Deceiving Yourself

I’ve often wondered how my life would be different if I just released, really released, how I see things.  I mean, I’m fully aware that my reality is not truly reality.  If you joined me in any venture, you’d have a vastly different story to tell.  That’s just the way life is.  We operate through the lenses we’re wearing at the time, and we latch onto that vision as though it’s truth.  Absolute truth.

I know this in my head.

But it’s hard to practice.

Pema Chödrön speaks of the importance of mind flexibility in her book The Places That Scare You.

In the most ordinary terms, egolessness is a flexible identity.  It manifests as inquisitiveness, as adaptability, as humor, as playfulness.  It is our capacity to relax with not knowing, not figuring everything out, with not being at all sure about who we are—or who anyone else is either.

A man’s only son was reported dead in battle.  Inconsolable, the father locked himself in his house for three weeks, refusing all support and kindness.  In the fourth week the son returned home.  Seeing that he was not dead, the people of the village were moved to tears.  Overjoyed, they accompanied the young man to his father’s house and knocked on the door.  “Father,” called the son, “I have returned.”  But the old man refused to answer.  “Your son is here, he was not killed,” called the people.  But the old man would not come to the door.  “Go away and leave me to grieve!” he screamed. “I know my son is gone forever and you cannot deceive me with your lies.”

So it is with all of us.  We are certain about who we are and who others are and it blinds us.  If another version of reality comes knocking on our door, our fixed ideas keep us from accepting it.

Oh, how I don’t want to be this way.  Blinded by my preconceived notions, by my coddled angers and hurts.  When I think about letting them go, I think, “Now what can I believe in?”  But that’s the whole point, isn’t it?  To live in that space of not-knowing?

Thus we become less and less able to reside with even the most fleeting uneasiness or discomfort.  We become habituated to reaching for something to ease the edginess of the moment.  What begins as a slight shift of energy—a minor tightening of our stomach, a vague, indefinable feeling that something bad is about to happen—escalates into addiction.  This is our way of trying to make life predictable.  Because we mistake what always results in suffering for what will bring us happiness, we remain stuck in the repetitious habit of escalating our dissatisfaction.

We want permanence.  We expect permanence.  To envision that others might change, or we might change, is just too much to handle.

Except it isn’t.  We can’t avoid uncertainty and change, if we want to live in truth.  Nothing and no one is fixed.  Whether this provides us freedom or causes anxiety is up to us.

It’s all about process.  Even our bodies know this; every cell changes over constantly.

I want to enjoy the process.  I don’t want to get caught in the net of believing that things are this way and only this way.

Heavens, no.

[Post image: Dandelion by johnnyberg on stock.xchng]


  1. Don Rogers
    Nov 29, 2011

    “Oh, how I don’t want to be this way. Blinded by my preconceived notions,”

    My sentiments exactly. But it’s hard for us, those who have been dipped in the “Old-time Religion”, with it’s indelible dye, to come clean without years and years of effort.

    • Elissa
      Nov 29, 2011

      Don, I know, I know. I match your sentiments. It’s been a conscious struggle for me to try to decipher between truth and dogma! I’ve had to fight against “knee-jerk” reactions to things I’ve known all my life. I’m learning to listen, wait, and weigh things on their merit alone. Which is hard when there’s so much baggage to wade through! I know you know what I mean! 🙂

  2. claire
    Nov 29, 2011

    i’ve always loved the gerry spence quote, ‘i would rather have a mind opened by wonder, than closed by belief’…
    this is what i call grown-up faith…
    a wonderful blog post – thank you 🙂

    • Elissa
      Nov 29, 2011

      Oh, what a wonderful quote! Yes, “opened by wonder” is exactly what I want! Thanks, Claire!

  3. dasephix
    Nov 29, 2011

    I am really curious about this whole process, and how one acknowledges one’s “self”.

    I’m reading a book about it right now actually!

    I hear buddhists talk about how this kind of openness is already available to anyone, and it could be quite literally under our noses!

    The hardest thing that I have trouble with is meditation, maybe because I would be opened too all the selves I’ve conjured up in my mind. Especially the selves that I’m not proud of.

    But an interesting question to ask, is what observes the observer in this whole process? I’m reading this book by Toni Packer right now, which I think you’d love. It goes into all of this.

    I can’t say what I’ve read or what I’ve experience is true, at least, I’m still in the process of inquiring about it, most likely, I always will be.

    But really, it’s in everything you do, like your blog right here. It’s just that, are we mindful of our actions before we get caught up in our story lines? I mean, the moment we start questioning what in the heck we are doing, that’s just getting caught up in ruminations isn’t it? But, what is it, that is pre-verbal, and that sees, that is aware of all these story lines playing out in our minds?

    Toni Packer goes into depth about this in her book, “The Silent Question”.

    I hope, for myself, I’m not just parroting what I’ve heard. But these are interesting questions indeed! As always, thank you for your posts that push me to inquire further!

    • Elissa
      Nov 29, 2011

      You know, Dasephix, I’ve had Toni Packer’s book on my list for SO LONG. I think it’s time I dive in. LOL.

      I think you’re asking who observes ME observing myself. Is that right? If that’s the case, I’m not sure, except that there are plenty of “outside” people (who surround me) who think they know what I’m about. Just as I think I know what they’re about.

      If instead you’re asking how I can possibly observe myself and come to the right conclusion, I’m not sure…although I WILL say I’m much better at it than I used to be.

      I’ll give you an example. There are certain people who trigger me (mostly family), but I’m much more aware of WHY they behave the way they do, and in that way, their comments can roll off of me and not affect me days afterward, because I’ve done the work of STOPPING the abuse before it can wreak havoc on my emotional and personal life. [It’s similar to a mother saying to her bullied daughter, “Well, perhaps you can put yourself in the bully’s shoes. Why might he have done what he did to you?”] Unfortunately, they (my family members) may have to do the same with me. I hope not. I’m working on it. I try to be as kind (and straightforward) as possible.

      So, in this way, I’m “conscious” (as a fly on the wall, you might say) of what I’m saying, how it’s being received (although can any of us get this exactly right?), and how I need to assuage the situation, in order not to escalate things and cause pain, which is exactly what Buddhism is about, paraphrased by me. 🙂

      So, are we mindful of our actions before “we get caught up in our story lines?” I think the answer is “yes,” but only in degrees of HOW conscious we are. Someone may INSIST he or she is not trying to offend you, but if you know he or she operates in a passive-aggressive way and has a low self-knowledge, then you know you won’t be able to convince them otherwise. It’s a futile task.

      Of course the same goes for me. If someone is much more advanced than I (in self-awareness and consciousness), I don’t think they’d be able to convince me how wrong I am. I’m simply not “there” yet. I’m not at the same mature stage he or she is at, so we wouldn’t be using the same language or knowledge or experience in our communication. At least that’s my hypothesis.

      Are you familiar with spiral dynamics? I did a post on it a while back. You might be interested in it…

      I’m curious as to what Packer says…so off I go to find the book! Thanks, Dasephix!

  4. Allison
    Nov 30, 2011

    just beautiful! thanks for this food for my brain today 🙂

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