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Life Is Shaping Us Through Our Dreams

“With ‘I’ eliminated, this is Nirvana, here and now.”  ~ Buddha

I remember when I started learning Spanish in college. I wanted to visit Spain. I had grand ideas about a romantic voyage. And yes, I had a foreign language credit to fill.

If you know the Spanish language at all, you know that the Spanish construction for pleasure is the reverse of our English language. In English, we say, “I like that.” But, in Spanish, we say “Me gusta” which translates as, “It pleases me.”

In other words, in English we are the actors, the subjects, who actively do the “liking.” But in Spanish, the thing is the actor and we are the recipients, the objects, of the pleasure that it provides. 

I remember how it sent my whole world into a tailspin. I literally walked around campus saying, “Do you realize that in Spanish the thing is the actor and I am merely the recipient of the action it makes?”

Here’s a simple example: I like the desk vs. the desk pleases me.

I couldn’t get my head around it. It was like a Seinfeld episode, “Do you mean to tell me that the desk is the subject and I am the object?” It rocked my world.

Now, this is not to say, of course, that everyone who speaks Spanish natively exists in Nirvana simply because their verbal construction eliminates the “I” sometimes.

But, it does open a window for us to ask the question: What if we really did live as recipients of life instead of imagining ourselves to be the ones in charge of life?

What if we knew that life is the actor and we are the results of life’s actions?

Think about the times when you get most stressed. For me, it’s when I feel like it’s all up to me.  And if I don’t do it, then it’s not going to happen. That stresses me out.

It’s the same with the thinking that it’s up to us to make our lives happy and successful and abundant. If you look carefully, it’s the very striving to make our lives happy, successful and abundant that stresses us out! How ironic is that?

Ok, I know what you might be thinking: Shouldn’t we have goals, and shouldn’t we set steps in place for our growth and development? And, yes you’re right.

What I’m asking is simply this: Who is the actor?

Are you the one who will reach your goals? Are you the one who will attain your dreams?  Or, is it possible that the goals are drawing you, that the dream is dreaming you?

Let’s reverse the lens of who is the subject. Rumi put it this way, “What you seek is seeking you!”

So, is it possible that life has given us our dreams and goals in the first place? Life has given us what we seek!  And the only reason we have the dreams and goals we do is because life has given them to us.

And what’s perhaps more important for us to understand is this: We are being created by the life that dreams us. In other words, we don’t know who we are yet. We only find out who we are as a result of allowing our goals and dreams to act on us.

If this concept is at all confusing, just think about a classic character arc in any story.

We only discover who the character really is as a result of the actions that transpire in the story.  The character isn’t fixed. Things happen in the plot that draw out the character.

But, how many of us never follow our dreams or our goals because we’re fixated on who we think we are?

We think our goals and dreams are too scary or too big for us. We think, “I could never do that.”  So, we don’t.

And, technically speaking, we’re right. We couldn’t do it because we aren’t the actors. Life is the actor and we are the recipients of life’s actions.

If we’re stuck, it’s because we’re stuck in “I.” 

Our dreams don’t come true and our goals don’t materialize because we think “I” am going to reach the goal and “I” am going to make it happen.

But, in fact, the process we go through to manifest our goals changes us completely. We will not be the same person when we reach our goals as we are now. The “I” is fluid.

Who we are is being shaped by the process of reaching our dreams and goals.    

And, if we are fixated on our self-identity, then it is not possible for our dreams and goals to shape us. We simply won’t let it happen. We will resist. We will resist any transformation of ourselves. In other words, we won’t move outside of our comfort zone.

And we will stay exactly as we are, with no character arc—fixated, unmoving and unhappy—all the while thinking that we must set goals and take steps.

To paraphrase Buddha, “With ‘I’ eliminated, all our dreams come true.”

If we didn’t have a self-perception of who we think we are, then all of our goals and dreams would be able to act through us.

We would be re-shaped and re-fashioned by the process of allowing the dreams and goals to come true.  And, as a result, we would become the hero or heroine of our own dreams!

My trip to Spain turned out to be not what I imagined it would be. But life was teaching me things completely other than a romantic jaunt about Spain. And who I am now is completely different as a result.

And if you look, doesn’t your life have a character arc as well? What events and things have shaped you? More importantly, what events still to come will shape you further?

And so, if we are constantly being remade and reshaped in the process of life, then who are we right now?

If we eliminate the “I” of who we think we are right now, what happens?

