(Abutilon, Chinese Lantern, favorite new houseplant)
How do we measure the Self? Can we?
Recently I’ve become aware that concepts like “self-esteem” or “self-worth” have little to do with anything that can be measured. Yes, you can take a TEST that may lead you to consider how self-esteem impacts everything in your life and lead you straight to a therapist’s office. But I have noticed that letting go of the concept of a fixed Self actually fosters a sense of great possibility, happiness, and dare I say self-esteem?
Think of it this way. If someone says something negative about us, it is easy to feel bad about the Self. If someone says something positive, it is easy to feel good. We may arrive at a third assessment of the exact same thing about ourself. In all cases, this input may have zero to do with whatever Self is, may reflect more about what the person who said it is going through, or at least begs the question, “Where is the real self?”
Most often, though, feedback about what we perceive as Self is more subtle. Like assumptions when we are at a doctor’s office or workplace and everyone makes ice-breaking conversation about what you did this weekend for fun, who your spouse is, or what your local football team did. In truth, you may live a life and inhabit a “self” that does not fit any cultural “norms” or what people grasp as norm. No spouse, no love of football, and your version of fun would not be believed.
When you start to pull at a strand of Self, you soon realize the vastness of the ball of yarn. The interconnection of all that is and ever will be throughout time. Each of us is a piece of that. Self cannot be measured.
I loved reading this letter to those who are struggling by Leo, the author of Zen Habits to remind us all about the miracles of never being alone as humans.
For me, human interconnectedness is only half the solace, comfort, joy and wisdom we can access being alive on Earth. The other half is non-human. There are days I seek counsel from a council of trees for even five minutes, and I come away replenished.
Each time, I wonder how many people have forgotten they can quickly access such a powerful source? I consider myself very lucky to live in an area rich in access to non-human life, but natural beauty can be found anywhere. Even in a sand pit. That’s what my childhood in a desert taught me.
I am the queen of alone. I do alone really well and find great joy in solitude. But all of us can experience loneliness, depression, anxiety, hopelessness, worry about making the “right choices” for ourselves. Should you need reminder you are part of one huge community, try spending five minutes somewhere near a plant, animal, trees, grass, and each time your lungs fill, focus on that living thing. Each time you breathe out, gift your breath to that living thing. If you do this for even 30 breaths, it is a powerful way to increase your awareness of being not alone. Ever.
Loneliness gone in 30 seconds. Self endless.
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Should you care to watch a “spirit animal” that found me, here is one of the smallest mammals on Earth that despite their size can run 100 miles each night!