Right now many people are feeling lost, alone, desperate and depressed in their homes. That’s normal under pandemic circumstances but many of us are also doing just fine and not hating life. Five years ago I would have been massively depressed and panicking but that was the old me. The me of today is just chilling and enjoying life. My secret? I found myself a while ago. That brought peace, tranquility, contentment and an inner joy and fearlessness that can weather any storm.
Here’s how to find yourself and stop going crazy.
Suppose you were dropped in a world of endless mirrors and told you couldn’t escape until you found the real you. If you looked in the mirrors, how would you know which reflection was really you? How long would it take you to find yourself and escape?
That analogy is a very real description of how we live our current lives. We rush around looking into mirrors trying to find our real self among the reflections. We think the reflection wearing trendy clothes or driving a nice car is the real us. Or we search for the real us among the reflections with a spouse or kids. We search for the reflection that’s successful or has money and possessions. We run to the reflection with a host of friends or our dream house. It’s not the real us, we might think, unless it’s the one that’s traveling the world, eating at the fun restaurants or is continuously entertained. We may even think the one that’s suffering and miserable is truly us.
But these are all just reflections. They are not us and deep down we know it, which is why we rush frantically from image to image. None of these feel right For long, no matter the achievements in life or even the losses. Where’s the real you?
Each reflection is just a party dress. None of them are the real you. If you chase from mirror to mirror, saying maybe this one or maybe the next one, something will always feel off. You will never find yourself and you will never escape the world of endless mirrors.
So how do you find yourself? How do you escape the terror of not knowing who you are? The first step is to realize the illusion of the mirrors. They cannot be you any more than the reflection of the moon on water is the real moon.
To find yourself, you must become naked. You must put away the party dresses – no matter how tempting, elegant, refined or ugly. You must stop running and stop chasing ideas of who you could be. When you stop, you feel alone. You feel naked and vulnerable. You feel solitary and stripped down. That is you, one person peering out at existence and trying to understand their place in what is essentially an unfolding miracle of being.
You may put on an endless assortment of clothes and appearances in life but “you” will never change. Underneath those clothes, you are always naked. That is you and it is unchanging and beautiful.
You’ve Always Seen Through the Same Eyes
That’s not enough, you might think. I need to be more or I’m just naked, ordinary and worthless. But that is just another lie we’ve told ourselves.
From the moment you looked out at the world, you had a consciousness that viewed that world. The sense of you that has viewed events from the cradle until now has not changed though you have grown older and many things have happened to you. The persistence of that consciousness hasn’t altered any. Doesn’t the inner you feel the same now as when you looked out at the world ten years ago? You may be richer or poorer, happier or more miserable but the inner eyes gazing out haven’t shifted in their feel have they?
That is you. That has always been you. Playing philosophical semantics about a “soul” or “consciousness” isn’t important here. Why put on another party dress to try to cover up our vulnerability at being a naked human? That sense of self gazing out at the world and experiencing its own existence is the self. It is always there and will always be there while we live. You can fee that naked “beingness” whenever you grow still.
Most people run from the stillness and nakedness. Left alone with themselves, they freak out. Aside from worrying over the virus and finances, it’s the major reasons people are freaking out in their homes. They find it scary and miserable being alone with themselves. They don’t realize that finding themselves starts here.
Indeed, most people believe that finding themselves starts AFTER some event like meeting their soulmate or becoming successful or reaching some milestone. That’s like carrying a million dollars in your pocket and saying you aren’t rich until something external to you happens. In truth you were always rich.
Likewise, you have always been there, wherever you go, whatever you do, no matter the circumstances. And far from being terrifying, this self is a waiting refuge, a great anchor through life, a fantastic best friend, and a source of endless joy.
But only if you learn to shut out your bad roommate – the endlessly abusive mind. It keeps up a constant dialogue that the inner you tunes into. It tells you that you must go out into the world to find yourself, that your current circumstances and person are meaningless until X happens or that you can’t be happy and know yourself until Y comes along. It says you can’t be safe or have meaning until some external event occurs or you have attained something.
The mind gets in the way of us connecting with ourself by keeping us either focused outside ourselves or by tearing us down. It belittles, argues, and takes issue with everything going on. If it’s hot, that commentary complains. When it’s cold, it complains again. If the train is packed, it gets annoyed. When the train is empty, it complains about feeling lonely or wonders if something is wrong to cause the vacant seats. If analyzes our lives and character in much the same way.
That diarrhea of inner commentary is not you. After all, who is listening to it? It is just more window dressing and you can learn to change it into a good and helpful roommate or keep it quiet most of the time.
If you let it run your life, it will lead you running forever through the world of mirrors, chattering away about which appearance might be the real you and how best to obtain that appearance to make it real. It will rush and rush and even if you find the you it likes, before long it points out the flaws or sees the crack in the glass that shows the illusion for what it is. The untrained mind, not grasping the truth, will then rush to another mirror.
The trained mind sees the illusions all around. It ignores the mirrors, stops running and goes silent. From this silence of abandoning the illusory chase arises an awareness of your true self, along with peace, joy and so much more.
Two people drop into the world of mirrors. One goes chasing among the images, peering into each in a desperate attempt to find the true person and obtain freedom. The other person merely hugs themself, says “here I am” and immediately escapes.
The person who escapes knows the value of their being. They have found the limitless beauty and strength of their real self. The moment they were born they were priceless and that never changed – no matter the party dresses or circumstances that occurred in the intervening years. Don’t be fooled. We are all priceless, even in our nakedness.
Every child is born a naked miracle. You can’t convince any decent parent otherwise. We don’t look at newborns and think “what worthless things”. Instead, we cherish them, coo over them and think the best of them. We were all once miracle babies. Just because we aged, that priceless aspect has not diminished. We are still beautiful miracles. When we die, all our party dresses and costumes remain behind so we certainly shouldn’t measure ourselves or our worth by them!
Wherever you go, there you are. Finding yourself means stopping and making friends with that naked self.
Once you realize this, the world and its illusions no longer trap you. From then on you step out into the world with a changed demeanor, taking up party dresses and experiences with a playfulness and joy different from the miserable person who chases after them, trapped and desperate over them in the belief that they will make or break their existence. Whether the party dress is beautiful or ugly, the experience difficult or easy, your inner self is always present – a refuge of calm, strength, joy and happiness.
Stop chasing the images. Hug yourself and say “here I am”. Never let go. Everything starts from that inner feeling of connection.
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