How Can I Become Myself ?
I walked along the shore, listening to Her music for several hours that morning. She unheedingly continued to be Herself. The thought crossed my mind, "If I could as consistently be me, wouldn't life be wonderful!" I asked, "How can I become myself as you are?"
She continued to dash upon the shore for several moments before answering. "First you must die to 'I'. You cannot become who you are until you cease being the 'I' you are not. As long as you pretend to be the 'I' who speaks to yourself, you cannot become yourself. You must abandon the form of false godhood if you want to become the one you are created to be."
Although She had often spoken of my false 'I', still I was uncertain about what She meant. "Tell me more about this 'I' who must die," I asked.
"I refer to the mythical god in your mind, revealed in such expressions as: 'I thought to myself,' 'I said to myself,' 'I made myself go to work,' 'I forced myself to think,' 'I analyzed myself,' 'I do not trust myself,' 'I got control of myself,' I am afraid of myself,' 'I patted myself on the back,' 'I condemned myself,'..."
"Enough, enough," I said. I realized how often I think in such terms. "But isn't that just grammar?" I asked. "Do you mean I need to change my way of speaking?
"No," She replied. "Your speaking accurately reflects what you have become in your mind. You perceive yourself as the 'I' rather than the 'myself' to which you speak. Although it is a fiction, a false god, you have escaped yourself and become this imaginary 'I'. The issue is not grammar. It is existence. Sometimes you also refer to yourself as 'I'. If you speak truly in saying, 'I love you,' then you refer to yourself as 'I'. When you say, 'I decided that I ought to leave,' the first 'I' is the false god. The second 'I' is yourself. Whether you refer to yourself as Myself' or 'I' is not the point. Your pretended existence as a separate one is the critical issue. That is the 'I' which must die if you are to become yourself.
"So long as you exist in such a divided manner you are not free to become yourself. Energies designed for activating your potential, for breathing the breath of God through your lips, are dissipated in endless efforts to play god with yourself. So long as you are busy as an imaginary 'I',--directing, judging, criticizing, or proving yourself--you are not free to be who you are. While you expend precious energies in producing false images, in building and maintaining reputations, in pretending to be what you are not, your finite reflection of the Infinite lies dormant
"Furthermore, to play god with yourself is to remain in a continual double-bind. Whether you, as a false god, direct yourself properly or improperly, still you are double-minded. In telling yourself what to do, you are like a parent directing a child. Suppose you tell yourself to relax. 'You ought to relax,' says your godly 'I'. Now you are trapped. If you refuse to obey, you hurt yourself by remaining tense. If you follow orders as a dutiful child, you may win points with your godly 'I', but you lose the confirmation and integrity inherent in making personal choices. You are in a double-bind, damned if you do, damned if you don't. In either I case you are not free to be yourself."
"But how?" I asked. "How do I go about dying as an 'I'?"
"You abandon false godhood by relinquishing each godly attribute--omnipotence, omniscience, and immortality," She replied. "You become weak, dumb, and in the process of dying. In giving up omnipotence, you stop pretending to have strength you do not actually possess. You cease being an 'I' who can do whatever he wants to. You become the relatively weak human you are. When tempted to flee into the 'I' who needs no one and can stand anything, you will resist. Accepting weakness, you will not be ashamed to ask for guidance.
"Naturally, you will stop pretending to be a dictator in the world. Realizing that you have no inherent rights beyond becoming yourself, you will stop acting as though you own the land, things, animals, or people. For instance, you will cease pretending to have a spouse. Your wife will become the mysterious woman who lives with you, rather than the object you now pretend to own. You will encounter plants and animals as a steward rather than an owner.
"Even when invited to become a god by other people--through their admiration, praise, or worship-you will steadfastly resist. Realizing that you lack the power to bear the burden of any other man, you will carefully limit your service to meeting and walking with your fellow man. Never will you presume to live his life for him or to use him in supporting your own.
"When you approach the limits of your given strength, you will welcome weakness as an acceptable friend in the household of your life. As you avoid playing god with the lives of others, so you will resist the temptation with yourself. You will never abuse your body. Recognizing it as Spirit's temple, you will accept its limits gracefully. Instead of using it to prove yourself, you will respectfully become your embodied self.
