Awareness, the first part of the triumvirate of Awareness, Acceptance and Authenticity, has brought my issues up and helped me to see what is going on, but that is not enough. Now it is time to absorb what I have discovered and make it mine.
I have three areas of acceptance to deal with: accepting my limitations, accepting my shadow, accepting that I am amazing. It is important that I absorb all three into my self equally. It is important that I do not just focus on what is easy and leave the rest until later. It is important that I have a balance between all three areas. The first area is the easiest one to accept, I think this is probably true for many people—accept my limitations.
On this journey I have talked about my limitations, such as my club foot. the physical limitations are difficult to ignore, they stick in my face. This does not automatically mean I accept them, but it does make it difficult for me not to. I have found that the process of drawing them into my life means I can work beyond them. Once I accept their reality they cease to be limitations. They become guideposts for moving forward in my life. My club foot is a limitation that could easily get in the way of my love of walking. It does not, it ensures that I organise it properly. I need to spend time choosing shoes and working out a plan of growth. If I do not do this it jumps up and cries limitation!
Accepting my shadow is more tricky. Shadows, by their very nature, tend to lurk just out of sight, pretending they do not exist. They jump out and project themselves onto other people I deal with. They put on a guise of being their problems. There is clearly an issue of awareness here, but even with that sorted out the shadow tries to continue pretending not to exist. It takes a superhuman effort on my part to fully absorb my shadow and not project it any more on others.
In trying to express only those aspects of ourselves that we believe will guarantee us the acceptance of others, we suppress some of our most valuable and interesting features and sentence ourselves to a life of reenacting the same outworn scripts. Reclaiming the parts of ourselves that we have relegated to the shadow is the most reliable path to actualizing all of our human potential. Once befriended, our shadow becomes a divine map that—when properly read and followed—reconnects us to the life we were meant to live and the people we were meant to be.
I have hinted earlier that the most difficult area to integrate is the area of my brilliance. I am happy for other people to tell me how brilliant I am—and I believe them, at the time—I am just not sure I totally believe it myself.
Several years ago I produced an online course called ‘How To Love A Woman’. I wrote it, created the videos and marketed it. When I first made it available online I made just a few sales. I immediately crashed into a depression, telling myself that it was no good and that people did not want it. I jumped into knocking myself down, thinking that I am not good enough rather than that I am brilliant but need to work on the details. It took some serious talk from others for me to see how great the course was and that what was not working was simply marketing.
When I was a lighting designer I was totally happy with my skill as a designer, I knew I was great, but I always needed to work hard on the details to make the design great. Thinking I am great is dangerous, though, it can lead to arrogance—but surely that is just a limitation…
What is the truth of who I am? Do I know myself at all? Can I accept all the parts of my nature or are there areas which are beyond my comprehension? What is truth? I show something to another person, looking for a reaction. The other person is confused, does not react but criticises me for not being clear about what it is. I get angry and storm out of the room. What is happening here? Who is doing what? Is there a truth about the situation?
In Buddhist thought there can be seen two truths; Conventional Truth and Ultimate Truth. These are bound up with that elusive Buddhist concept of Emptiness.
Conventional Truth assesses the physical reality of a situation or an object. In the case of the event above there is a physical reality of the existence of the two people, the relationship between the two people and the specific situation. That would seem to be fairly simple. But it becomes necessary to add in the expectations of the two people, the emotional patterns of the two people as well as the energy of their interaction at the time of the event. Now it starts to become more complicated.
The Buddhist concept of Emptiness says that nothing in this event exists in its own right. There is no sense in which we can talk about each person being an independent reality. They both exist in relation to the other and in relation to all the other factors. In themselves they are empty because any meaning you attach to them can only be in relation to the other and to all the factors of the event.
So any sense of Conventional Truth can only be from a personal, biased, standpoint. So it can be seen as a truth at all. Ultimate Truth is the sense that nothing is actually there at all. There is no independent truth. Ultimate Truth is Universal. There is no way you can view this situation that is true, that is without meaning attached, because there is nothing there. On an intellectual level I can grasp what is being said here, but on an emotional level, I find it hard.
I know what happened, just as the other person knows what happened. To each person there is a truth behind that knowing. I also know that it is unlikely that the two truths will be the same. If a third person had been there to observe the situation they would have had a different truth again.
I know from my own experience that there is a fierce reality to my truth. I know what happened and would probably find it difficult to accept what either of the other two people saw as truth. This conundrum plagues the police in investigating crimes. This causes cycles of vengeance and wars because people are willing to stand up for their truth, they are willing to fight to the death for it.
I have come to accept that my truth is a personal truth not an ultimate truth. there is no ultimate truth. Nothing can be independently verified because the observer changes the phenomenon. This is not to be confused with the observer effect in Quantum Mechanics but has more to do with the simple effects of cultural interpretation and the fact that any shift in a situation effects people’s interpretation of it—the Hawthorne Effect.
So there is truth and there is no truth. What I have to take on board is that what ever I think is just my interpretation, my reality. To stand up for it, or even die for it, I need to test it against the truths of others. This can be extremely messy and can not ultimately be carried out with a deep understanding of people, culture, emotions and many other factors.
Next time I will explore the issue of Authenticity.
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—Photo Credit: Flickr/LMAP