Monday, July 21, 2008

Cutting Through the Bullshit....

Eckhard Tolle talks about the boxes we put ourselves in and the false identities we accept. It starts at birth, he says, with a name. We are assigned a name.

As time goes on and we venture into the world, we are put in other boxes that define us and we are then locked into them as we accept them as part of our identity.

When I was very young, I was put into the box, especially in my school experience, as the outsider, the one who wasn't chosen for baseball teams - as the one who sat alone.

At home, I was put into the box of "black sheep", the one who was assigned that role in the family.

I bought it. For a long time. Without even consciously realizing it, I totally bought the ticket. I lived it.. even when objective evidence showed it was wrong and no longer fit.

After a seven-hour meeting at the wat on Friday, I came to realize exactly how much I'd allowed my identity to be wrapped up in those old roles, those old beliefs, those old beliefs that were in place to serve the agenda of the people who surrounded me.

I've been challenged by my work at the wat in many ways. The primary one was to assume my logical role ~ that of natural leadership and strength.

It started rather innocently. One member and the lead monk got into a screaming match. (Yes, a Buddhist monk was hollering and carrying on like a 14-year-old boy in the locker room whose manhood was questioned. It was a disgusting scene.. but not the subject of this post - at the moment.) The woman who argued with him was naturally offended and got very emotional. She picked up her things and said to me, "Let's go." She was my ride but I wasn't prepared to go because nothing was resolved.

In an instant, almost as though someone outside of me was controlling me, I stood up and said, "Stop the bullshit. Both of you. Stop it now!"

I asked M if she honestly believed the monk wasn't listening to her because he doesn't "like" her. That was her statement. "He doesn't like me or respect me so he's not listening."

(Keep in mind that most of this interaction took place between them in a language I don't understand. I just heard a lot of yelling, squealing and other kitty cat noises.)

Everyone there looked at me. I had their attention. I said to M, "get someone to translate for me. If you legitimately think he isn't listening because he doesn't like you, then I'll talk to him."

The stakes are rather high in this whole mess. I can't go into the details but it is serious.

She dilly-dallied around and half-heartedly looked for someone who would translate for me. She was very invested in her identity of not being liked, therefore unheard. Her identity as a victim was more important than solving the problem.

I finally found a guy to translate and put all the cards on the table for everyone to hear. One of my rules for these kinds of meetings is that everyone's on the same page. No backchannels. No phone calls. Here it is. Look at it. Everyone at the same time. Paraphrased, I said "this is what's happening and these will be the results. If that's what everyone wants, say it now ~ because I'm hot, sick and I don't have the energy for any more nonsense."

Usually, I hem and haw and don't speak my mind so freely because I am trained to live up to my assigned false identity. No one will listen to me. No one cares what I have to say. It doesn't matter. There's nothing I can do.

As naturally as breathing, I extemporaneously came up with a plan of action and by the time I was done, everyone agreed. It all seemed rather logical to me, a legitimate solution - and to this moment, I'm not sure how I came up with it. I'm not trying to paint myself as the shero who saved the day or even will be able to fix it. The truth is that it probably won't be fixed. It won't be fixed because of group dynamics and people who choose their false identities over their authentic selves.

What I'm trying to get across is that when I got home, I did a mental inventory of all the times I've been involved in something and organically ended up in the same role. I was the one who spoke the truth that others were unwilling to speak. I took charge when no one else had the guts, the energy or the desire to do so.

And it is so consistent with who I am on the inside. It felt like a deep breath. I've been told by others that I am an exhorter. I am the one who is willing to rip open the facades and show was exists behind... and the wizard really is just a regular guy - just like us.

We're all like the wizard in so many ways. We live behind the curtain... manipulating and creating or accepting false images that serve us, one way or another.

I'll bet that everyone who reads this post right now would find some interesting things, looking at ourselves naked. Once stripped, we'd see the energy, the personal power, the strength that lays buried behind that Plaster of Paris mask we create - or has been created for us.

Try it. You'll like it. I'll be interested to hear what you have to say.



heartinsanfrancisco said...

How wonderful that you are coming into your own and acting out of your authentic self, not the false one superimposed on you for the convenience of others.

I was the Black Sheep in my family, too, which should surprise no one.

I believe that we come into each incarnation with specific lessons we intend to learn, and life arranges opportunities for us to learn them. It knocks gently on our door at first but if we still don't learn, eventually it kicks the door in.

