“You have your own particular inclinations, tendencies and pressures which conflict with the system you think you ought to follow and therefore there is a contradiction. So you will lead a double life between the ideology of the system and the actuality of your daily existence. In trying to conform to ideology, you suppress yourself –whereas what is actually true is not the ideology but what you are. If you try to study yourself according to another you will always remain a secondhand human being.”
That passage was written by Jiddu Krishnamurti. I spotted his name on a book sitting on a shelf within the R.T. Jones Memorial Library on Tuesday. I had entered that building seeking a completely different title, from an entirely different tradition (The Pilgrims Progress) but stopped the search immediately. I opened this book to a random page, read the paragraph above and it resonated completely. Books have a curious and serendipitous nature about them. This one is visiting me for a couple of weeks.
Shortly before the New Year one of my teachers gave a dharma talk on vows, very much in the spirit of the “resolutions” typical of January. She asked us to consider undertaking one or two vows for the year, less as ironclad promises, but rather as mindful intentions. We were to use these to orient ourselves as the months went on. I wrote two in my journal later that night. The first was “allow yourself the best,” which I may expand upon in another post. The second intention was “trust yourself.”
I’ve become aware that I seek advice to a fault, and I am highly influenced by unsolicited commentary as well. This guidance is almost always sought concerning my relationships and interactions with other people. Somewhere along the line my self-confidence in this area stammered, and I’ve since built a habit of second-guessing myself. All patterns can be changed through awareness. Still, I’ve felt like a “secondhand human being” for much of my adult life. The absurd but very real truth, that no one on this earth has the slightest clue what they are doing, has yet to fully cement itself in my mind. In fact, the notion itself took twenty-seven years to grace my neural pathways.
I have had great teachers along the way. Initially, as their flaws became increasingly discernible, I became equally ill at ease. As time has passed however, the cracks in their facade have allowed me to grow, like a stubborn weed between two slabs of pavement. Even a master can miss the mark. Even a gentle Bodhisattva of a man can be a dick sometimes. It was disquieting day indeed when I realized my father was just another man. Yet, the shared flaws bring a kinship few can know.
Several of my father’s possessions have passed through my fingers. I have kept only a handful of these. One is a coin from a Naval alcohol rehabilitation center. It serves as a testament to our shared struggle; a brass reminder that this malady is generational in scope. The second is one which I only recently came to have, a rosary which my mother seems to think dates from his childhood. It features medals of Anthony of Padua and beautiful wooden beads. My father was a deeply spiritual man, but he always seemed uncomfortable with this side of himself. As with alcohol recovery, I’ve been blessed with resources along my search for peace unavailable in his time. I often wonder what he’d be like had he embraced this side of himself more fully; what he’d have been like if he too set the intention to trust himself just a fraction more.
For now, I am resetting my own bearings along this course. I need to keep silencing all the advice giving and nay-saying voices which continue come to mind in my head. Even his.