How many times have you felt anxious when you were required to face a stressful situation, such as interviewing for a new job, speaking in public, or going on a date with a prospective new love interest? And how many times, when you asked your closest friends or mentors for advice, did they try to allay your fears by telling you, “Don’t worry – just be yourself”? Probably, your friends meant:
- You’re a good candidate for this position and are fully qualified for the job;
- You have lots of valuable information to share that your audience will appreciate; or
- You are a fun-loving person who your date will enjoy.
And your friends may be completely correct. But even deeper, the simple advice, “Just be yourself,” contains a nugget of profound wisdom that goes far beyond attracting money, fame or love. “Being yourself” is your one and only mission on earth.
You were created in the image of God. This means you were born to create. Your life’s mission is to tap into your inner self and express the wisdom that lies within – that is, Be Yourself.
This is not easy. In today’s world, you are continually conditioned to define yourself by a number of external, superficial characteristics, such as your: name, age, gender, race, nationality, occupation, religious affiliation, marital status, familial relationship, political party, economic status, educational degree, or other such label.
And if everyday language is not already limiting enough, there’s a whole list of acronyms to further define you: SWF – Single, White, Female or DINKS – Dual Income, No Kids. All such names or acronyms are inherently limiting. You are a majestic spiritual being experiencing life on earth with a body, heart and mind.
So how do you “Be yourself”? One self-realized sage, Nisargadatta Maharaj, taught that the best way to learn to be yourself is to first recognize what you are not. His teachings are simple, devoid of religious jargon or dogma. He believed that in order to help anyone, in order to change the world, you must first know who you are. Many of his discussions would begin with “Do you know who you are?”
People would fumble around trying to answer the question, not quite knowing how to answer. What he taught is that you are beyond your body, beyond your heart, beyond your mind, beyond even consciousness; you are the witness that sees yourself seeing, that perceives yourself perceiving. You are the apex of the “I” … which leads in to who you truly are – the Oneness that mystics seek. Clearly, you are not any of the superficial things we mentioned earlier.
- You are not your body. After all, who is directing your body?
- You are not your emotions. For who is feeling these emotions?
- You are not your mind. For who is thinking these thoughts?
Nisargadatta taught that all attempts to limit or define yourself lead to conflict. Definitions based on your own memories are needlessly repetitive and limiting. When you know who you are, you can transcend your limitations, including your past, and be a true Creator. Self-realization is primarily the knowledge of this conditioning, i.e., the mystic’s goal “to know thyself.”
In the mystic world, all is One. There is nothing outside of the One. There is only the One thing. Now, you know that you exist. And you cannot ever not exist. So, knowing that there is only the One thing and that you do exist, there is only one logical conclusion:
When we keep contemplating, “Who am I?” we go all the way back to the beginning, to the essence, to the innermost self. Then we realize that we are all the One.
When you tap into that innermost self, there is no stress. There is nothing that is needed. When you act, directed by your inner voice, you are aligned with your highest purpose and you will automatically do what is best in any circumstance.
This may involve “chopping wood and carrying water,” as the Zen proverb advises. Or cutting out extraneous activities that do not provide spiritual nourishment. The seemingly tumultuous times that we are entering will encourage more people to go within and seek out their true purpose in life.
So, as the flawed institutions crumble around you, as more horror stories appear daily on the “news,” remember, everything is unfolding according to a divine plan. Everything is exactly as it should be. You are a magnificent spiritual being. Listen to your inner voice and “be yourself.”
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