I wish someone had told me when I was a teen, that it was OK to change my mind. Not about my clothes (although I wore way too much pink) or my boyfriends (honestly there weren’t that many) or shades of lipstick (again, I had a thing for pink).
But I wish I had known that it’s OK to change my mind about who I am. I wish I had understood that as human beings we are ever-changing creatures with fluid desires, inspirations, emotions, and even our sense of who we are.
Now, you may think you know exactly who you are. You play sports on a team, you live in a town or city, you have a name, a family, a thing you love to do…and plenty of things you don’t love to do. All of this is part of who you are, but it’s not all you are.
In fact, you are something far more luminous, bright, spacious, and vast that is way beyond the labels people have given you or the roles you play, or the relationships you have, and the things you do. Sure, it’s easy to identify ourselves with descriptors like “student” or “hockey player” or “girlfriend” or “son”. That’s how we communicate and navigate our way through the world. But what you truly are is actually what’s underneath all those identities and roles. It’s from that place where your ideas, dreams, thoughts, and re-inventions of yourself are born.
And you re-connect with that place when you get still and quiet. That’s why I love meditation. And I wish I had learned about it when I was a teenager.
My mind was always going, going, going. I had a tough home life, so I got in the habit of tightening and tensing up, thinking it would help me control the way life unfolded. And I clung to ideas of who I was like a life preserver.
At fourteen, I decided I was an actress, and that was that! I narrowed my focus and hung onto that label of “actress”, thinking that if I was sure about that, I’d be sure about life. And if I was sure about life, I’d be safe. But really, much of life is unknown. We don’t know what will happen from day to day, from moment to moment, and that’s actually the beauty of life.
When our minds are not racing, when our thoughts aren’t constantly moving forward into the future or backward into the past, we have moments — maybe a split second — when we land in the present. We notice what simply is, without all the labels. We can see a situation, a friend, a leaf blowing on the ground in a new way, without all the past assumptions, judgments, and preconceived notions.
And the same goes for ourselves. We drop the noise in our head and we touch upon some aspect of ourselves that is still, vast, and quiet; without labels, without any roles to play, without anything to do. And for a moment, there is spaciousness. That’s what you are: spacious potential.
When I started meditating as an adult, it was as if I truly got to know myself, because finally there was some space in between my thoughts. I loosened the grip on who I thought I was just a little bit. Then a bit more. Once I began to allow a little space inside, my life opened up on the outside. I began to see I was more than that well meaning, yet limited, label I gave myself back when I was fourteen.
Who are you without the clutter of who you think you are? Take a look. Relax into what you’re truly made of. Then you can be anything. OK, maybe not a dog or a UFO or a plate of spaghetti.
But as a human being, you are endless potential. You can commit to a job, or a class you’re interested in, and you can enjoy giving it your all. But none of it truly defines you. Who you are is way beyond definition. You are something far more than the college to which you apply, the boy or girl you’re crushing on, the group of friends you hang with, the latest grade you received.
You are that stillness inside, that space before thoughts; that endless place from which ideas and inspiration take shape, that essence that is beyond definitions. And when you get comfortable with that essence, you can allow the unique expression of you to spill forth in such creative and expansive ways, you may surprise yourself.
So take a look.
Here’s an meditation practice to try.
If you keep getting distracted by thoughts, no big deal. Thoughts will happen. Just keep bringing your attention back to your breath in a gentle, kind way.
Rest In The Space
- Close your eyes and place your attention on your breath at your chest.
- Gently breathe in.
- Then exhale. And when you get the end of your exhale, pause. Rest in that space between the finished exhale and the yet-to-occur inhale. Appreciate that moment when you are neither inhaling nor exhaling. Not much is happening. But…it’s potential.
- When you’re ready, gently inhale.
- Now pause again for a few moments before you exhale.
- Repeat as many times in a row as you choose. After awhile, simply rest your attention on your breath, breathing normally, for as long as you like.
This pause – or space – occurs between breaths, between thoughts; it’s what is there before concepts, labels, judgments, and memories arise.
If you do this practice, you might find your mind becoming more and more quiet, without even trying. You may develop a relationship with the “you” that is underneath all you do, all you think, and all that you think you are. You might find it’s an adventure to appreciate the space as well as what fills the space.
Who knows what you’ll find.
Sarah TAYLOR, Monthly Mentor, is a meditation teacher and a Master Level Reiki Practitioner, as well as an actor, comedian, and writer based in Los Angeles, CA. Drawing from a Buddhist background as well as the other non-dual spiritual traditions, her classes and talks are accessible and filled with humor. She was a series regular for three seasons on NBC’s “In Gayle We Trust”, can be seen in the comedy feature, “The Golden Scallop” and has made appearances on Hot In Cleveland, Bunheads, and numerous other TV shows and films. Read More…