Photo by h.koppdelaney

About Alexander Dunlop

Alexander Dunlop is a Spiritual Life Coach. From an ordinary deck of playing cards, he can layout the blueprint for your life. Discover the life you were born to live. And get the life nourishment you need. www.spiritualnutrition.org

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  • i guess we are ever changing, as everything else…
    Noch Noch

  • Roo

    I love this post.  You did a great job of explaining a difficult concept. Many times we are told to give up the “I” and the ego but it is hard to separate out who we are and what is our ego. I also often hear that we should allow and receive but that conflicts with our ingrained need to control our lives and how can you allow something that you haven’t created yet to happen? I like the Spanish language metaphor.

  • Lv2terp

    Wonderful blog!!! Really a fascinating perspective, and yes a bit hard to wrap my head completely around, but all your examples did help to get my wheels turning! I especially like this part “And if you look, doesn’t your life have a character arc as well?
    What events and things have shaped you? More importantly, what events
    still to come will shape you further?” to help solidify such a great insight! Thank you for sharing your wisdom and epiphany! 🙂

  • James

    Superb post – as other commentators have said, explains difficult concepts so well. 

  • Peter G Kimble

    Thanks for all that the universe shared with me through you – with of course the cosmic joke that we are all one – and so blessing love and peace may it rain down on you and completely soak you until your smile is not just yours it is all of us. 

  • Honey_b_temple

    I love this – what a great way to turn everything on its head! This makes a lot of sense to me. I’ve always felt, in certain aspects of my life, that I’ve been trying to force things to be a certain way and that those dreams have always eluded me. And in other ways where there wasn’t a sensation of forcing things, everything has gone really well. Hmmm….maybe the trying to make it something it isn’t is actually the problem? great timing, as always. Sometimes I think Tiny Buddha is somehow linked into my head; so many times I come here to read something and it speaks to exactly what’s happening right now. 

  • Tana Franko

    Great post, thank you!  Brings to mind a favorite quote by Eckhart Tolle: “Life is the dancer and you are the dance.”

  •  yes

  •  I like the choice of words, “to turn everything on its head.”  Makes me think of doing a headstand and looking at the world from that perspective.  I used to enjoy doing Downward Dog outside in the grass and looking at the trees upside-down.  Fascinating exercise.  I recommend you try it.  🙂

  •  marinating and stewing juicy…  mmmm

  •  aww shucks, just surrendering to the words as they come… thank you.

  •  the journey of the hero and the heroine is the life of our dreams, the moment we surrender to what Life is dreaming us to be. 

  •  yup … and paradoxically, staying the same… even change is changing.  as Zen says, emptiness is also empty

  •  The ego is our identity.  That’s it.  It’s what we think we are.  Period.  So, people who perceive themselves as ‘spiritual’ have that as their ego.  And it’s the self-identification, the ego, that resists surrender to the Cosmic dance. 

    Life is bigger, so much bigger, than our identity.  In fact, we can not identify just how big Life is.  The moment we identify ourselves with Life is the moment we have created an ego.

    And yet we need an ego to function in society.  We must have an identify, a social role to fulfill.  We require teachers, doctors, shamans etc.  These are identities.  These are egos.

    The best way to understand the ego is that it must be porous like a sponge to allow the flow of life.  An ego is only a problem if it is hard and resistant.  An ego that is solid but open for new Life to flow is a healthy ego.

  • Alexander, Thanks for this. You’ve got me thinking about how I live my life and how it could be totally different if I allowed life to be the actor and my dreams to be the dreamer.

  • Brilliant! 

  • LLYONS56

    Wow Alex, this is a great and thought-provoking piece. I will have to re-read several times to “wrap my head around it” but I think there is a nugget of gold in there, hidden like the jewel in the robe in Buddhist lore. Thanks for letting me see a different perspective on life today1

  • Thank you for this moving post. My ‘i’ has been tough to get rid of, but slowly life is happening and flowing through me, so the ‘I’ , is loosing its grip.  How does one take action then, how do we move , how to make choices ?

  • Although I understand what you mean and there are good points made here, I disagree with the thought of life taking us on it’s own path or being the recipient of what life brings — because, what has happened in the past, what is happening now and what will happen in the future is a direct (or maybe even indirect, sometimes) result of our actions, attitudes and beliefs — not what life just throws our way.

  • designred

    Wow, very profound!  Such a different outlook to how I’ve been thinking.  My thought immediately after reading the last question was that with “I” eliminated anything, but anything is possible.  All limitations are removed. I love that idea.

  •  YES, exactly.  ANYTHING is possible.

  •  Life is taking us on our path.  Life is not “throwing things our way.”  Life is acting through us. 

    We may choose to allow life to act through us or not.  We may choose from the perspective of ego or Life.  Life does not insist.  How could Life insist?  It would become death the moment it insists.  We may choose to allow life to pass through us or not. 

