Being born into this world feels like finding yourself in theater, on stage, midway through a play and nobody handed you the script. You’ll have to figure out your role alongside other characters while concurrently speculating on the storyline and what comes next. The unspoken truth is that nobody ever got the script. They synchronize until everyone is satisfied with their individual performances, and the act turns into their reality. This narrative we make along the way and play out through the generations is our collective culture. It’s the common agenda that keeps order and maintains the kind of predictability that civil societies are based on. We’re served with a guiding post and benchmark for people to live by — an alternative to starting from scratch on understanding the world and our role in it. Unfortunately, this is as far as it goes. Our culture and society are ultimately fictional and fall flat when answering questions on who we truly are. It sets standards that few are able to live up to while constructing our identities and deferring our self worth to others. Losing control of these fundamentals leaves us exposed, costing us our mental and emotional wellbeing. It is impossible to achieve inner peace and clarity when adrift in a sea of falsehoods.
René Girard, (philosopher and polymath, 1923–2015), describes humanity as “imitation machines”. We look outwards for answers on what we should strive for and ultimately let the herd create us.
“I am not what I think I am. I am not what you think I am. I am what I think you think I am” — Richard Cooley
Like all machines, we receive inputs and produce outputs. We constantly soak in data and information fed to us (inputs), use this to build the framework to perceive reality from and then behave according to these constructs (outputs). This becomes the basis of our thoughts and opinions, the things that give us our sense of self and individuality.
“You think you are thinking your thoughts, you are not; you are thinking the culture’s thoughts.” — Jiddu Krishnamurti
This engineering has been fed to us by the collective societal consciousness that has been responsible for all of history’s violence. It’s the same dominating culture that divides and discriminates, inflicts death and suffering for material gain, tells us we are not good enough and need to strive for more, and the list goes on. Throughout history, humanity has chosen domination over cooperation, with each other and nature. We’ve developed weaponry that can destroy everything we’ve ever known. Our economic systems prey on the weak. The planet we live on is at a breaking point from centuries of over-exploitation. Recent technologies accelerate socialization and standardization of thinking, causing unprecedented spikes in emotional stress and suicide amongst the youth.
We surely can’t expect our truth and meaning to come from the very source of our collective anxiety, insecurity and disharmony.
“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” — Jiddu Krishnamurti
Through time and history, great thinkers have emerged that have looked through the noise, tore down society’s imposed constraints, and expanded their self beyond what was given to them. They are the bastions of hope that imparted a message of finding truths within rather than outside. One of them was Jiddu Krishnamurti, Indian thinker and sense-maker who left behind numerous essays and lectures that dove deep into the subject of freedom from mental constructs. Fundamental to his message is that man who is seeking truth is free of all societies and cultures, and that clarity is achieved the more you understand yourself.
“To understand yourself is the beginning of wisdom” — Jiddu Krishnamurti
This process of self understanding involves the objective assessment of your inner workings without striving to change any of it. Observing and accepting your mental constructs are sufficient for radical self transformation – just like a structural engineer examines the strengths, weaknesses, curvature, blemishes and other characteristics of a building. Observing the walls that limit who we are is sufficient to tear them down. The secret is to do this while embracing things as they are, absent from judgment and any attempts to alter what is.
Knowing what to observe is just as important as how. The architecture of our life’s experience reveals itself through our thoughts, opinions and self identity. Getting to the root of these completes the transformation.
Separating yourself from your thoughts requires understanding that these inner voices are not who you are, but rather the algorithm that has been imprinted in you by society. With such detachment you can hear the narrative within and answer some questions: What was the sequence that led to the thought? How does it make you feel? Are there any thoughts that depressed or elated you? If so, why? Are there any patterns of thinking that emerge?
Next is to discern your opinions — What are some areas you hold strong judgments on? Where did they come from? Consider the alternative, contrarian perspective. How could you be proven wrong?
Deciphering your identity would be the final piece of the breakdown. Ask yourself what labels you wear. These could be your nationality, profession, the roles you play in your relationships — friend, colleague, mother, nephew amongst many more. Do you borrow ideas on how to conduct yourself within these labels? How do you know what it means to be a good colleague? Finally, are there any traits you strive for that enlarge your sense of identity? This could come from striving to be unique, amplifying our likability or multiplying our social networks amongst others.
“If you begin to understand what you are without trying to change it, then what you are undergoes a transformation.” — Jiddu Krishnamurti
Self understanding unleashes the limitless nature of all of us. It reveals a rich inner sanctuary that fulfills and comforts. When we stop looking outwards for truth, we attain confidence and trust in ourselves. The inner-peace you seek is finally in your grasp, no longer at the mercy of the herd. Most importantly, what comes with it is compassion for others and the suffering in their lives. It opens a wellspring of love that makes you want to reach out and share the oasis you found within.
“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” — Rumi
Living means to borrow ideas from the world around. We look outward for answers on who we are, how we should live and conduct ourselves. This information is our collective culture and it creates the boundaries of our existence. Unfortunately, these concepts are the very source of humanity’s suffering, taking away our inner peace and self confidence. Observing these borrowed mental constructs is the first step in dissolving their influence over us. An examination of our thoughts, opinions and source of identity frees us from the clutches of society, giving us the inner peace to live the fullest version of ourself.
“The unhappy person is one who has his ideal, the content of his life, the fullness of his consciousness, the essence of his being, in some manner outside of himself.” — Søren Kierkegaard