“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