Not You.
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Not You. michael sean symonds















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After Thought #23
March 30, 2010

Tired of being me; The role of identity.

There appear to be times in life when we bump head on into self engendered thinking; definitions of self and world that no longer serve the goal of Being Who We Are.  The judgments, the comparisons, the assumptions and beliefs; the measurements of understanding that were and are, consciously and unconsciously engrained and adopted; used as prescription to guide and inform and more often or not, determine us in the understanding of who we imagine our self to be.

The wisdom of awareness is the process of waking up from outdated ways, the common thinking with which we define and limit Self and others.  The labels, the beliefs and the assumptions; the imagined clarity and delusion of “preference” that shapes and influences who we think we are as an “I” that lives and breathes in the world of form an phenomena.

Radical Spirituality requires a radical awakening; an awakening of awareness that undermines our present cognitive process.  It’s the intentionally or unintentional breaking down of accumulated ideas and beliefs of self that we have: that we gave ourselves, that we were given, and that we will inevitable give.  The same ideas that so often easily diminish Self and others, in a hundred, thousand, different ways.

This is the heart and inherent success of any “authentic” Spiritual Path; a “path” that demands its own investigation, enquiry and validity.  Where we challenge and thwart the very integrity of an idea we imagined and believed to be true. To reveal a process, a potential demise of the very ‘path” we have trodden.

We are not speaking of accumulation here; this is not the true path of transformation.  We are not looking to add more understanding, new ideas, or more innuendo to a perception of reality that is already overwhelmed and deluded; burdened by a life of seduction into endless knowledge and the pursuit of achievement; the avoidance of loss; the clarity or confusion; the merit of doing.  We are not talking of tenure or so called mastery of this or that.

Most of us spend our lives in the pursuit of defining ourselves.  We could say that it is hardwired into our nervous system as a way to learn to survive in more and more sophisticated ways.  It’s a biologically driven mandate: “I’ve got to define myself”; “I’ve got to define myself”. “The more “I” can define myself, the more “I” can survive in better, more successful ways”. “If “I” try to define myself as a man or woman, brother or sister, student or teacher; as a seeker or “finder”, then, “I” will survive in better ways.  Then, “I” will survive in more successful ways.  Then, “I” will survive in more powerful, safer, attractive ways.  Then and only then, “I” will be happier!”

The purpose of life appears to be the journey of defining one self in more and more sophisticated and meaningful ways; but what if it is not?  What if we did not place such a high importance on defining ourselves: as a boy or girl, gay or straight, black or white, Christian, Hindu, Muslim or Jew?

What if our definition of Self lay not so much in the foundation of our conditioning, our family or our community?

What if we did not define ourselves by what we did or do?

What if we did not define ourselves with regard to our political systems, culture or country?  What if we did not define or think of ourselves so much in terms of the content of our past and future, our fears or dreams, our joys or sadness; all those ideas that arise from our sanitized, narrowly defined meaning of success and failure?

What if we deliberately and intentionally decided to NOT define our selves any more?

What if we decided to un-define the defined?

What if we decided to examine and question the validity of all our past and present defining?

Where would it take us?

How would it affect us?

How would it shape and influence the way we think, feel, see and “do” life?

It’s not going to feel comfortable you know!  It’s going to slam you head first into the grain of your modus operandi in life; the ways in which you live your life in order to survive.  It’s going to slap you in the face with some of your most hard core defining, and the “you” that you imagined yourself to be.

“This is how “I” defined myself”, “This is how “I” am defining myself”.  “This is how “I” will define myself…”

Most of us think of ourselves as separate individual entities; distinctly removed from nature, each other, and everything.   But what if it’s not true?  What if we’re not so separate?

What if the distinction that appears to occur is a side effect of our defining; a ramification of our thinking and the very language that it’s anchored to?

What if the ideas, notions, perceptions, associations, memories and feelings that we have used to define ourselves in more concrete ways, have actually removed us from the truth of who we were, Who We Are and who we can Be?

What if it has isolated us from the roots of our humanity and the humanity of others?

What if, as a result of our obsessive, compulsive defining, we have instead created barriers in the use of language and thinking; in our philosophies of doing and being that temporarily prevent us from experiencing the inherent truth of Who We Are, and the potential freedom we could actually have, living from that level of Being?

