Mandala of the Inner Life
To enter into a relationship fully, we must enter it with our full selves. This means bringing all of who we are to the relationship and casting away our fear of not meeting expectations concerning who we are supposed to be. True intimacy requires this, but so does our service to Life. For if we do not bring our deepest self to Life, then we are sharing only a small portion of what God has given to us as gift, awareness, and energy, and are opting for making a lesser contribution to the whole rather than a greater.
There are many limitations we have come to live with that prevent us from entering into relationships more fully. Prominent among these are the roles we play with others, often unknowingly. These roles become a version of reality that we identify with that is not really us - not the fullness of who we are.
When we are involved with people in any situation - in our families, among friends, at work, or in school, we are involved with roles. We are surrounded by expectations and standards concerning how we are supposed to act and what we are supposed to say. Each of these expectations, if identified with too closely, limits our freedom to be who we are. Each creates a substitution for true self-awareness.
Expectations and standards are what roles are made of. There is no society or culture that is free of them, for it is the purpose of culture to teach its members how to behave. Generally, these role expectations concern behavior, but often they include feelings as well. When a role we are asked to play is oriented toward action or behavior, it is easier for us to take part in it than if it concerns both action and feeling. This is simple to understand.
If, for example, in a school setting, we are expected to show up for class, to pay attention while there, to write down assignments, and to get the work done on time, we can do all this without engaging with expectations about how we should feel while doing it. The lack of emotional constraint creates an arena of freedom for us, and makes the role easier to assume. This can be equally true for other areas of work or study where feelings are less important than actions. Within families, however, and in relationships in general, this is not the case. Here, expected behavior includes not only actions but feelings, and not only feelings but values. Often, within families, we are expected to think, feel, and value what other members do. This can create considerable difficulty in relationships where large value differences exist but are not easily tolerated.
As a society, we have become used to not being ourselves in many interpersonal situations, but the emerging awareness of spiritual purpose requires that we make new decisions concerning this. We must ask ourselves as we grow spiritually, what kind of world we want to promote, letting go of the belief that because cultures and societies promote roles, that they are incapable of allowing more freedom than we have experienced. A society could exist, for example, which supported the authentic expression of each individual soul to create a life based on its own spiritual essence and sense of purpose. Such a society would be relatively role-free. It would support individual freedom and collective diversity to a maximum degree. Such a society would be a sacred one, attuned to God's purposes for all.
A life lived in such a society would be a sacred life. Peace would be produced not by obliterating individual differences, but by harmonizing them within an overall consciousness of sacred reality and the uniqueness of each soul. We are not there yet as a people, but we can, even now, help create such a world by the decisions we make individually concerning how we choose to live.
Our first choice, in this regard, is to ask ourselves this question: How important is it to be who we are?
Such a question can have many different answers, for the expression "be who we are" is not one thing but many. It is expressing through words and actions how we think and feel. It is valuing our dreams and inspirations. It is being willing to stand alone if our values differ from others. But more than anything else it is a sense of rhythm - a willingness to breathe, think, walk, speak, laugh, cry, and be silent at our own pace, in our own time, when these are our actual responses to the things around us and within us.
Our sense of rhythm captures the living, breathing relationship we can have with ourselves when we are centered within ourselves and do not leap out of this center to become whatever we feel we are being asked to be. Out of this inwardly-defined rhythm, choices can be made to remain solitary or to join with others, and valid reasons for going in either direction can be discerned.
The key here is that choice is involved. Without a sense of our own rhythm there is no choice, there is only compulsive participation in the general consensus of how we are supposed to be. All too often this becomes the guideline for how we operate in the world.
In order for a sacred society to develop which promotes individual freedom and self-expression, people must want to be free of roles. They must recognize the limitation of freedom that is created when our most intimate behavior is restricted by conditioned thought patterns regarding how we are supposed to look, speak, and act. These thought patterns are everywhere, and they prevent us from saying what is true for us, pursuing what is real for us, and sharing what is deepest in our hearts. The reason for this constriction of truth is twofold: lack of awareness, and fear.
In relation to lack of awareness, there are many people who have not had sufficient practice in being themselves to really know who 'their self' is. Such an awareness develops over time and is fostered by continual practice in paying attention to inner cues concerning the nature of inner reality. If life is spent in self-doubt and self-invalidation, moments in which truth is possible will be few, and these few can become even fewer due to lack of clarity concerning who we are. Similarly, if much of life is spent being afraid of the disapproval of others or of standing alone, then moments of being oneself will also be lost because fear of loneliness or rejection will have gained the upper hand.
The recognition of factors which limit our freedom can begin a profound journey toward greater self-expression, if greater freedom is what we want and what we choose. This choice can be viewed from both the standpoint of the ego and the standpoint of the soul, for both seek greater freedom of self-expression, though for different reasons. To seek individual self-expression from an ego standpoint is to participate in the development of our own selfhood, the growth of our personal identity. It represents the youth of our soul's expression. To seek individual self-expression because it serves God, represents the adulthood of our souls, our coming-of-age into maturity.
Such maturity brings with it the understanding that God is asking us to show up in our lives as ourselves, so that through our unique expression we can make a greater contribution to Life. To recognize this as a Divine calling is to take responsibility for our lives, not because we need something from Life, but because Life needs something from us.
This acceptance of responsibility is an essential part of our growth as souls. The way that is given to us is the arena of our lives. It includes those whom we meet, those whom we live with, those whom we love, and those with whom we have only the briefest contact.
When we identify with the roles we play, we limit our availability to Life and God to assist in the process of Creation by being the unique expression of who we are. We also limit, through our effect on others, the ability of others to be who they really are. If, on the other hand, we set ourselves free to become ourselves, we set others free as well.
This, then, is our choice in service to Life - to reinforce the standards
which limit us and which encourage us to remain smaller than who we
are, or to participate in the creation of greater freedom for all by
being willing to become ourselves in our uniqueness and truth as souls.
The way is open for each of us to choose greater freedom.
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