GOT TO GET ME INTO MY LIFE! Personality and Being, Pt 2

(inspired by a recent conversation with a very nice guy)

The personality games that people play are all rooted in fear and mistrust of being real. Take, for example, the child who learns, “If I’m not a good boy, people don’t like me. When I am a good boy, I get what I want.” The stage is set for Mr. Nice Guy to run the show when he grows up.  Behind the scenes is his fear – of rejection, of not being good enough – with all its threatening consequences that can often be summed up in one word: loneliness.

This isn’t so surprising. When we are cut off from ourselves we are lonely, and acting out the role of our personality – for example being the nice guy – we have no chance to say hello to the one hidden inside our costume. In the depths of our soul we long for the one we cannot be. We may not even know anyone is there, living in the belief that our personality is who we really are. It’s like acting in a constantly running movie called Who I Try to Be. There are people who live their whole lives in the movie. Their real being never gets to experience and celebrate the light of day. Their real life passes by unlived.

Trying to be occupies centre-stage when in our growing years there was nobody inviting us to trust and live our real feelings and experiences: we were not supposed to be sad or angry or too boisterous or explorative, or even to enjoy ourselves too much. The message we received was, “It’s not OK to be me!”

There are so many ways to tell children that they are not supposed to be themselves! If they are punished for being so, they may grow up vengeful too. In any case, what to do? How to be happy, or at least feel safe? Ah, design an acceptable personality costume! Even better, design one that is admired and rewarded. Or, if life has just been too nasty to you, build yourself a suit of armour and go to war against the world. Or an insulation kit so that you just don’t feel anything. Nice, nasty or anaesthetised, our personality costumes can ensure that we never discover our inner being. This is the magical one, the one who can be creative, light, warm-hearted, intelligent (rather than just clever); the one who can love and laugh and care; the one who can sense the mysteries of soul and spirit; the one who can be here, fully alive and awake to all that is here now. Of course, you can design a costume to act all of these qualities. How to tell the difference? It’s easy; your real being has no ulterior motive – no trying to get anything, no need to make people like you, no money-making agenda, no lust for power or stardom – no politics! By the same token, having a good personality wardrobe is a valuable asset; after all, politics can be useful, even creative! What matters is whether you are present inside the costume you are wearing. To put it another way, is your personality serving you, or running you?

“So if my childhood drove me into my personality and that’s all I know, what can I do about it?”

If I am asking myself the question at all, I’ve already started doing something about it. Personality is not interested in the question. It believes in itself. If the nice guy is convinced that he is for real, there is no question! If the nasty guy is satisfied with hurting other people, there is no question. The question only arises because something deeper – yes, hidden inside the costume – is stirring, listening, sensing that perhaps all is not as it seems. Self-discovery begins with doubt; when the doubt leads to wondering, then the question becomes the quest and our journey from personality into being begins. That’s when people get interested in experiential adventures; it is certainly what has brought a lot of people to Art of Being workshops over the past three decades. But there is something anyone can try without going anywhere special – just bringing it into one’s ordinary daily life – and it can be magically transforming. It’s very simple, and needs only your trust and courage. All you have to do is catch yourself in the act! Become aware of your personality costume – your habit – while you are in it:  playing Mr. Nice, being nasty, complaining, blaming others, doing poor me, having to win every argument, being the know-all, talking the hind legs off the donkey, being holy, acting the fool, laughing at everything … the list goes on and on.

At first you may only catch yourself after the act, or when you’re well into it. What matters – and this is why you need trust and courage – is that the moment you become aware of it, you let it go. You take a deep breath and as you breathe out, you simply release yourself from your habit. You drop the charm, you stop talk-talk-talking, you quietly lose the argument, you leave the joke unfinished, and so on. And you don’t do anything instead! This is the critical factor. You don’t cover up by shifting to a different personality game. You simply let yourself be there in a state of not knowing how to be. You are likely to feel all kinds of uncomfortable things at first –helpless, embarrassed, perhaps a bit foolish – but that is only part of what is happening. If you keep paying attention to the gap you have allowed yourself to experience, it begins to come alive. Nobody else needs to know what is happening. You don’t explain yourself – that is just another hiding place. You simply keep breathing into all that is happening within you.

If you dare to keep catching yourself for the coming 6 months – yes, I mean months! – this gives you time to regularly catch yourself before you go into your personality game. By this time you are becoming aware of the much more mysterious being who is waking up; you are beginning to say hello to the one you have been ignoring all your life, the one you are now becoming! Your friends, work-mates, your sweetheart, your spouse, your kids and your parents will wonder at how you’ve changed; and everyone will enjoy you more, except people who are afraid of being themselves. They may find you scary, though you may also be their inspiration to discover their own magic!