"In like manner you will stop pretending to be omniscient. Because you have played the game for so long, you will first have to unfigure the world. You think you have things figured out. You believe that you know how things are. Your false godhood rests on the shaky foundation of your own understanding. Often you think you have another person figured. Sometimes you even presume to understand yourself. Before you can become yourself, you must unfigure the world and all its contents, including yourself."
"What a strange phrase," I though--"unfiguring the world." For as long as I can remember, I have attempted to figure things out. I have assumed that the path of happiness is through understanding. Not only have I tried to mentally grasp the outside world; even more diligently I have attempted to figure myself out. Self-understanding has been a lifelong goal. Constantly I ask, "Who am I, really? Which is the real me?" I could not grasp the idea of "unfiguring the world." "Please explain," I begged.
For what seemed an endless time, She rolled noisily on the shore--first advancing, then retreating. Obviously She does not respond to begging. In frustration I waited, wishing I knew how to force an answer. After I calmed down, assuming our meeting was over, She quietly replied.
"I can only tell you what you already know."
While I puzzled over that cryptic remark, She continued. "To unfigure the world is to erase all names, categories, reasons, explanations, and conclusions, save for practical purposes only. It is to dismantle your ideas which have become walls instead of bridges. For instance, naming is a pragmatic tool for thought and speech. One needs to name in order to refer to. However, naming easily becomes an escape to, and an excuse for, false godhood. You may name a person for practical purposes, but naming in no way removes his mystery. Yet you deceive yourself, becoming an 'I', by concluding that in knowing his name you know the person. In like manner, you may name a certain fruit, apple, for convenience in reference. Yet to conclude that you know what the fruit is, when you have only the name you have given it, is to succumb to omniscience.
"So with all labels and categories. In fact, each is but one of your mental forms. Labels are useful in thinking and speaking, yet they never define. Reasons and explanations are also useful in coping. You can discern an earlier step in a process, label it the cause, and have a helpful tool in coping with the process. For example, you may observe that a dark cloud precedes the rain. You may say the cloud is the reason for or cause of the rain. Such explanations are useful in avoiding being rained on. However, your reasons in no way define that which you say they cause. You do not understand the rain simply by figuring out what causes it.
"It may also be useful to observe the following steps in a process which you call the results or conclusion. To note that darkness follows the setting of the sun is useful in knowing when to light your candle. After observing this process repeatedly, you may decide that darkness is the conclusion of day. Such observations can be helpful in coping with the world. However, to conclude that the observed results allow you to know the world is a serious mistake. That you have observed three steps in a process which you name the reason, the event, and the conclusion, does not mean that you know what it is. Armed with your information you will be better prepared to cope with the process, yet without a final definition.
"Unfortunately, you have not been content to leave your names, categories, explanations, and conclusions as practical devices only. With them, you have marched on to assume false godhood. Knowing about, you have fallen for the illusion that you know. You have used figuring out as an escape from facing the mystery in life. That is why I say you must unfigure the world. Before you can become yourself, you must reduce all your explanations and categories to the status of mental devices only."
"But how can I do that?" I asked. "What is the way of unfiguring?"
"You may begin with things," She said. "That will be easier. Pick up a stone." After I held one in my hand for several moments, She continued. "In the beginning you may be tempted to throw it down, concluding, 'Oh, it's just a rock.' That is your false 'I' speaking. A stone is 'just a rock' in your mind only. Instead of relying on your prefigured conclusion, unfigure it. Say to the stone, 'Before, I have used a classification, which I learned as a child, to keep you boxed-up in my mind's eye. I have mistakenly acted as though having a name is the same as knowing who you are"'
"Wait," I interrupted, "Do you mean you want me to actually talk to this rock? Aloud? People would think I am crazy."
"So what," She replied, "that is their problem. If you want to become yourself, you must unfigure the stone. You have figured it out and used your information as an escape to omniscience. To have named a rock does not mean to know it. If you would become yourself and see God's face in a stone, you must first unfigure it. Certainly you may keep your name, rock, plus whatever facts you have acquired about stones in general, but now you must proceed to face its mystery also. The stone may become God's way of speaking to you at this time.
"After confessing to the stone your crime of omniscience, begin to unfigure each conclusion you have placed on it. Stand openly with it. Without judgment, look carefully at each of its faces. See its colors and contours. See it in context. Look at the shadows it makes. Observe its participation with its surroundings. Touch it, gently, allowing for a tenderness you have assumed it does not possess.
