Circumstances

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We are all more, in many ways much, much more, than our circumstances.

This problem, of being constrained and over-identified with our circumstances is often seen most clearly in a therapeutic context. People with chronic health conditions can become labelled and defined by their condition. “Hi, I’m Mary and I was abused as a child.”, “Hi, I’m Mike and I have a weak heart.” OK, people don’t literally say these things (well not that often), but it is the sub-plot to how they live their daily lives.

A similar thing can happen with our whole identity: I’m Russian, therefore I think in a certain way. I come from an affluent LA suburb, hence I am this LA life-style. I am a spiritual being, so I’m a vegan.

The labels we can identify with are almost endless, yet all are limiting in some ways, all are derived in some way from our transient historical circumstances, which has helped us to define our selves, our relationship to other people and our world view.

The labels we can identify with are not, in and of themselves, a problem. To function in our human context requires them, it requires these mental constructs which we develop during our early years. It is our failure to recognise the limitations of these identities, to get stuck in them and hence fail to grow beyond them, that can create problems for us. Problems which can be hard to define: it may be a general unease or feeling of emptiness with our current life, or maybe we cannot see the point in it anymore. Unfortunately, these are problems for which our society driven solutions are not always the most healthy or appropriate (e.g. alcohol abuse, drug addition, obesity and other excesses.)

Practices such as Soto Zen meditation and Centering Prayer aim to remind us of, and re-introduce us to, the nothingness of our core being. This ‘no-thing-ness’ is impossible to stick a label on, hence it is ‘unlimited’ by mental concepts, it is the vast potential of life to be all things. It is the as yet unborn, unbecome, unformed, unmanifest.

It is deeply liberating to be reminded of the fact the we are not this label, or that label, or this other label. It gives us space to breathe, space for our being to flow and to grow.

We are all potentially so much more than any of our temporary life-style labels allow us to be.

© David R. Durham

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