There is one more thing: finding the trust and courage to catch yourself in the act and then to gradually and continuously make friends with all you encounter in yourself can be very challenging. It can be so daunting that you simply dare not. That’s when it could be really valuable to participate in one of those self-realisation experiences that is essentially calling you into your being. This is the metapurpose, the something else that is at play in all Art of Being workshops. It really doesn’t matter what the theme is: Tantra if you want to explore your sexuality; death if that is your abiding fear or you always have trouble letting go; soul if you feel like you’ve lost yours; childhood regression if you have wounds to heal; a couples workshop if your relationship is in a rut or on the rocks. The theme is whatever attracts you; it is your chosen path of learning. What matters is the mysterious opening and awakening that is happening in you during the workshop because there is something else going on all the time. This something else is the real treasure, invisibly radiating in all that happens. It is what guides you out of your personality hideouts into the vibrant, life-changing magic of being.

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(edited from a talk to participants in the Love, Sex and Shadows workshop for couples in Czech Republic last month)

Most of our schooling – what we call education – can be summed up as “think about it”. Never mind learning to be present in your whole being, never mind really experiencing what is going on; just think about it and be able to talk about it, and have apparently intelligent things to say about it. Then you are considered educated. If other people are doing the same – and so many are – they don’t notice that you are thinking life instead of experiencing it. A lot of the chatter is just so much comfortable noise to cover everyone’s absence!

It’s the great disservice foisted on us by our schooling. Learning to think life saves us from feeling too much – especially from feeling vulnerable, which is still such a taboo for many people. But the fact is that if we want to fully experience life, we have to be able to feel how it touches us, and that can only happen if we are in friendship with all our feelings. Otherwise we reject our inner life, and likewise reject it in others. Scorn, sarcasm, bullying, intimidation, even joking, or just talk-talk-talk – anything to shut out the inner life we’ve learned to shun. That is where our educational systems have failed, and it is a massive failure.

If you just pay attention to yourself, you can become aware of how your personality functions to make sure that you don’t feel anything you have learned to avoid in yourself, and the games you play to keep your highly developed personality in control of the show. It’s hardly surprising that it is so. Our image-obsessed culture is a product of its own schooling. It doesn’t know any better than to believe that our personality is who we really are. Just look at how personality is idolized by the media! The crazy truth is that it is our personality that conceals our real being.

So this evening I am inviting you and your partner into a ceremony in which you are guided into removing the costumes of your personalities so that you can meet each other in an experience that may actually be quite magical. You see, if your personalities are running your relationship, they have to constantly sabotage the possibility of deep intimacy, because personality is only interested in its own survival. It is nothing more than a costume that thinks it is who you really are. As long as it is running the show, its deepest intention is to keep running the show, which prevents you from ever discovering the truth of your real being. Only you in your whole, open, sensing and feeling being can ever experience the magic and mystery of meeting another in his or her whole being. Or indeed of being on your own, fully in touch with yourself and so in an intimate relationship with life itself. It all happens because you are in friendship with your feeling life.

Way back in the 1920’s, D. H. Lawrence said it beautifully in Lady Chatterley’s Lover, his great novel celebrating sexual love: “While you live your life, you are in some way an organic whole with all life. But once you start the mental life, you pluck the apple. You’ve severed the connection between the apple and the tree: the organic connection. And if you’ve got nothing in your life but the mental life, then you yourself are a plucked apple, you’ve fallen off the tree.”

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The Paradox of Surrender

edited from a talk in June 2012, with members of Alan’s current Body, Heart & Soul Training               

Yes, the paradox again! This is why in the wild phase of the Art of Being meditation I try to give you this one guiding line – to keep your hands, mouth and pelvis moving passionately all the time, and to let that wild expression be your meditation. You’ve heard me say it so many times, meditation means being with what is. “OK, what IS, for the next twelve minutes, are the hands, mouth and pelvis moving all the time, so I will give myself to this and be in it no matter what!”

