I am not being myself these days and that is the best thing that has happened to me.
In the path of spirituality, and in life in general, we keep hearing one thing: be yourself. Be what you really are. And indeed, after it gets to us, we start trying really hard to be ourselves. But before that, have we wondered what we really are, let alone established it?
We have certain inclinations, tendencies, likes and dislikes. When we decide to be our true selves, we often start expressing all these traits more obviously. We like to say: “I am like this”, or “I like that”, “I hate this”, “I would never do that”, and so on. We also have a lot of habits, and we think it is important to stick to them if we want to be our true selves, as everything is pointing we should.
All those who know me know how much I love coffee. For every birthday I get at least one coffee-related item: a T-shirt with coffee-loving slogans, a coffee mug with a personalized message related to drowning in coffee, etc. Even people who do not know that well, know that curiosity about me. And it’s been like that for fifteen years or so. Not so long ago I got a medical recommendation to stop drinking coffee for six weeks, along with some other dietary advice and restrictions, all temporary. It first sounded like the end of the world. I have stopped drinking coffee once for a month, and it went okay, so I knew I could do it. But it was a long time ago, and I really wasn’t in the mood for such experiments at the moment. However, I decided that nothing should limit me, I should not depend on anything or anyone, and I could certainly survive six weeks without coffee if it was going to help improve my health. It’s been almost four months since I last had a sip of coffee. I have continued with the abstinence of my own free will since I realized I can do it, I feel no need to drink it, so why push it. A lot of people can hardly believe I still don’t drink coffee, and I myself am sometimes amazed. It felt the same when I stopped eating meat, and it’s been four years since then.
Another thing all my friends and acquaintances know about me is how much I love movement: I love being outside, especially in the sunshine, walking, I love travelling, just changing place and being free. When the lock-down started, everyone was asking how I was taking it, guess I would be going nuts and running in circles around my neighbourhood. To my own surprise, I have taken the movement restriction due to the pandemic with such peace and acceptance. During the lockdown, there was a period of whole seven days that I spent entirely in my apartment. Of my own will, since I did have the opportunity to go out during a certain period of the day. And I felt such peace, such tranquillity, such freedom.
Because our true freedom lies within us. If you need any outside factor to be free or to be happy, you will never be neither free nor happy.
What I’ve realized after all this is that you first need to be what you are not, in order to be yourself. It means you need to break your boundaries, your habits and patterns. Do not define yourself as this, or that, or anything. Do not say “I would never…”, “I could never….” The only thing you should never do is hurt any being, including yourself, in thoughts, words or actions. That is your only restriction. Everything else is yours to take, do and be.
So, try “not being yourself” for a while. Try to stop being what you think you are or what others think you are. My change may seem small and banal, but on the inside, it means a huge difference to me. It feels like unlocking another level of my being. Unlocking the chains, in any case. We hear it so much: transformation is the key indicator of spiritual growth. And transformation requires flexibility.
On the path of spirituality, you will also often come across the saying: You are all that. Indeed, you are. So, in order to be yourself, you need to be all that. Whatever you feel like, and don’t feel like. Whatever the others expect you to be and not expect you to be. Do not be afraid to go against the stream, but make sure one thing: do not go against the stream just because everyone else is going in the opposite direction. Because that is also a trap, and without you realizing it, your thoughts and actions are directed by the others, just in the opposite direction.
I often remember Siddhartha from the eponymous Hesse’s novel, and him going through all the levels of existence, from the very gross level of sensual pleasures to the most subtle ascetic, and beyond the ascetic level of existence, from a very secluded and restricted life of a rich prince to the life in complete poverty, but also in freedom. You need to taste all the flavours of this world in order to move to a different level. And you also need to find in yourself the strength to “spit out” a flavour, even if you really, really love it, because that is not why you are here and it may be preventing you from moving on, to a higher plane.
So, be yourself, be what you are, what you are not, be what you want, just do not limit yourself. And understand these words truly and deeply: you are all that.
Author: Tijana Sladoje, (1989, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina), is a spiritual seeker who loves writing, photography, learning languages and travelling, while never forgetting that the most important trip is the journey within.