Sooner or later we are forced to become our true selves because ultimately, nothing else will do. We are each our own wizard and holy grail, and I find that thought oddly comforting.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

This is actually, again, something I've been thinking about a lot lately. I've always been the "good" daughter, but that hasn't always been good for me. I'm trying to fix that role, and it's still stumping me on some levels.

Anonymous said...

Different approaches are called for at different times - maybe this was a time they needed a firm voice of reason?

slouching mom said...

the role you took on, that you're suited for, is such an incredibly important one.

i do believe that you have something of the therapist in you. you hear what's in the spaces between the words, even if the words are in a different language.

impressive. keep at it. you will effect positive change that way, i'm sure of it.

PeterAtLarge said...

"It starts at birth, he says, with a name. We are assigned a name." One of the stories I keep coming back to is the one told by a Huichol Indian shaman: instead of "giving a name" to a new baby, she said, the Huichols first ask "Tell me who you are." By the way, I was "given" my name, Peter, by my Anglican minister father because I was born on the Feast of St. Peter's Chains (Aug. 1 in the Anglican calendar, coming up!) I have carried that "Peter" around with me all my life: the "rock" and the "betrayer", both. I came to understand a lot about myself once I acknowledged my name and realized how much it had shaped me. Thanks for this wonderful entry.

Defiantmuse said...

and what perfect timing these words come my way......

if only more people took this advice and cut through the's pervasive and too comfortable for many people.

me? I don't understand the point. Call it as it is. Get it out there. Or not. But then leave my orbit if you're not interested in being real.

You know? Yes. You do.

Anonymous said...

I think it's possible for some of us who are comfortable alone to forget or overlook that we are also comfortable as leaders in a group.

I think this will be very good for you. Keep it up.

Girl on the Run... said...

That is such a powerful post Chani. At first when you say to look at myself naked and what lies behind the plaster I want to tell you I'm afraid. Truth of the matter is... I am not afraid. Fear has been my crutch in life, ruling me and taking advantage of my kindness. When I see myself naked I see a girl a frightened girl who I want to take by the hand and protect forever! I am not that little girl anymore, I am a woman who is strong, resillant and filled with a passionate and compassionate heart!

Thanks Chani!

Rebecca said...

Great post, Chani. I'm at a time in my life where I am less tolerant of the assigned roles and more willing to stand in truth and call bullshit. Too bad it took a serious illness for me to get to that point. Sometimes it's still a struggle to stand in truth, but each day it becomes more and more important. Thanks for articulating it so clearly.

Blessed be! Life is good.

Laurie said...

With some people, I find myself becoming who they want me to be, with others, I'm free to be myself.

I find myself wanting to be with those I can be myself with more and more lately.

Maybe it is coming with age, or knowing myself better...but I appreciate myself and who I am more than I used to.

It sounds as if you've already come to that realization.

You are a wise woman, Chani.

flutter said...

You are wise, friend

QT said...

Good for you, Chani. Black sheep, black sheep....I know the role well.

zellmer said...

You ARE the wizard. Thank you for the kind comment on my blog. I love what you have to say here, and I applaud you.

Anonymous said...

It is very important work to stop and reexamine ourselves frequently. It sounds like you do it well.

Angela said...

This is powerful stuff, Chani. I'm re-reading A New Earth to the cowboy, aloud, slowly, and I'm catching so much that way that I didn't the first time around. It can be a little depressing at first, when you realize that you are really none of the ideas you had about yourself. And then comes the freedom. And then it's like the sky is the limit becuase you realize you no longer have to react in the same ways as before. You can respond. That's what you did and it can change a situaiton instantly.

Christine said...

this has happened to me a few times and i always came away feeling like more of "myself." than ever before. i am good at resolving conflict, thought it took many years for me to realize that i am good at it and to admit that out loud.

Brandi said...

oh geez-you and I are probably long lost twins. For so long, I have fought my natural inclinations because of the labels that had been attached. I understand-and am going through-the process of letting that go.

Olivia said...


I have been thinking and thinking about your post ever since I read it. I definitely do the "black sheep", but the role that is problematic for me is "invalid", as in one who is sick. But I also do the invalid part too, as in "I don't matter." That is the one that is my big challenge. Even imagining myself as healthy, fit, active, thin, wow does that break some mental structures. But I've still been doing it, and it's been provocative.

I have been asking myself, "What would it mean if I was NOT an invalid and NOT invalid?" Gives me fodder for much emotional work!

Marvelous, provocative and inspiring post, as always.


womaninawindow said...

"Her identity as a victim was more important than solving the problem." Wow. Is this ever true too often.