It’s a choice I invite you to make every morning as the meditation begins, so that during this time you’re watching all this stuff going on in your mind. It protests, “Wait a minute, I don’t want to move this morning.” And this is precisely the point! You’ve already chosen that for this time, almost an hour, you are in this meditation, surrendering to its structure. I’ve never said this to you before, but to surrender to a structure and to therefore stay with it no matter what is going on in your mind is an amazing way to release yourself from your mind stuff. As a matter of fact, The Art of Being meditation is a 50-minute microcosm of what I lived for eight years with Osho. When I became a sannyasin (disciple), even though I’d already found a lot of freedom, my mind was in control in so many ways. There was a big part of me that totally raged against surrendering myself to a master. To be a disciple? Ughh! And there was a much deeper, more valuable place in me that was choosing: I’m willing to put myself through this. At the time that I said yes to it, I didn’t know for how long it would be. I let it be as though it was for the rest of my life.

From the moment I said ‘yes’ to it, I was engaged with the paradox. Surrendering myself to a guru meant that I didn’t run my life any more. I lived in the ashram, and I lived the way we were required to live. I was given the workshops that I was to lead – though one beautiful thing was that Osho never interfered with how we led our workshops. I had no personal money, I didn’t get to choose where I lived. When I was put into a room with another guy the other side of a screen, and an Indian man and his grandmother in a loft built into the room for them, all I could do was rage – then surrender. For eight years I kept on raging and surrendering – with less and less rage! It wasn’t surrender to Osho or surrender to the situation even. It was surrender to all the feelings and inner experiences that were being provoked in me. Every time I wanted to fight and rage was an opportunity to say hello to what I could not – would not! – embrace in my inner world. What I was doing was finding my way through all my judgments and conditions and expectations and requirements and the stuff that ran my life – and that WASN’T ME! I was hidden inside all this reaction, and without the surrender, I would never have come home to myself!

I don’t think you have to surrender to a guru for eight years. I trust that The Art of Being has become something that gives you the opportunity to go through your surrender experiences without having to become anyone’s disciple. The opportunity is there each morning in those 50 minutes of the Art of Being meditation, and of course much more so in the extraordinary commitment that all of you made to be in this 2-year training with me, where you keep on having to let go of your personal agenda that wants to run the show. And you know for yourselves, in that letting go, when you allow it, YOU DISCOVER YOUR OWN ART OF BEING.

P—, you and I are similar in certain ways. I can simply tell you that for me it really worked to surrender when I didn’t want to, and to dare, when I didn’t know if it was me abandoning myself or me giving myself what I need, to choose to surrender anyway. Through this commitment I gradually acquired a vivid sense of what is mine and what is someone else’s. Learning that meant making mistakes, like saying ‘yes’ and then later realising that I should have said ‘yes’ to something deeper in me, which would have been ‘no’ to Osho and even, as it was in the end, to being a disciple. There were things that I experienced in my eight years of being a sannyasin, that I really regret putting on myself. I think I gave myself an unnecessarily hard time – especially in the later years – in my devotion to this Master-disciple relationship. But when I look back from the perspective of who I am now, really I can only say, “Thank you, Osho!” and my regrets evaporate. I’m left with a sense that maybe they were necessary too! Maybe they also dissolved parts of my personality.

For me, surrender is an essential element of the journey into BEING, really being THIS ONE THAT I AM. I found my way home by being willing to surrender myself for those eight years. And during that time I chose to be on the sannyasin path totally! It was really a wild adventure! It’s more than a year ago now that you chose to be on this two-year adventure of the Body, Heart and Soul Training, and you’re all still here! I honour you. And with no ego investment in it at all, I totally recommend to all of you, whenever your personality starts playing up – arguing, knowing better and all that stuff – keep letting go! Your surrender is not to me. You know that doesn’t interest me. No, your surrender is TO ALL THE FEELINGS AND INNER EXPERIENCES  that are being provoked in you by the Training itself. My work is to keep creating these situations where you can discover the magic that happens when you surrender your whole being – into a meditation or an experiential process or a homework assignment; to discover what opens in you, what heals, what lets go, what transforms, what blossoms! AND ALL BECAUSE YOU DARED TO EXPERIENCE SOMETHING THAT WASN’T CONTROLLED BY YOUR PERSONALITY with all its agendas, conditions, attitudes, opinions, fears, desires and politics. This is how your personality’s domination over your life comes to an end. Instead, it becomes the servant of your being. Awakening means that you have stepped out of your personality into your BEING. When your being is guiding your life, your life becomes beautiful. Remember, personality is merely the costume that you wear – actually it’s a wardrobe of costumes that you use for different occasions. And no matter how chic and stylish your costume is, who you really are is the much more magical mystery inside it. Coming home to him or her is what this surrender is all about.

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