"Our suffering comes from not realizing who we are" -- The Buddha

I normally like to listen to electronica/dance music while I run. I like the fast beats that compel me to move one foot in front of the othe...

I normally like to listen to electronica/dance music while I run. I like the fast beats that compel me to move one foot in front of the other.  On Sunday, I decided to try running to a podcast.  I've been listening to Tara Brach for about two years now, and figured I'd listen to her while I ran.  I was all fine and good until she (as always) said something that startled me a bit. 

Okay, a little background if you don't want to listen to all of the dharma talk:  Tara explores how we construct and buy into an identity that is other than our true self (both positively and negatively) -- the "space suit self."   Our suffering comes about because we believe ourselves to be the space suit self, not our actual self when we let go of identities and labels.

She goes on to say that we create these spacesuits based on negative characteristics (i.e. that we're needy, that we're failures, that we aren't worthy of good things) and positive characteristics (i.e. that we're funny, we're smart, we're good meditators). 

She then guides her listeners/students in an exercise where you imagine a friend/someone you spend time with and while you have that person in mind, ask yourself "what it is most about yourself that you don't want this other person to see?" (i.e. our negative characteristics, things we find shameful or disgraceful)  The second question is "what do you want people to know or understand about you?" (i.e. our positive characteristics) The third question is "In this moment, can you let both qualities be there?  What happens when they both exist at the same time.  What happens when you don't own those identities so much?"

And this is where I almost came to a dead stop on the elliptical. So many people recognize me as being a strong, independent, brave person.  What would happen if I let them know how sad and weak I feel sometimes? How could both of those identities exist at the same time?  Truth is that they exist all the time whether I acknowledge them or not. They're facets of being human, yanno?

I think lots of this came from my reactions to the death of my mother's mother (I was in the room when it happened) and my mother.  Somewhere along the line I think I learned, or was told, to be tough, to show no tears, to soldier on. With my own mother's death, my own emotions were often eclipsed by my father.  I'd admit to feeling sad, and he'd use it as an invitation to tell me how sad he was instead of just letting me be sad.

For me, showing sadness became an chink in my armor.  Back in April my father called me at work to tell me that his stepmother had died. And I roared with tears.  And then apologized for interrupting other people's work.  It was easier to feel mortified than to admit that what I needed most was someone to hold on to me until it stopped hurting.

I'm going to try and work on telling people I need them, or that I'm hurting.
It's okay not to be so brave all the time.

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11 comments

  1. AWESOME POST. I'm going to check out this Tara Brach and maybe I'll get me one of them-there iPod thingies some day!

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  2. Lanie -- you don't need an ipod to listen to the podcasts -- they're also saved as mp3s on the site -- just click the link "said something" above for the dharma talk.

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  3. You know what sucks? Losing people. Its pretty much the ugliest feeling in the world. Whats the name of Tara's podcast? I might be in to downloading it.

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  4. I feel ya. My Grandmother passed away on 10/1. It was drawn out for a few days so each day I'd have a mini-breakdown. My husband, though I love him, is not good at dealing with me getting emotional like that. He doesn't have a lot of family and really has never been given any show of concern from his parents so he truly didn't know what to do. I used to try to be strong because I knew it would make him uncomfortable. Finally, I realized that I needed him to comfort me rather than the other way around. He came into my office the day I got the news that she had passed on because he saw I was upset. He didn't say a word...just hugged me and didn't let go until I pulled away several minutes, and one very tear stained shirt, later. That was a turning point for both of us; him learning how to console me and me learning to trust him enough to let go.

    Thanks for the great post!

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  5. Tammy -- i very much recognize that.... and i'm so appreciative to have friends who don't need an explanation, they just see it in my face.
    But it's really hard for me to say "This thing that happened 16 years ago still affects me."

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  6. A good thing, "I'm going to try and work on telling people I need them, or that I'm hurting."

    The thought that doing so may be less than brave, not sure I agree. I do get what you mean by that though, I think. Bravery often is equated with what you touched on as actions that have us recognized as being a strong, or independent. Perople see those actions and thus see us as such.

    But, how brave is it for someone to open up their independence to ask for a bit of dependence from another? Different degrees of bravery for each of us I suppose, we all have varying degrees of independent streaks. But I will say to do so is to be brave.

    Positive and Negative co-existing huh, pondering... yeah, I easily see that, accept it. Truth is, I put out huge positive vibes, it is just me. But at times I know I am doing so when inside the negative characteristics are dominant. Maybe I need to embrace my own words on bravery more than I actually do.

    Hhmmm... Not sure I will so easily accept that I see my identity as other than my true self, but I will accept that at times I/we do purposely put forth a mask for others to see us as feeling different than we really do. At times that may be perfectly acceptable, and others inappropriate.

    Oh the human species, we are a tangled web of wonder aren't we?

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  7. I agree losing people sucks, but having people you can bawl your eyes out in front of is awesome!

    FG - Great post, thought provoking as always! I still love ya xx

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  8. Patrick: as always you give me lots to think about.... But you're right -- we're a very complex species.

    Andrea: When my mother died, my grandmother was the only one I sincerely cried to. I knew I was safe with her -- safe from judgment or explanation. It's truly a sign of trust to be that vulnerable in front of another person.

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  9. GREAT post! Totally strikes a nerve to think about the parts of you that you don't show all the time. Tough girls cry too. Thank you for reminding us of that. Love your blog! -SG

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  10. SG -- I think it's really hard for me to admit that i need people sometimes. I was raised to not be a burden to other people, and I just have to remember that I'm not a burden or a bother to my friends.

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<3 Robby