By Donna D’Cruz
It’s no wonder that we don’t feel like ourselves so much of the time. The increasing online projection of our activities makes us question who we are. We feel constantly judged. We compare ourselves to others more than ever.
I come from the land that worships millions of gods, goddesses, demons and angels and I ask, how shall we worship the self? Who is the self?
In the recent Hulu series Nine Perfect Strangers, starring Nicole Kidman and Melissa McCarthy, there’s a very poignant moment when all the participants at the wellness retreat center, Tranquillum House, are required to dig and lie down in their own grave and reflect on the merits of their life. A solipsistic character, a major social media Influencer, crumbles when she admits that her foremost thought was not on the value and journey of her life, but rather wondering what the comments would be after her death.
Our “lens” has become crusty with caked-on crud as we insist on turning that lens toward a perfectly polished, artificial sense of self. We are the recipients of a bizarre veneration as we ceaselessly edit and present this version of ourselves and a utopian “reality.” We seem to relish being rewarded by having influence, followers and likes. Why do we perpetuate this war of contradictions and nurture this prickly paradise? During the past 15 years, we have created and logged more content (pictures, images, videos etc.) than we did in the preceding 15,000 years. To what end?
I got the memo; we all got it. It’s easier in some ways to create and live with the fantasy—an engineered, manicured subjective reality—rather than dealing with an objective reality. “Reality,” whatever that is, continues to be even stranger than fiction as we face COVID variants and restrictions, challenges to the ecology, threats to biodiversity, ongoing disruptions and corruption, political entropy, racism, sexism, ageism, questionable science, cancel culture, FOMO and gaslighting, to name just a few.
How do we answer the questions: What does a transformed world look like? What is important to me? Am I doing what I love? What is my purpose? Am I making enough of a contribution? The great Joseph Campbell encourages us to “Follow your bliss.” Am I doing that?
Campbell continues, “When you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you. The life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time.”
Tuning in to this deeper questioning and response requires stillness. Let’s try this exercise together now. Find a quiet, comfy spot to sit, close your eyes and take a long, slow, deep breath in through the nose. Exhale through the nose. Let’s try it again—take a long slow deep breath in through the nose. Hold for two counts, then exhale through the nose. As you start to get quiet and your lens gets clearer, ask yourself the questions: What does a balanced, peaceful, world look like? What does it feel like? Am I balanced?
I know, it’s a lot to process. In quiet times, we can lean into what might be a most glorious invitation during a global disruption to dig even deeper to find our own stillness, and the path of inquiry and self- realization. In stillness, we can embrace the wondrous idea that the world outside and the world inside are not separate, but one. As Albert Einstein said, “The soul given to each of us is moved by the same living spirit that moves the Universe.”