The Buddha said “Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.”
As a therapist, I have the honor of becoming someone’s “secret holder”. I get to peek into other people’s minds and hearts and I am always so humbled by this offering. Each client gives me the gift of witnessing Truth – of seeing the human condition in its purest, most raw form. My clients are brave warriors who have the courage to be vulnerable, to get real with themselves and with me.
And through my work, I have the privilege of knowing something so real and so true and so comforting: that we are all the same. I get to hear the same stories and struggles, the same fears and insecurities, the same challenges that we all hide from one another, that we feel are too shameful or ugly to share.
So what do I know about who we are? What have I learned about how we think and feel, about the ways we live?
I’ve learned that every person has a story – a unique tale of triumphs and struggles that makes us who we are. We all feel the same things – depression and anxiety and fear and loneliness – and we all hold the same negative, distorted beliefs about ourselves (“I’m broken/not enough/unloveable/unworthy/different”) when we listen to the asshole who lives in our heads (aka, the mind or ego). I know that we all long for happiness, peace of mind and security and that all of our egos constantly seek external validation, reassurance and approval.
I’ve seen the way society and social constructs influence who we are – and detract from our sense of happiness. I’ve learned how the social construct of gender, for example, traps us – men and women alike – into believing certain things about ourselves, all of which are negative and self-destructive. I see how men struggle with feeling as though they carry the weight of the world on their shoulders and despite constantly (and secretly) struggling with anxiety, fear and inadequacy. How they are taught that “real men” don’t have feelings (other than anger, hunger or fatigue) and that being a “real man” means always wanting sex and being able to perform sexually. And they all tell me these things behind closed doors, remaining psychologically isolated from everyone and everything around them because society tells them not to share their thoughts and emotions with each other.
I’ve seen how women are burning out trying to be “superwoman” – that they’re wearing too many hats, playing too many roles, juggling too many balls. I’ve heard women talk about the stories that trap them, that delude them into thinking happiness comes from marriage or babies or being physically attractive. How ashamed they feel when they admit that motherhood is hard or shitty or that they miss having “me time”. How they’re socialized to be “good girls”, to not ever yell or scream or externalize their anger (and god forbid that anger turn into rage!). How they end up starving themselves or cutting themselves or generally hating themselves because they’ve turned that rage inward, choosing to self-destruct rather than hurt anyone else. How they learn to take care of their entire world but never themselves.
But all of these things I’ve learned, these patterns I’ve noticed, are not real. These stories are just that – narratives that our minds play over and over, that “society” (that ambiguous, amorphous, unseen arbiter of all things) teaches us, and that we all blindly follow. We’re all “keeping up with the Joneses” but has anyone ever met the Joneses? They’re not real. These stories are all just folklore and delusion, the mind causing suffering.
And I’ve also learned that none of us is our mind – we are not the stories in our heads, the thoughts or the feelings that we experience, the boxes or labels that society tells us we must fit into in order to be worthy, in order to belong.
So who are we? Who are YOU, really? You are the place within you that is still, radiant, peace. You are Light – which is Love which is Wisdom which is Truth. You are the spark of the divine that lives in your gut and that you hear as instinct, as intuition. The place within you that is calm and kind, that feels like love. You are your spirit, your essence, your soul – not your body or your mind, because those things change rapidly and constantly, from the second we’re born until we take our last breath.
Let that space within you be your guide. Let your highest self, your heart, who you really are, lead you through your days. Let it teach you, let it soothe and comfort you, let that place within you that is pure goodness tell you how to love and care for your self. Don’t listen to your mind, to thinking: the voice in your head will always be negative and critical because that’s its job. Its job is to protect us, to detect possible threats, in order to ensure our survival. Its job is not to make you happy, to ensure peace of mind or wellbeing.
Tune out all the stories, all the “shoulds”, the comparisons and the catastrophizing and the grasping and clinging and resisting and running. Quiet the mind, the constant search for external factors that can magically bring intrinsic joy (because they never can). Breathe, become anchored by your breath and by your physical body that grounds you, and simply feel this moment – and in doing so, you’ll create space between who you really are and your thoughts. Step back from the incessant stream of meaningless mind chatter – there’s nothing to know, no problem to solve or future to predict. Detach from your mind, from the ego’s lies about who you are and what to do and how to live.
You are perfect. You are complete and whole. You were born enough and you’ve always been enough. So bewho you are: be Light and Love and Wisdom and Peace and Truth. Radiate your true essence, live authentically and genuinely and whole-heartedly. Open to this life and all that it contains – the heartbreak and the pain and the ecstasy and the bliss and everything in between. Be brave, have the courage to be vulnerable and to live your Truth and to let yourself feel joy and love and to finally exhale and be at peace and be well.
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