Last night I got drawn into the drama of my personal story. After a day of sitting about not really doing very much my mind wandered into the narrative of what is perceived to be happening to me. And with that came emotions that felt very strong. I was pulled into identifying with the the story of how my life is not working, of how I am not and have not been successful at anything and soon enough it all felt very real. Within a few hours, I was a failure, I had nothing to offer anyone, I was worthless and there was no hope for me.
It’s interesting to see how this identification happens. The self senses its own unreality and so always feels insecure. Even at times when there might appear to be a strong or successful self functioning, there is always a sense of instability, a subtle yet felt atmosphere of unease that hangs in the air. It’s the kind of atmosphere that makes the self feel as if at any moment, the story could twist and turn from heart warming drama to tense thriller or tragedy. Because the self ultimately knows its own unreality, it seeks always to find some stability and permanence in the shifting world of form. So, while an unhappy story might not feel very good, the self will gladly cling to that rather than acknowledge its own absence, which of course is something it cannot truly do. ‘I would rather be a worthless failure than nothing at all’ it seems to reason.
And yet it never finds any kind of lasting fulfillment in any of the changing identities that show up in the story of me. The separate self is itself a form that appears and disappears, which is why it looks to make itself more solid through identification with thoughts and feelings that result from the story of my life. Because I find evidence of the story and because I can feel my reaction to it, it all seems very real. ‘But I AM a failure’ the self cries and proceeds to point to all the evidence and if it can’t find any evidence in the world it offers up the feeling of being a failure as proof that the story of my failure is real.
The separate self however is on a hiding to nothing. It seeks to make some solid identity out of the shifting clouds of thought and emotion only to find that every identity it assumes dissolves as the skies clear and the view changes. Choosing an identity from the story of me (I’m a worthless failure) is like the sky trying to be the weather that happens in it. The moment it decides that it’s a rain cloud, the weather changes, the sun comes out or the wind picks up or the rain starts to fall. Every identity is washed away in the very happening of life unfolding. In the end, life blows away the heavy clouds of failure or the sparkling sunshine of success and it’s seen then that you were never the forms that appeared or the characters in the story. The story may continue to unfold, but it’s not longer seen as the only reality.
For the vast majority of us, this doesn’t happen overnight but gradually. We may fall into identification with the story of me but once you have clearly seen the emptiness that is the fullness of life happening, no story can hoodwink you for long.