Caress its surface. Previously you have judged stones to be dirty. Unfigure your conclusion. Perhaps it is cleaner than the hand which touches it' Smell it for hidden fragrances. Free your heart to respond to God's mysteries cloaked in the rock. Loose your mind from the prison of its classifications. Allow the stone to awaken memories and initiate fantasies. Listen for God to call your own name from the cracks and crannies of the mysterious silent world of the stone. In unfiguring a rock you may find yourself."
Apparently She recognized that I did not think I could talk to a rock at that time. Respecting my embarrassment, She continued with the instructions. "Next you may practice with a plant. Any one will do. Select a weed by My shore. Though you have learned to call it a weed, and have concluded it to be worthless, unfigure the one you select. Hopefully you will have no name for it. Respect is easier without a title. First, say hello as a sign of your recognition. Say, 'Hi, Little Stranger, may I meet you today?"'
Again the idea of talking to a weed struck me as preposterous. I did not think I could stoop to such a ridiculous act.
She smiled, seeing my consternation. "That is your problem," she said. "You have played god with plants for so long that you actually believe you are better than they are. In your assumed omniscience you have concluded that only humans receive communication. How do you know the weed is not listening for you with ears unlike your own? For once, unfigure a weed. Treat it with the respect God deserves in each of His faces. If the weed does not say he is too busy to meet you just then, stop and visit awhile.
"Introduce yourself. Honor him with the gift of your response. As with the stone, look carefully at his many colors and shapes. You may touch him if you wish, yet gently, since you do not know how sensitive he may be. Receive his aroma as a token of his response to you. Unfiguring any previous notions you have had about weeds in general, meet this one in particular. In the process, open your heart to him. Allow him, in the diversity of his forms, to call your mind to attention. Tell him who you are just then and listen for any revelations he may have for you. When your visit is concluded, wish him Godspeed as you take leave of his presence.
"In time you may begin to practice unfiguring the people you meet. Begin with a stranger, perhaps a clerk in a store. First, approach her with respect, realizing that God may reveal Himself in this unnamed creature. Fortunately, you will not have her name to use in an escape to omniscience. You will not be able to falsely conclude, 'Oh, I know her. That is Jane.' Even so, you may be tempted to call upon your other avenues to super-knowledge such as prejudice and judgment. This time, avoid them. Unfigure a stranger just this once. Draw no conclusions based on the color of her skin, the nature of her occupation, the structure of her face or figure or the manner she presents.
"Let this unnamed creation become the mysterious other which she in fact is. Unfigure even your prejudices about sex. Approach her as someone, rather than as a clerk, a black, a skinny person or even as a woman. Certainly you may observe these incidental facts but do not use them as a springboard to omniscience. Remain on the level ground which allows humans to meet. Neither look down on or up to this one. Move respectfully into her presence, anticipating the light of God in her eyes.
"Once there, continue to unfigure her. Instead of rushing to hasty conclusions, walk reverently into her mystery. Avoiding judgments such as, 'She's too skinny,' 'Her nose is too short,' 'She is slow'--or smart, dumb, pretty, ugly or endlessly on--chance responding openly yourself. As with the stone and weed, look and listen. Receive her sights, sounds and smells as introductory offerings on the altar of encounter. Honor each with the gift of your own response. Instead of attempting to figure her out, diligently engage in unfiguring her. Explore her wonder rather than categorizing her signs. Allow her to silently pluck a melody on the strings of your heart. Free your mind for this exciting venture in meeting. Perhaps she will awaken a sleeping memory or elicit a beautiful fantasy.
"If feasible, you may enhance the encounter with words. Let your communication be a revelation of yourself rather than a device for pinning her down in your mind's eye. Ask not her name nor seek any information lest you be tempted to omniscience. Unfigure her. Die to your 'I' in this mysterious moment.
"As you learn to unfigure stones, weeds, and , strangers, proceed to unfigure the world. Accepting your limited understanding, and using it for maintaining responsible dominion over the created order, carefully avoid any permanent conclusions. Let your knowledge always be tentative. Make no irrevocable constitution. Pass no laws which cannot be suspended. Let all rules be rules of thumb, subject to change in the light of new experience or information.