What if we no longer defined our self through the hurt, the pain and the rejection we all experience?   What if we no longer defined our self according to the conditions that exist within our mind, body and world?

How would this impact “you”?

How would it change “you”?

How would it transform the way “you” think, feel and “do” life?

How exactly do we define ourselves then?

Simple answer: we don’t!

We stop defining ourselves and we begin to examine, question and investigate the impact of that defining and the meaning we give our experience.  We begin to notice; we become aware of how all struggle, confusion and suffering: both personal and universal, is based on ones attempt to define oneself; to protect oneself in that imagined definition, meaning, and story we give to all life experience.

Every time we define ourselves, we limit ourselves.  Every time we define ourselves, we create a distinction where there is none.  Every time we define ourselves we bound the unbound.  We trap ourselves in a box of words and ideas, notions and philosophies that can only, inevitably, limit the true expression of Who We Are.

The art of Renewal…
March 3, 2008

I just received this email question from The World Café and thought it would make an interesting post for my blog. If you are inspired by the question I invite you to reply to this post with a comment; something you feel, think, or have experienced around the process of renewal. I have also left some information about World Cafe at the end of my entry for those who are inspired by the process and dance of enquiry.


Here is the context and question:

As you read this question, the process of renewal is occurring in communities, cities, businesses and organizations where we work and live all over the world.

What role does renewal play in addressing the challenges of the world today?

…While this question tempts me to look “out there” for a response, training and a touch of obsession requires me to look “in here”, as ~ inside myself, in order to fully respond with integrity to this enquiry. There is no doubt that many circumstances, situations and challenges exist in the world today that are screaming for renewal. Renewal is a very nice word. I would be more inclined to say overhaul ~ but I’ll play by the rules, this time…

: )

Nature thrives on the element of renewal. Nature sustains itself on allowing the natural process of renewal to exist and flourish at every level of its expression. Whether we look to the seasons, night or day or the rhythms of our physiology, the element of renewal appears to be threaded as a need into the pulse of all life and humanity. Most human beings have lost touch with the renewal that naturally exists as a result of having an intimate relationship with nature, both inwardly and outwardly. Most human beings crave for the inherent sustainability that unfolds effortlessly as a result of Being in alignment with nature, with Self, with renewal.

To reignite the fire of renewal on the outside, we must first cultivate it on the inside. To be connected to our inner nature, allows us to connect to and respond successfully to the forms and phenomena of our extended outer nature. I want to be clear that I’m not suggesting in any way we ignore the compassionate pleas of humanity or the Earth on the outside. We need to pursue the calls of our compassionate attention, to the needs of all mankind including the Earth. We just need to be clear were the source of our greatest challenges lie. I imagine that if the entire population of the earth were eliminated in the twinkling of an eye, the planet would easily thrive without the need of our attendance, within a few decades. When we come from a place clarity rather than confusion; when we express from a place of creative freedom, our choices will be then informed by our inner wisdom, rather than determined by our outer reasoning.

Personal renewal, Self renewal, psychological, emotional, and “Spiritual” renewal, is the platform and foundation for all the social, environmental, or political renewal we could ever want, need or desire in life. In my own life and through the observation of the lives of others over years, I have scene the impact of applying or neglecting the practice of Self renewal or Self care on ones life. Through experience (pain and suffering) I have learned that my entire life will be a process of learning and practicing Self renewal in order for me to continue from a place of inspiration, balance and joy, while also having the energy, passion and commitment to move out into the world to serve, where my gifts and talents are uniquely received. When I can take care of my own needs first, I’ll be more inspired and renewed to take care of the needs of others.

While I may not have the bells and whistles that most might say are the signs of successful living, I feel very full! I have lived my life pursuing the gifts, talents and hunger for inner inspiration and have reached a place where an endless supply of contentment is available for the sharing and service to others. It’s not always been this way, and I know that with neglect or inattention I can quickly lose the momentum of this state. The practice of personal renewal, whether that be daily meditation, a daily abhyanga (self massage), walks in nature, creativity, surrounding myself with people that nurture and inspire me or pursuing the dreams and visions I have for my life, all are my own favorite (learned) ways to engage actively the experience, expression and application of renewal in my life.

