Remember who you are.
Not the shape others have put on
you, not the story they handed you,
not the lies or needs that were
pressed into your psyche.
Not even your own imagined ideas
of what you should be.
But the real you, the wild innate you
that is breathing under all those
should be’s, all those untruths.
Remember the feel of it, the shape of
it. Let it inhabit you, like golden
weeds rewilding the concrete.
Brigit Anna McNeill
Such an old theme which continues to feel freshly relevant these days: the real, ‘wild innate you’ somehow replaced by the socialised, tamed version of ourselves. The writer and ecotherapist Brigit Anna McNeill gives words to it in this poem, and I love the golden weeds image at the end that are transforming, reclaiming the concrete…
It reminded me of one of my favourite little stories by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, famous amongst many other things for her book Women Who Run with the Wolves. She tells it like this:
“A man came to a szabo, tailor, and tried on a suit. As he stood before the mirror, he noticed the vest was a little uneven at the bottom.
‘Oh,’ said the tailor, ‘don’t worry about that. Just hold the shorter end down with your left hand and no one will ever notice.’
While the customer proceeded to do this, he noticed that the lapel of the jacket curled up instead of lying flat.
‘Oh that?’ said the tailor. ‘That’s nothing. Just turn your head a little and hold it down with your chin.’
The customer complied, and as he did, he noticed that the inseam of the pants was a little short and he felt that the rise was a bit too tight.
‘Oh, don’t worry about that,’ said the tailor. ‘Just pull the inseam down with your right hand, and everything will be perfect.’ The customer agreed and purchased the suit.
The next day he wore his new suit with all the accompanying hand and chin ‘alterations.’ As he limped through the park with his chin holding down his lapel, one hand tugging at the vest, the other hand grasping his crotch, two old men stopped playing checkers to watch him stagger by.
‘M’Isten, oh, my God!’ said the first man. ‘Look at that poor crippled man!’
The second man reflected for a moment, then murmured, ‘Igen, yes, the crippling is too bad, but you know I wonder…where did he get such a nice suit?’
Reflecting on where we may have developed a crippling persona that looks good on the outside but contorts our effortless natural being, seems like a valuable thing to me. Where am I doing that in life, in different relationships (am I trying to be mother as I think a mother should be, or withhold parts of my essential self in attempts to be ‘professional’), and perhaps even in meditation? The explicit invitation there, perhaps more than anywhere else, is to let our being be as it is, to give a rest to all the attempts to improve ourselves, overlaying our experience with what we think we should be experiencing. I certainly have spent many years of holding myself ‘just so’ to fit into my own image of what a good meditator should be like, should feel and think like… only to crash into the often unsatisfactory reality of my self-arising experience, autonomous and spontaneous. And what a relief to remember all that is not required, that we’re allowed to let our ‘wild innate’ being simple be…
Does any of this strike a chord for you?
PS if you’d like to dive into indepth mindfulness training to re-discover more of who you are, there is just such a course starting not long from now…
Photo by Alex Preusser on Unsplash