"Never pretend to know it all about anything. You may say,'This is how I have found it to be,' but never, 'This is how it is.' Allow ignorance as the necessary counterpart for knowledge. Welcome the dark side of your certainty as but another face of the mystery. Stand as openly with your ignorance as with your surety. Freely say, 'I do not know.' Wonder always in the mysterious world where we live."
Her words had a profound impact on me. They made sense in a way I had never felt before. I sat for a long time, pondering unfiguring the world. As always, my mind eventually returned to myself. "What about me?," I thought. "I am a part of the world." I remembered She had referred to unfiguring myself also. "What about me?," I asked.
"What about you?" She replied, with emphasis on 'about'. Somehow She always seemed to take me literally, as though I meant exactly what I said.
"I mean, what about unfiguring myself," I replied in a condescending tone.
Ignoring my haughtiness, She continued. "But of course. Unfiguring the world is only a prelude to unfiguring yourself. Although you are godly with the outside world, you are far more omniscient with yourself. Freely you direct, suppress, praise, and condemn yourself as though you actually know who you are and what you should do. As long as you insist on playing god with your own life, you will never be free to become yourself."
"That sounds ridiculous," I said, "Self-control is essential, and self-understanding makes it easier to get along with myself."
My belligerence apparently amused Her. With a smile, She continued. "As yourself you will of course be aware of many personal facts. For practical reasons, as well as the pleasure of it, you will be continually alert both to the outside world and to yourself. Gather as much information as possible concerning your abilities, motivations and limitations. However, if you will die to your false godhood, you must abandon any objective conclusions about knowing who you ultimately are or will be. Your limits, as a human, will be, 'This is who I am just now. This is how I am feeling; this is what I now think.' To go beyond that is to assume godhood.
If you unfigure yourself, you will abandon all prior conclusions about who you finally are. As God is undefinable, so you, as one of His expressions, will not be subject to definition. When you are being yourself, you too will be continually recreated; that is, you will be emerging in ever-new forms. Just when you conclude you will be a caterpillar for ever and ever, a butterfly will emerge from the cocoon. Limit your expressions to 'Now I am. . .,' always holding the door of your mind open to whatever you may become.
"Judgments of yourself will be laid aside. As yourself, you may say, 'I feel good,' or, 'I feel bad at this time,' but never will you conclude, 'I am good '--or 'bad.' All judging is to be left to God. Nor will you cling to any other conclusions such as that you are smart, dumb, clever, stupid, handsome, ugly or crazy. Certainly you will relinquish all notions of being better or worse than any other person, animal or plant.
"In like manner you will unfigure all conclusions about any of your emotions, memories, beliefs, fantasies, thoughts or desires. As yourself you may declare what you feel, think, or want, but you are not to judge either as good or bad. Only as a false god can you presume to pass judgment on yourself or any of your attributes. Your human business is becoming yourself rather than judging yourself.
"If you function in an inferior manner, you may say, 'I did poorly that time;' but never conclude, 'I am stupid.' If you perform well, you may say, 'I am pleased;' but do not say 'I am good.' If an emotion disturbs you, say, 'I am upset.' Never proceed to the judgment, 'That is a bad feeling.'
"Eliminate should and ought from your vocabulary and practice. Both tempt you to omniscience. Only as a false god can you pretend to know what you should feel, think, want, say or do. Certainly you may deduct, based on your prior experience, and say, 'It appears to me that the most practical choice would be. . .' However, do not venture beyond the seemingly feasible to the domain of the ultimately right. Unfigure every should and ought which your godly 'I' pretends to know.
"In dying to 'I', you abandon the right to praise or condemn, compliment or criticize yourself. Only as a double-minded person could you be judging yourself while engaged in being yourself. If you are one, all energy will go to being. None will remain for judging yourself good or bad.
"Immortality is the third godly attribute you must abandon if you are to die to 'I'. Only God is forever. So long as you assume perpetual existence you remain a false god. Mortals have limited time. If you are to become yourself, you must quit living as though you have forever."
I was so overwhelmed by the implications of what She said that I dared ask no more. Silently I nodded to Her, turned without saying goodbye, and walked away. It was to be weeks before I regained my mental balance after that meeting.