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The self, the story, the truth, pt3

Continued from part two (read part one here)

There’s little use to fighting with reality: choose your battles wisely. The mind is a wonderful tool, if we use it correctly, and part of its function is to constantly create thoughts, interpretations, stories, etc. The important thing is to disentangle or disidentify from the contents of our thoughts, from the interpretations layered over reality. We need not deny these interpretations, or try to make them wrong, or try to silence them. We may even welcome these interpretations as useful (thank you, mind, for doing your thing), and at the same time simply not identify with those interpretations. This is a subtle but essential difference.

I would like to suggest that our stories (about ourselves, about who we are, about life, and so forth) are deliberate oscillations of the true Self. This means that, in software parlance, the stories are a feature of reality, not a bug. They are a naturally-occurring second layer of reality. Aldous Huxley wrote something like “Experience is not what happens to you, it’s what you do with what happens to you.” Part of what we do is create stories, narratives, and interpretations of our direct experience of reality.

This is part of the co-creation of our lives. The stories layered onto the ground of being, these “layers” of reality, can be thought of as the pure, unbroken true Self dancing with itself. If there were only the ground of being, nothing would ever happen: pure Śiva with no Śakti; pure stillness and no movement; pure consciousness and no way to experience it. You can think of the stories, the movement, the dance, and the oscillations I refer to here as being like waves on the ocean, while the ocean in this metaphor is the larger pattern of reality.

There is nothing at all “wrong” with the ocean having waves, and in fact they are an integral part of the ocean. The sea was never meant to be still, or motionless, or flat. In the same way, there is nothing wrong with having stories; we are “built” that way. Stories are part of our subjective experience, and are how we make meaning and give purpose to our lives. Each individual is a collection of stories and forms a particular oscillation in the pattern. The oscillation itself is what you call your “self”.

We exist as patterns within the larger whole, and our stories are part of the formation and maintenance of both the larger pattern as well as the pattern we each identify as our self. But when we forget that we are a part of the larger whole —inextricably and fundamentally part of the whole— and when we identify with our stories to the degree that we lose touch with the underlying reality, pain and suffering are bound to arise.

The narratives we live by are usually created for one of two reasons: either to blend in, to fit in, to be just like others; or to be different, to stand out, to prove our specialness. The author known as Isak Dinesen said, “All sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story.” The creation of stories to understand and contextualize our lives is part of our natural operation, and we begin doing this very early in childhood.

Depending on the particularities of life experience that a given person has lived, that person will have created different stories to make sense of things and orient themselves in their life. In fact, creating our personal narrative, the story of who we are, is central to leading a life of meaning. How can we know who we are unless we tell our stories?

Let me know how this lands for you, and I’ll have more on this soon.


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