This being my first blog, it’s been challenging to come up with a theme other than how we tend to view individual ‘firsts’. Since I’m 71 years old, it’s interesting to have another first. More often the last few years I’ve begun to think of events in terms of being last rather than first. However, there are quite a few firsts now. First pandemic. First time tens of thousands of my fellow US citizens have died within the borders of the country in such a short period of time and all from the same cause.
Isolation is a first. However, since I’ve done long-term retreats before and have been meditating for decades, staying in my cottage with a large garden outside and four pets hasn’t been a hardship. My other long-term retreats took place in houses with other retreatants and, if not others doing a meditation retreat, at least with others in residence. So that part is new.
Another first is going to sleep grieving for all those suffering, dying, or who have passed, and waking up grieving for them, for the entire situation, for all our broken hearts.
Often during the day, however, thoughts of what the future of humanity will be when this pandemic is either over, or controlled, urge me inward toward contemplation of the personal scenario with the idea that, since I’m human, my thoughts, ideas and/or visions might resonate with others.
I began with searching out anything that has brought even the smallest inner relief lately and what came to mind was the fact that the title of “Lama” is something that drops away most of the time now. That letting go of the teacher role is essential in order to immerse myself in my innermost awareness mind.
Further, it wasn’t just the title or the job that was being dropped – it was a label that was no longer being applied, either by myself or by others.
And there it was. There was the answer to why I felt such relief in isolation – because anything that defines, like a label, also constricts, confines, minimizes and steals away other, maybe infinite, possibilities. Our minds are capable of vast, and vastly more interesting, creative potential that can be stifled by the labels we attach to our persona.
I thought of quite a few concerns about labeling. One is that we buy into the label we’ve given ourselves because that’s the way we want others to perceive us. Does that become a trap? Obviously a possibility, because what happens when one decides to change the self-imposed label? Do others go along with that change? Or have they bought into one’s label and resist changing their perception?
Of all these possibilities, I think what might do actual damage is when one identifies so strongly with one’s label that it becomes a belief rather than a thing that simply helps others pin one down. That the label becomes the identity and the identity becomes a construct within which no other possibilities can arise. When we think of labels in those terms, does anyone truly want to be pinned down to the point that one’s mind habituates itself to a construct of who you are? What does that do to the resilience of mind? When you go inward – without considering the outer world – do you find labels there? If so, what happens if you allow yourself to go beyond them?
My feeling is that letting go of our labels can provide a first step towards liberating our minds. Can letting go of the role, the job, the habit, set us free both creatively and emotionally at least to some degree?
Since this is the end of the first blog, maybe I’ll end the next few with questions, too. I’m interested in questioning, examining, searching more deeply whenever possible to find ways to reduce and/or cut through concepts that no longer serve. Maybe cutting through them will serve us all.
What questions are you contemplating? Share them and every once in a while, I’ll choose one to write about.