and make yourself comfortable. Reflect on what you journaled and feel free to check up on it anytime.
This is a lot of writing, I agree. But seriously, there is something very powerful about bringing our own thoughts and voice to paper. Don't rush it and don't skip any steps. Each step has something magical and revealing in it.
The next time you lose something or someone and the next time you are faced with alone times, you can at least rest in the powerful company of your beautiful self. This no one can take from you. This is you.
Aren't you worth it? Are you living your life and inner truth the way you want or are you living a life based on outside obligations and influences? Knowing yourself is worth so much and many lifetimes!! <3