I listened to a beautiful dharma talk by Jaya Rudgard this morning about the ways we identify with our experience and from that create a sense of self, and how our relationship with our sense of self can cause us so much difficulty.
As I listened, I found myself nodding in agreement and recognition of the simple truth of being human: we can't help but create a sense of self - in fact we have to have one to get along in the world - but in doing so, we set our selves up for unhappiness and disappointment. The Buddhist concept of non-identification (also known as non-self) can be such a challenging one to grasp, and I'm only now beginning to understand it in a deeper way. The problem isn't that we each have a sense of self, it's in our relationship to it. We hold on tight, or push it away, or go to extraordinary lengths to protect it from changing. So, so true.
Freedom is found as we start to soften around this sense of who we are. By this, I mean we gently open ourselves to finding acceptance. Humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers said:
"The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change."
Once we can accept that this is how we are, this is what we do, this is how it is right now, then we can stop fighting ourselves and start to open to the possibility of growth, change, and a deeper source of happiness. Acceptance doesn't mean we necessarily like what we see, but it does mean putting down the weapons and cultivating kindness for ourselves - and consequently for others as well. And out of this compassion and acceptance, a sense of ease and equanimity can grow.
Such a rich talk, so clearly given. The lovely thing about a talk like this is that you don't have to be Buddhist to listen and appreciate all the wisdom it holds. If you find yourself with quiet time, give it a listen.