A journey to discover your inner being and accepting who you are
I find it ironic that the one person who we assume we should know the best, is also the one person who is the most elusive for us to understand. That person is ourselves.
Take a moment to ask yourself, “Who am I?” What answers did you come up with? Look deeply into those answers – are you satisfied these answers encapsulates who are you?
Now ask yourself, “Do I know who I am? Do I know my own heart? Do I know how my mind works?”
We live in ignorance of what grows inside our hearts, as we hold onto grudges, guilt, hurt and anger without realising its destructive nature. We live equally in ignorance of how our mind functions, despite centuries of studying psychology and neuroscience. This is because our focus is often towards the outside and towards others, and we keep the screen door closed between our ego and our true self.
My screen door was once an iron vault with a security code that was unknown to everyone, including myself. I thought I knew myself – I was kind, giving, fair and considerate. I was good. Or so I thought. Yet when things didn’t go my way or when I felt my ego was being challenged, I wasn’t any of these things. I retaliated with unkindness and aggression, and acted on my own self-interest. Sometimes I would see these actions and excuse my behaviour (like blaming the agitator). But often, I just hid away my faults deeper within this vault and added another security code on the already-difficult-to-crack code.
However, suppressed truth doesn’t stay suppressed for long. Slowly the onion begins to unravel its layers and its stench begins to contaminate the air. At first, I tried to cover up the smell with the perfumed scent of sweet words and actions. I didn’t want to know about the onion; I didn’t want to peel away its layers for fear of the tears that would well in my eyes.
But eventually I did, and I am so glad I did.
I mustered up the courage to face myself, to get to know this person for who I am, not just who I appeared to be or want to be. I wanted to see myself in all my glory and in all my failures. I wanted to free myself from having to put up an image of who I am, instead of truly being who I am.
So I confronted that iron vault inside of me. It took a few days in meditation to figure out the security code. Actually, the code itself was simple and obvious: ‘O-P-E-N’. It only took so long to crack this code because I kept inputting codes like ‘F-E-A-R’ and ‘H-U-R-T’ and ‘P-A-I-N’, which all didn’t work and only made it harder to crack the next time.
The cracking of the code was an important step, but it was just the beginning. I then had to find the courage to step inside. I had some doubts – will I be able to handle what I find? Am I ready to confront the truth of who I am?
So I mustered up the courage and looked inside. Inside I find a jungle of mess. I am overwhelmed by all that is happening inside of me that I’m not aware of. Random thoughts are jumping from tree to tree like monkey, emotions are drowning everything it touches, and memories are being replayed endlessly as projections on every hard surface it can find.
I try to find meaning in what I see, but it is far too chaotic. I try to find ‘me’ in all of this, but I can’t find ‘me’ anywhere within the rubble.
I resist the temptation to run in there and sort it all out into neat piles. I resist the temptation to jump from tree to tree with my thoughts, and to get washed away by my emotions, and to act out the memories over and over again.
Instead, I just sat and watched, patiently and quietly. I don’t disturb what was going on. I don’t try to intellectualise or analyse what was going on. I don’t try to identify with any of these things are ‘me’, even though I desperately wanted to understand who was ‘me’ and what all these things were.
Every day, I get lost in the thoughts, emotions and memories that cloud my mind. So on that day, I stayed clear from them all and just watched to see what happened to them when I’m not stirring them.
Just as when you stop stirring a muddy pond the mud sinks to the bottom, so too once I stopped stirring, the thoughts, emotions and memories sunk to the bottom of the mind. The water is now clear. I can see so clearly now.
In that clearing, I see…an onion. I pick it up and examine it. It is so small and unimposing. I touch an outer skin of the onion, and I feel an unusual flutter in my heart. I peel off the layer and expose a softer, and more vulnerable, skin underneath. I keep peeling. The deeper I go, the softer the skin and the harder it is to peel. I close my eyes as tears well in my eyes.
For readers who aren’t used to my style, I like to interweave fictitious analogies into what appears to be a non-fiction piece. I may then abruptly interrupt your imagination by a sentence to jolt you back to reality as a reader, like in this sentence. This is what our minds do every day – it gets lost in something, and we then have to bring it back to what is real and now.
So during that mediation, I didn’t see any vaults, jungles, muddy ponds or onions. But I did see a glimpse of my true self. In these analogies, I hope to share with you that experience. You may or may not go through this same process in discovering your true self, but here I offer to you my journey.
So peeling the onion is my way of describing the process I went through to unravel all the intricate layers of self-image, self-description, self-love and self-hate. In delving deeper into my ‘self’, my vulnerabilities became exposed and my armour was stripped one by one. This was perhaps why tears came to my eyes, not from pain or hurt, but a release in the freedom of finally being understood. It is like the tears that well in our eyes from cutting an onion – they aren’t tears of sorrow, they are … just tears.
To take this analogy even deeper, after you have peeled away all the skin to the onion, you will find what you set out to search for. In that, is the true self.
Along the way on your journey, you may confront aspects of your self that you dislike. Accept it with kindness, forgive yourself for any wrongdoing you may have done, and make a resolution to not indulge in that negative trait anymore in the future. On the other hand, if you confront aspects of your self that you like, accept it with humility and make an aspiration to continue to foster that goodness within yourself. Either way, do not hold onto these traits as a part of you, because if you look deeply into these traits, you will see that these too come and go depending on the circumstances that you are confronted with. Accept that these are habitual tendencies, but they are not who you are.
I sincerely hope you find deep understanding and real acceptance of your inner being. I hope you discover your vault, crack the code and find peace in the core of the onion.
As for me, since I opened the vault, I’ve still unconsciously put things back into that vault sometimes. This time, however, at least I didn’t shut the door.