This life we have the chance to be so many things.
If we choose to, we have the chance to change and transform ourselves every hour, every minute, every second and every breath by simply changing the labels we claim as our own.
Even though I practice meditation and yoga everyday, I will never say I am a “Buddhist” or a “Yogi.” A better description of me would be that I am an ever changing being of light and darkness, sometimes human, sometimes animal and sometimes spirit.
I don’t even always want to claim the title of “Woman,” since this, too, is changeable.
I used to think that becoming something with a specific title would make me happier and more secure, but what I have found is that choosing a specific label sticks me to one place in life, making it harder for me to grow. I become married to a word, rather then committed to myself and the reason for why I practice the things that I do, which is to get closer and closer to a sense of freedom.
What I have noticed is that when I take on a label, my sneaky mind decides that there are certain things that go along with this label that I must do. There becomes a whole category of to do lists attached to a name and neat little boxes to fit inside as well.
At parties I used to cringe when people asked me what I did or what I was, as I would watch my ego expand like a giant balloon while I chose the best words to represent myself. As I developed new skills, careers paths and titles I noticed that when I used these titles to represent me, I felt different inside with each one. I felt like these title removed me from the real being that I was and sometimes, I would feel like a shiny magazine photograph, airbrushed on a meditation cushion or omming, blissed out on a yoga mat.
I noticed, people often expected these things of me too.
Like so often happens in life, what I thought would originally make me happy and secure, actually became something of a burden. My titles limited me rather then uplifted, and my ego was the only one happy about it. I knew I must expand out from these little boxes and I needed some magic, box cutting tool to do it. I had decided long ago that I would never allow myself to live in any container that was too small.
One of the first principles I was taught when I began meditating, was to notice my thoughts as they came and to simply label them as, “thinking” and return to the breath.
“Thinking,” had gotten me into all sorts of trouble over the years. But, the practice of noticing and letting go of “thinking” lead me to the conclusion that I could do this with titles and labels too. Labels were just words in the english language that were meant to describe something, defining myself could be left up to me.
The second principle I was taught in meditation was to treat thoughts like the weather, as systems of ever changing weight, temperature and light. Like the weather, we had no control over when or how our thoughts came and went, so the best thing to do was to sit back and watch them pass.
If the weather and our thoughts were not constant, how I defined myself must not have to be either. Magic, box cutting tool, here we go!
To me, spirituality has always been about empowerment. It is about getting to know my true self, underneath all the layers that I have taken on and it is about continually asking the question,
“Who am I at my most authentic core?”
“Who are you?”
And allowing this answer to change.
It is the opposite practice of defining, it is meant to deconstruct.
When I am left without a category, I am open to what is here, to what comes next, and what it is that is wanting to be created now. It would be a shame to waste all the work of de-identifying I have done, by redefining myself with any one name.
As I do practices to increase the suppleness of my body and mind, I want this expansiveness to be what I live. For if I have learned anything from Buddhism and yoga, It is that the greatest strength comes to us when we can reside in the unknown, the unchartered and the undefinable. If this means I purposefully pause when asked what it is I do and I am, I want to be okay with leaving this space open.
Take that, ego!
Author: Sarah Norad
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: Moyan Brenn at Flickr