who would you be if you were fully you?

Perhaps you'd like to consider this question: who would you be if you were fully you? 

Personally, I find it somewhat tricky. Slippery, even. But don't let that stop you. Keep asking it. Let it resonate. Tune into its cadence: 

who would you be if you were fully you?

Maybe you'd like to reflect upon it as if it were a story. The story of who would you be if you were fully you?

If so, maybe you'd like to ask yourself these questions:

What’s the story?
What’s the other story?
How do you know the story?
Why would you want to know the story?
What’s the power of the story?

I’ll use my own story as an example. Then maybe you might want to use the questions for your story too.

Let’s start with ‘what’s the story’?

My story is one of unresolved trauma. I didn’t even know trauma existed for me until one sunny Sunday morning in September 2014 when I received an email from an old schoolfriend. The email was quite succinct: ‘A book’s been written. It’s all about Morris’.

Reading that awakened in me suppressed memories of a school I had left in 1979 – 35 years before. The school was a Christian Brothers school, situated in a leafy suburb in south Manchester, England. The book was entitled, “Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil.’ On its front cover was (for me) a  chilling photograph of a man I remembered all too well. The strap-liner read: For nearly twenty years Alan Morris abused boys at my school. Decades later the ex-pupils reunited and brought him to justice. This is how we did it.

It took me five years from that September morning of 2014, up until now, to fully know the fear that five years spent at that school had downloaded in my body. Yes, my body. Most of us don't think of starting there. In the body. But that's what mindfulness told me to do. Or rather, that's where it guided me. The downloading made clear to me 35 years of difficult relationships, 35 years of addictive tendencies, 35 years of lying to myself and others, 35 years of shutting the door on my own authenticity, and 35 years of shutting the door on the question of ‘who would you be if you were fully you.’

But I’m not going to tell that story. I'm going to tell 'the other story' instead. 

The other story is about how you pay attention to the story. The other story is about how you reframe the story. The other story is about the story of ‘no choice’. The other story says: ‘you have no choice other than to accept the reality of what is’. Then you will be fully you.

But how do you 'accept the reality of what is'? 

This is where the next question comes into the piece: 'how do you know the story'?

You know the story by tuning into the story the body tells you. You let the body trace the source wound. You then mix in some practical wisdom. In the first verse of that ancient text of early neuroscience, known as the Dhammapada, the Awakened One tells us: ‘all experience is preceded by mind, led by mind, made by mind’. What we learn here is that our thoughts (our afflictive thoughts) come at us through layers of experiencing. That our experiencing starts at a level of pre-conscious awareness. In other words, our experiencing starts in the body. In this way we are introduced to the mechanics of how thoughts start in the body as sensations, urges, impulses, and emotions that in turn become actions and behaviours. You can get carried away by these layers of experiencing: body sensations become a means of labelling thoughts (for instance, anger, frustration, boredom, worry, anxiety, blame, victimisation, and so forth), before then becoming interpretations, and ruminations. You then start living outside of the body. You relinquish the ability to use the body to ground yourself and find space within present reality – no matter what that reality is. You then get into the habit – when stressors arise – of living a short distance from your body.  Do you live a short distance from your body? Just knowing that you might do could be the first step in knowing who you would be if you were fully you.

So, why would you want to know this story?

This is where the transformation starts. The transformation of no choice. Because you have no choice – if you want to know who you would be if you were fully you – than to befriend the design of your tricky mind. But no choice turns out to be a pretty good choice because you can learn how to trick your mind out of its trickery.

One way of understanding this idea of befriending the design of your tricky mind is to submit yourself to the famous test of trying not to think of a polar bear. Straight away you see the polar bear. I defy you not to. Here is where we get the opportunity to experientially understand the power of befriending starts. Instead of trying not to think of the polar bear, why not just let the polar bear stay. Why not put a welcome mat out to the polar bear? See it sauntering on an ice floe? Welcome the stimulus of its presence in your mind? Find space within the stimulus if its presence?  Find space to attend, accept and attune your attitude in a befriending way? After all, it won’t stay. It will pass. Knowing that all things pass is another step on the journey of knowing who you would be if you were fully you.

There are other stories that help you know this too. Like the story of how you are a part of this 13.2 billion years of unfolding universe. You are part of its perplexing perfection; right here in this moment now. You can see its unfolding as leading to the moment you are living now. That you are its unfolding. Then there’s the story of the 657 million years it has taken for your brain to evolve. In terms of design, that’s it. The bit you use for thinking is a mere 3 million years out of that 657 million. So it’s a baby brain. You can’t overload it. Would you overstimulate a baby? No, you wouldn’t. You would nurture it by soothing it and making it feel safe and secure. But do we do that for ourselves? No, we don’t. But when you reframe it, when you know you have no choice but to soothe it if you want it to work effectively, it makes sense  to do so. You have no choice other than to befriend that design. 

Then there’s the story of the research that tells us that we have wandering minds, that our minds wander for 46.9 per cent of the time. But that the wandering leads us to mainly unhappy states. Hence, the title of the paper ‘A wandering mind is an unhappy mind’. Maybe you need to befriend that? As an educator, and as a parent, I find myself asking: where’s the curriculum for that 46.9 percent? Where’s the curriculum for the inner self? Where’s the curriculum for the skill that is befriending the design of the mind?

To know these stories is to set yourself on the path of knowing who you would be if you were fully you.

So now we get to the power of the story.

The power comes from sitting with the design and training the muscle of the mind to befriend.

So maybe you'd like to try this practice.

Let me leave you with a thought and a question. 

Imagine you receive a letter from your seventh-generation descendant. She is writing to the person who is “fully you”. In the letter she tells you that many changes have occurred in the intervening 200 years between the moment you are reading the letter in your hand and the time at which it was written. These changes have brought challenge and adversity but the world is – in 2219 – a fairer, cleaner, more prosperous place than the world of 2019. She then informs you – somewhat to your surprise – that the reason why the world is a better place is due to a decision that you made when you realised that you were fully you.

So my question to you now is: what does that decision look like?

Image: Michal Parzuchowski

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