Do You Know Yourself?

“The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed.”  –Albert Einstein

Do you know yourself?  Most of us would say yes.

What do you mean?

Do you mean that you know your habits and preferences?  That you like ice cream, and hate to floss?

Or do you mean that you know your strengths and weaknesses?  You are a kind person who has a difficult time being patient?

Maybe you mean that you know yourself in terms of your relationships with other people?  You are a sister, brother, friend, lawyer, of this age, in this place?

It is true–our particular combination of habits, preferences, qualities, and relationships can be beautiful and rich.  

I love and appreciate these unique qualities in myself and others.

The way that my good friend stopped eating meat a young age because she cared so deeply about animals suffering.  The way that my other friend has a ridiculously deep barrel laugh.  The way that my other friend always has something funny and sarcastic to say.  And my own particular qualities . . . how I am a bookworm.  How much I love dancing.  How it feels to be a friend, daughter, sister, woman.  These particular qualities can be an integral part of who we are.

But I also wonder–are we more than just lists, habit, relationships? 

What is the deeper essence of ourselves that these things reflect?  

Think about those moments when you are going along in the normal stream of life, and you catch a gap where the normalcy of everything suddenly goes out like the tide.  One minute you are pumping gas, thinking about work, and the next minute you think:  “What am I doing?  Who am I?”

It can be a bit disconcerting!  We tend to paper over those moments, shake it off, dive back into our lives.

Whew, that was strange, got a bit spacey for a minute, what was I thinking about, oh yes.  Gas, work, gym, dinner.  Mmmm… maybe some coffee…would love to read a nice book.  Before we get too freaked out, we are plugged back into our routine.   Ah, the familiar.

What if we didn’t run away from those moments when we lose our points of self-reference?  What if we embraced the idea that none of our self-definitions can even come close to capturing the full, direct experience of what it means to be alive?

A lot of wonderful things happen when we let go of the idea that we know ourselves . . .

There are so many more possibilities when you do not know who you are.

There is so much less to defend when you admit that you have no clue.

You travel much more lightly when you walk through life with an open mind.

Instead of trying to constantly match your actions to a static self-image, you can relax and just ACT.   Surprise the hell out of yourself!

And in the space that we create by dropping all of our preconceived notions about who we are, we create a void, a space . . .

. . . a space for mystery

. . . a space for new possibilities

. . . a space for Grace

. . . a space to truly get to know who we are, not as we imagine ourselves to be.

Hello, I have no idea what I am doing or who I am.  What about you?  

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2 thoughts on “Do You Know Yourself?

  1. Eric says:

    …I am a pigment of your fascination 🙂

    my Zen teacher once said, “You are the sum total of everything that is not YOU.” this isn’t ethereal Zen mumbo-jumbo, just the simple idea that it has taken the entire universe to bring us forth, but we can’t comprehend that immensity. and this brings us a glimpse of what ’emptiness’ truly means.

    my thoughts, emotions, routine behaviors are not “me”. watching myself age in the mirror–who the hell is THAT guy?? what part of the human experience is unique to me that no one has ever felt? (nada. nichts.)
    or if you know someone with dementia/alzheimers, they have forgotten details of their life or they simply repeat the same stories. where is our solid identity in this condition??

    as Rilke once said, “I am only one of my many mouths, and at that, the one which will be still the soonest.”

  2. Eric says:

    (apologies for double-dipping, but came across this and made me think of you..)

    “It’s not that the self does not exist, but that it is as cobbled-together and transient as everything else.”
    ~Andrew Olendzki, “Self as Verb”

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