A friend who has been in my life for 15 years told me recently: you really seem to have found yourself. So I wonder: what does that mean? What does it mean to find yourself? To me when people talk about finding themselves it means discovering what is one’s true self. The things that make you you. That what is you for real, without anything blocking it. That what is you, including not only the nice and shiny bits but also the dark ones.
I agreed with my friend because a part of me feels it’s true that I have found myself but it also made me curious to explore what this means a bit more. I love having this blog for this purpose but it also scares me. I feel that by writing this blog I expose myself and by doing that I often feel vulnerable. I fear being rejected by people; it’s a big thing for me. But, as you know if you have read this blog before, I have made a conscious decision to not let this fear stop me from publishing my writing. So here you have my 62nd blog post. Yes, 62. So you should think that by now I’m quite used to it but I really am not!
Back to finding oneself:
Finding oneself is a longing I think many people share, consciously or unconsciously. It’s what motivates people to do all kinds of (in my eyes sometimes pretty crazy) stuff. Have you done things in your life for the purpose of finding yourself? I for sure have done a lot of that! A crazy thing I did on this path of finding myself? What comes to mind is going to a retreat (many years ago now) fully unprepared for the facts that:
1. It was in total silence.
2. My breakfast consisted of a vitamin C-tablet and a glass of cold water with rice inside.
3. This breakfast was given to me after a 2.5 hour silent sitting meditation in front of a burning candle.
4. That silent sitting meditation started at 5.00 in the morning (a time when I honestly prefer to be asleep unless the house is on fire or I have a plane to catch).
5. When I expressed a wish to leave the retreat (because at that time I felt not ready at all for such a programme), the leaders of the place refused to give me my mobile phone back and it took me an hour of negotiating before I was allowed to leave.
I had just bought a new car which I loved driving and I remember so well the exhilarating feeling of speeding off, away from this place, and checking into the first restaurant I could find and eat a big, fat hamburger with fries and Coca Cola. Apart from the sandwich I ate after the delivery of my first child, this was definitely the second best meal I’ve eaten in my life!
Today this story makes me laugh. What was I thinking? To my defence though, the advertisement folder for this place did not mention any of the above. But, what was I thinking? Well, at that time I had read Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything. I remember reading the India-part of the book and thought: meditation, that seems to be the key to finding yourself! I want to learn that. And since traveling to India as Liz Gilbert did was not really an option at the time, I googled and found the retreat I went to. My husband and friends laughed at me when I came home from the retreat earlier, threw my clothes in the washer and poured myself a large Cuba Libre. I remember one friend telling me: the fact that you went to this place says something about you, but the fact that you left says even more about you. At the time I concluded that meditation and going to retreats was not my thing and went back into what you could call normal life.
As Dr. Phil would say: how was that working for you? Well, it did not work for me. At all. For me, my life felt like I was a fish living in the desert, believing I was a desert fish. Like: I could survive, having learned the skills as a fish on how to survive in the desert. But there was not a lot of oxygen and the whole environment somehow felt unnatural to me. Living for me involved little joy, a lot of hard work and efforting. So I ended up talking to a psychologist once a week for a whole year. It was a great mental exercise but for me it did not have the effect I was looking for: I still felt like I was living in the desert. I felt something was not right in my life, that I still hadn’t found myself.
For me, finding myself has to do with peeling layers. Like an onion you know, that has a lot of layers. I believe that I will be peeling my own layers for the rest of my life. And with peeling layers I mean looking inside at what’s there. For me, the key to peeling layers inside myself is to involve not only my brain but also my body. When I found a world inspired by gurus and wise people around the globe and when I was invited to, slowly and gently, take a look at what was present inside me but what had been hidden under these layers, a lot of stuff happened in my body. I don’t know how many hours I have cried. How many hours I have danced. How many hours I have screamed. How many hours I have felt utterly lost. The way to finding myself is through my body, this is what I have found. Through my body and through meditation.
Years ago I was not ready at all for this. I continued doing, eating and drinking stuff that did not, as Oprah says so nicely, honour my body and I continued to believe that by just talking about what was on my mind I somehow would be able to find myself in the end. I believe these years were extremely important for me! I needed to come to a space inside myself where I truly felt ready to explore my inner world in a different way. Where my longing for my truth became larger than my fear of what I might discover. I believe a lot of people live in fear of what they might discover once they commit to inner work. I fully respect that. Everyone is walking their own path in life, in their own pace. It reminds me of the saying:
Yelling at a flower bud won’t make it bloom.
But when the timing was right for me and I had exhausted all other options I could see, I was lucky enough to find this world where there is so much light and life. It has helped me over the years to find myself on a deep level. So that’s why today I can answer my friend: yes, I feel that I have found myself. But (very important!) I believe this is a life-long path that I am walking. It never ends. There will forever be more and more layers to peel. It’s what makes life so rich and interesting for me. What is more to come, what is more to learn? I don’t know and that’s not important to me in the end either. What’s important to me is right now, today, this very moment. I am healthy, I am alive. And I am me.
Thank you for reading! ♥
Photo: Bryan Minear – unsplash.com