Dear Integral Meditators,
This weeks articles looks at how you can live your life and play your life-roles with greater freedom and authenticity, using mindfulness.
In the spirit freedom in our roles,
Observing the world through our roles
For most of us, much of our sense of ‘I’ or ‘self’ is taken up by the different roles that we play in life. For example, professionally we may be a manager, a technician, a banker, a designer. Our family roles take up a huge chunk of our identity; mother, father, son, daughter, elder brother, younger sister. There are many other roles; the sports person, the talker, the cook, the pacifier, the fixer, the list goes on. If you were to try and bring to mind the top three or four roles that you are most identified with in your life, what would they be?
The challenge with these roles is that because we identify with them so closely, we tend observe our world, define ourselves and act from them without choice. They define the person we are and what we are capable of. Sometimes identifying with a particular role has benefits and serves us well. But at other times being over-identified with our roles and attached to them causes us a lot of unnecessary suffering and stress. It prevents us from seeing possibilities and fulfilling our potential.
Stepping out of our roles and becoming the observer
So, with mindfulness we learn to step out of our roles, observing ourself and our world with bare attention, as a mere observer. In this regard it can be very valuable to deliberately and consciously step out of roles we are identified with. For example:
- As a father I might choose to deliberately step out of my identification with that role, and simply observe my daughter and experience of her from a witnessing position
- As a meditation teacher I can choose to ‘drop the label’ and observe myself as if I was a no-one.
- I can step out of my habitual patterns as a business man, and see my daily business activities ‘as if for the first time’, or like a ‘fly on the wall’.
In these examples, I am deliberately stepping out of a role, putting it down, and trying to not see my world coloured by the lens of that role.
Stepping back into our roles with freedom and enthusiasm
Once we are regularly stepping out of our roles, and dis-identifying with them, we can then practice ‘putting them back on’. We can play our roles with enthusiasm and passion, but also with the knowledge that we are not those roles. We are capable of putting them down and stepping out of them when we wish to. We are able to play our roles in life with freedom, enthusiasm and creativity. Our dis-identification with them helps us to play the roles better and more fully.
Exercise: Stepping in and out of our ‘role costumes’
Imagine you have a cupboard in your home. In that cupboard are a collection of costumes, clothes, hats and so on that relate to all the roles you play in your life; mother, daughter, professional trader, lover, friend etc… Take a little time to look thru all these different clothing and costumes. You are none of these costumes, but you put them on in your life, to play your roles. You can play them fully, with commitment and power, but when your done, you know you can take off the costume and put it back in the cupboard. On a deeper level your identity is simply as the observer, the witness, dancing in an out of your roles!
Related article: No Name (Meditation Spaghetti Western Style)
© Toby Ouvry 2018, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com
Integral Meditation Asia