    As I explain above, ego is identity.  Life is infinite and expansive.  Ego is fixed.  And then, yes we reap the results of these choices.  We either find ourselves in Life / Nirvana or in Ego / Prison depending on whether or not we have chosen Life or Ego.

  • There is no getting rid of the “I.”  That will never happen!  There is only choosing Life, which leads you out of the “I” into something bigger!

    And the question is this:  what stirs the excitement in your heart?  Act with excitement.  And keep in mind that fear is only excitement without breath. 

    “Follow your bliss,” Joseph Campbell said.  That is your choice to make.  Choose to follow your bliss.

  •  Thank you.

    Don’t try to wrap your head around it.  Surrender to it.  Breathe it in like a fragrance from a rose.

    Imagine if you tried to wrap your head around the fragrance of a rose. 

  •  🙂

  •  And keep this close to your heart:  Life only intends to give us good gifts.  Life is conspiring to shower us with blessings!  If only we would surrender to the Surprise party that Life has in store for us. 

  • Eva

    Love that! What a mind bender. Breathing and dreaming into our own life..as children we are so often asked and what are you going to be when you grow up? Answer being “myself” with all the gifts and surprises that come with living life, also, will work at a career which will provide my world with comfort and warmth…especially if you live in Canada..

    Take the “I” from your eye and enjoy the wonder of our world..thanks for sharing this..

  • Teresamaria

    I love the idea,but i little confused as i am spanish speaking and “me gusta” means “i like” in english.I love your meaning…

  • Marianne

    I’m going through a “character arc” right now.  I am changing, growing, adapting based on a situation not under my control.  However, it is leading me closer to the type person I always thought I would like to be. A perfect example of how my goal has finally found me!  Thanks for putting it in perspective for me Alex!

  • Deb_vo

    Great new perspective from which to view my life journey! Thanks Alexander!

  • me gusta la repuesta tambien.  🙂  en vez de decir, yo quiero la repuesta.  sin “yo” todo es possible porque todo esta aqui.  lo unico que prevente todo en nuestra vida es la idea de “yo”

  •  isn’t Life amazing?  it gives us exactly what we REALLY want. 

  •  it’s all in the perspective.  an ant has a very different perspective of my shoe.  🙂

  •  it’s true, we get programmed as little beings with an egotistical perspective.  and yet, that too is part of our journey to consciously re-create ourselves as adults.

  • Wow! Just wow! As I read through the article and comments there were glimmers of me “getting” the message and then my mind would try to rationalize and my thoughts all started with “I”.  Like, I don’t know how… or Why can’t I understand… I (here I go again) guess it’s a process?  I know Jon Kabat-Zinn always says, go easy on yourself.  Never really understood that since my background has been study-work-lead-decide-complete-attain yet inside I seem to want something else.  Obviously I am a frustrated seeker…

  •  M*rk look at the “something else” inside you.  What does IT want?  What if THAT was the dream of life coming to reality in you?  What if the study-work-lead-decide part of you was simply a social construction fabricated inside a capitalist mold?  But you have identified yourself with the mold instead of the dream!

  • Alexander, Gratitude for your wisdom and clear in-sight.  Paul Greene has a line in a song “are you dreaming the dream or is the dream dreaming you?”  In Wade Davis’ book The Wayfinders, the Polynesian people believed in their nautical navigation that they launch the boat, focus on the stars and the destination rises to meet them….as the planet moves, their goal moves ever more clearly to them. All they do is be. Your post re-minds me of these inspirations.
    Time to get out of my own way and let life….
    Love your website too.
    Thank you   

  • I’m a native spanish speaker (that’s usually not in Nirvana) and yes the change of perspective exists and it’s cool. I can tell that being able to express things in more than one language helps you to perceive the essence of things.Specially about cultural constructs. Probably another of the reasons why being bilingual (or better, multilingual) is valuable.

    Something of great importance that most people miss is that they are the screenwriters of their films. 

    Ah, yes.. with remarkably hard budgetary and not-yet-attained-talent challenges ahead.

  •  Andrea, thank you for your words.  I love the image of the planet moving and the destination rising to meet us.

  •  Sebastian, thank you for your words.  I appreciate your added insight.

  • Javaboy281

    This is great!

  • Srikanth

    Simply superb!!! A wonderful well written message. Now, the challenge is in eternal aloofness of ‘I’ towards Nirvana. 😀
    It’s joyful to read this and love to read more from you Alexander. Your name reminds Alexander the great who aspired to conquer and rule world. You truly rule the world with your awe inspiring messages.