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.
April 28, 2014
ALAN: You’re allowed. Okay? And the reason you’re allowed is because you don’t MEAN to hurt him, you’re not trying to hurt him. This is really, really important for all of you to hear. When you hold things back or you’re untrue to yourself because you’re afraid of hurting someone, there’s an incredible step you can take. In your heart, without saying anything – not making yourself a guru, just quietly in your own heart and consciousness – you give this person permission to feel whatever they feel when you are true to yourself. You TRUST that it is good for them to feel whatever they’re feeling!
I’m like this with you all the time. I give you my truth, and there are times when my truth may make you cry, or make you angry. I accept because I am not out to hurt you; on the contrary, when I give my truth, the harder it may be to hear, the more important that I give it lovingly. If I give you my truth it is because my soul tells me that I need to say this. I give myself permission to say it, and you have my permission to feel whatever you feel. I’m inviting you to open and be friendly with whatever I am touching in you. If you get angry, by the way, it is usually because you are NOT in friendship with what is being touched in you. So you want to fight and argue – your anger is a defence against what you don’t like in yourself. This is why, whenever you get angry, it is good to breathe into and tune in with where the anger is coming from, instead of just acting out your anger. There is lots more to say about being angry, but I’ll keep it for later.
So if I say something to you and you feel like you want to cry, my sincere hope is that you will allow yourself your tears. Or laughter, or anger! But not walk away! I want you to learn how to keep being here anyway. This is one of the greatest gifts you can give each other here: be real and allow everybody else here to experience whatever they experience in encountering your realness. This is what makes The Art of Being different from what’s happening out there in the world. People are afraid to affect each other. It is as though everybody is wearing a ‘Do not disturb!’ sign. Then we are all isolated from each other, afraid to touch each other’s feelings. Our feelings are how we find each other!
T.S. Eliot in one of his poems has a very timid man ask: Do I dare disturb the universe? Yes, and each other. It’s all about your intention. If you have bad intentions, it just means that you need to make friends with the fears and wounds that drive them. If your intention is to open your heart, awaken into being and learn how to BE IN LOVE, that’s all the intention you really need. Then if your man is upset by your truth, let him be upset. And you can say to him, I’m sorry you’re upset, I love you anyway. You can even say goodbye with love if you have to.
April 21, 2013
No matter how much we may try to shut it down – and life sometimes pushes us that way! – our soul yearns to play its full and mystical part in our daily life. Deep down, we know this! I think this is the dearest longing in all beings. If we respond, the longing takes us on our personal journey of opening and awakening. It is our Odyssey. Some of our friends and acquaintances may not understand. Still, we have to go, and pray that our trust will bring us home.
September 26, 2012