As I look back on my life I remember the special relationship that I shared with my grandmother. Whenever I saw her I would adopt my ‘Nannie voice’. This was a high pitched ‘sing song’ tone that would be accompanied by a cute little smile and a bunch of sweet peas. After copious cups of tea out of bone china cups and a slice of her homemade Victoria sponge cake, I would jump back into my car and into my aggressive, purposeful ‘driving back home’ role. At work in the days before I learned about empathy, compassion and listening, I would deliver my presentations with a ruthless efficiency packaged with a whiff of Shakespearean actor. This was my business mode. Then there was the ‘me’ who would throw up after every meal filled with self-loathing and feeling powerless that life seemed so cruel. I was rather good at playing the victim. Then, when I had faced the onslaught of never-ending knocks, somehow I managed to locate my inner lioness and show huge courage in the face of adversity – I quite liked this role.
So many different roles that I began to wonder which one was the real me?
As we make our way through life, our parents, teachers, experiences, environment all begin to inspire our innate ability to play a particular role or wear a mask that portrays what we believe others expect from us. In our desire to belong and fit into the fabric of our societal group, we are misguidedly led to believe that we have to act a certain way, look a certain way and respond in a certain way. Living out these expectations in the form of roles are driven from a fundamental belief that being ourselves is not good enough. When we are stripped bare of all roles and masks, in our moment of vulnerability we realise how exposed we are.
The high powered business man who was made redundant or took early retirement may struggle with his lack of status and power. Do people still respect him outside of his job? The mother whose children have flown the nest and suddenly she finds that there are no clothes to wash, no beds to make, no meals to cook. What will she do now with her time? The woman who fell in love and devoted her life to being the dutiful wife only to be unceremoniously dumped for a younger, prettier and fresher model after thirty years of wedded bliss. How can she adapt to the new role of ‘not being a wife’? The soldier who lost limbs in Afghanistan who is struggling to come to terms with his masculinity now that he has literally had his legs pulled away from underneath him.
The roles we play are not who we truly are. We are so much more than our gender, our job, our place in society. We are so much more than the behavioural programming we received in childhood. We are so much more than our mind, than our body. We are so much more than our religion, our spiritual beliefs and our dreams and aspirations. We are so much more than the car we drive, the watch we wear, the clothes we buy and the house we live in. All of this ‘stuff’ is simply an elaborate fantasy that takes us further away from the authentic person or being.
Imagine a blank canvas upon which you paint the story of your life. Imagine how different events and experiences cover up the canvas until the blank canvas is completely hidden. It’s still there but it has been covered up. The blank canvas is a metaphor that represents pure consciousness, pure love. This is who you are at your core. Everything else simply covers the true you. Over the years layers of paint cause a build-up of different roles and different masks. We forget what is underneath the layers that we assume is ‘us’. We become disconnected from who we really are and we lose ourselves in the myriad of experiences we refer to as ‘our story’. Everything in our past is simply a story when we played the leading role – but it is not us. The way ‘our story’ has defined our character and shaped our choices is not us. If we drop down through the different layers we eventually drop into the truth of our essence.
It is only in the stillness of our lives, the moments when we pause the busyness of rich living can we start to reconnect with who we really are. It is only when we quieten the mind and allow our thoughts (that are also not us) to drift out of our conscious awareness, can we find ourselves again. It is in the gaps of ‘nothing, in the space between the space, in the place we experience as ‘The Void’ is where we discover who we are and why we are here. The roles we play simply act as a distraction as the ego mind controls us like puppets for its own amusement.
Roles are tiring to play. Masks feel heavy and oppressive to wear.
When you feel the presence of pure love vibrating within every particle of your body, you know that this is who you really are and it feels as if you have finally come home after a long and cumbersome journey. That’s why it’s time to look beyond the surface layers and into the windows of your own soul. For here and only here will you find the mystery of life in all of her glory.