Whenever I hear teachings like this, part of me nods in agreement but another part mutters ‘easier said than done‘. So today I’m contemplating the word ‘identify‘.
Practicing mindful communication is training to be more open and less self-centered. So how do we both let our barriers down and at the same time avoid identifying with the melodramas around us? Unless we retreat to a monastery ( which I’ve done in the past and, believe me, there are plenty of melodramas there) we need to pay attention to this key point if we’re going to mix our practice of mindfulness with everyday life.
Freezing events to shape our identity isn’t the same thing as openness. When we’re open we directly experience our lives with accuracy and empathy. Genuine communication dissolves the imaginary barrier that divides ‘me’ from this flow of experience, which comes from the natural wakefulness of our body, tenderness of our heart and openness of our mind. It is a dynamic, fluid process.
When we identify with melodramas, or with any situation, we freeze this process and create a whole set of secondary reactions ( ‘red lights’) that trick us into thinking that we’ve achieved a solid ground to stand on. We identify with it and call it “ME”. This deception depends on filtering and editing information. Our conversations freeze into an exchange of opinions and projections rather than a flow of tenderness and curiosity.
Practicing mindful communication can help us ‘dis-identify’ by showing us the fine line between openness and our blind spots. One blind spot is identifying with the melodramas in our life by shutting down, distancing from compassion, which is the pattern of heartless-mind. We create a platform of ‘toxic certainty’ upon which to build a secure ME. Another blind spot is the opposite, identifying with the emotionality of situations without seeing them clearly, in the pattern of mindless-heart.
If these ‘me-first’ identities were real it would take a lot of work to deconstruct them. But with the help of mindfulness meditation we can see that there’s no truth to them at all. They are merely figments of our imagination, storylines and thought patterns that come and go like clouds in the sky. The barrier of ‘me’ is a deeply rooted habit that’s held in place by these inner conversations in our own mind and reinforced by the outer conversations around us.
Letting go of our false identity is as easy as noticing our next breath as it goes in and out of our body. It’s as easy as being surprised by the color green in the grass outside the window. Or sharing the feeling the joy or sadness of the latest news. Letting go is the moment when the curiosity or wonder of our child-like nature breaks through the ice of a fixated idea.
Letting go of identifying with the melodramas that surround us doesn’t lead to an empty hearted void. It doesn’t mean there is continual silence within our mind or that we never engage in conversations again. It simply means that there is a flow of curiosity, gentleness and an interest in what is true about the present moment. The practice of contemplating means opening up the dialogue within our own mind as well as with others. We’re willing to start from a place where we think we know the answer and let go into not knowing. Letting go of our ground can be delightful, like this photo of my husband playfully remembering how to fly.