I think I can say with confidence and without the need of studies, statistics, or polls that when enough of the planet has learned the method and magic of Self renewal, there will be a time where we will wake up one fine morning and the world and our life, will have changed forever…

About World Café Europe…

We are an emerging group of engaged individuals from all over Europe who are committed to contribute to the on-going development of the WORLD CAFÉ by providing forums to try out new approaches in real-life environments.

All of our efforts are designed to foster a new culture of conversation among organizations, businesses and people from all walks of life. Through the use of various forms of communication, World Café Europe would like to provide opportunities for individuals to become active participants in conversations. We hope that through their participation, these individuals will experience a deep exchange of knowledge with one another and feel empowered to explore the potential of collective intelligence to address the questions that matter for Europeans today and in the future.

For more information:

The “I”llusion of self esteem…
February 28, 2008


All psychology, spirituality and religion is based on the belief in the existence of a subject “I”.  The agenda is to improve, transform, save or reframe how we feel about this “I”.  We do affirmations, go to therapy, chant our mantras and pray to our god, gods or goddesses with the hope it will make us “feel” better, be saved, go to heaven or become enlightened as an “I”.While these tools CAN be helpful, providing some comfort in life, inevitably these methods are only a band aid to the ongoing suffering we experience.  They unfortunately reinforce not only the existence of an “I” (me, mine, you, us, them) but also the source of our personal and worldly suffering in the first place ~ not knowing the true Self which is beyond the “I”. 

When we focus and identifying with the false self, the “I” that has a body, a past, an imagined future, a story of pleasure and pain, suffering and joy, we perpetuate the lie of the “I”.  To focus only on making a better or more improved “I”, will not eliminate the suffering and pain you experience in life because you will always be caught up in the swing of a pendulum.  For every positive thought there is always a negative thought. 

To eliminate suffering you need to move beyond the swing of the pendulum, beyond the duality, beyond the perception of seeing your self and others as separate, individual things or “I”s.  Extra stress, confusion and denial will occur in your life if you think you always have to have positive thoughts.  It’s fine to have positive thoughts when you’re having them, but you may have noticed they are never permanent.  There will always be another thought and at some point it will become a “negative” thought.  One day you will have high esteem, the next day you will feel like you have no esteem.  You end up getting stuck in tape loop process, fixated on the kinds of thoughts you are having or not having. 

Psychology, Spirituality and religion place an added detriment by labeling and suggesting positive thoughts are  “saintly”, “good” and “righteous”, while negative thoughts are correspondingly “bad”, “evil” and wrong, which only further perpetuates the feeling  “there is something’s wrong with me”… eliminating any gained esteem.  The only way out of this dilemma is to acknowledge a deeper truth that exists.  That at the deepest level it does no matter whether you have esteem or not, that it does not really matter if you are having positive or negative thoughts because they ultimately come from the same place as does everything else that exists.  Everything arises and subsides “too and from the same place”.  To know this experientially, to be vigilant in recognizing this, to come to terms with this allows you to move beyond the swing of pendulum and the trance of duality that the majority of the population lives in.  

You can spend the rest of your life trying to improve your self esteem, trying to deal with the memories, emotions, thoughts, feelings, beliefs, attitudes that perpetuate the illusion of an “I” that has esteem, or not.  Or you can awaken the observer/witness within you and learn to watch all of it arise and subside without judgment, evaluation, assessment or significance. 

 With practice, it is possible experience a level of detachment that provides you with a taste of freedom.  You notice things appear to exist as an expression of duality, but you become less distracted and disturbed by them.  You begin to accept the co-existence of opposites in life, but you are no longer caught up in the hysteria and drama because you are no longer identified too and as them.  You know experientially those thoughts, feelings, emotions, perceptions, memories and body are not who you are.  

Ironically the mind can become more and more settled.  You begin to notice that the mind is silent while you are thinking, because you are no longer identifying with the thought and its drama, but instead, you identify with the timeless source from where all thought emerges from.  There is a time when a thought that is needed will arise spontaneously, effortlessly, and it will be the “perfect” thought for the moment, it will be the right response or thought for that moment.  Your esteem has become a non issue, the psychology that was the “I” has become a non issue. 

There are many people in life who have practiced meditation, spirituality, religion and therapy and are still stuck because they still perceive reality through the perception of the “I” that needs to be managed, an “I” that will always have limits. They still believe in the lie of the “I”. 

Say by to the “I”     

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