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Why We Struggle to Find Ourselves and How to Do It

Searching

“On a deeper level you are already complete. When you realize that, there is a playful, joyous energy behind what you do.” ~Eckhart Tolle

For a long time I’ve had a bit of an obsession with coming home. Not my physical home, but Home with a capital H. Being with myself. Knowing who I was. Leaning back into me and having that “ah” feeling of being totally whole, and totally at peace.

I felt like there was something missing, and that I needed to find that missing piece to complete the puzzle.

I thought that if I found the right job, or met the right man, or had the right friends, or went on the right adventure that I would find it.

I always imagined myself on a beach somewhere, with tanned skin, with my soul mate (who was obviously gorgeous), and felt that then I would be at peace. Then I would know myself.

I went to satsangs (literally “true company,” when an enlightened person shares their truth/wisdom with people who want it). I tried to work out what these people had that I didn’t. What did they know that I didn’t know? And how could I know it too?

I imagined that they had reached a place. They had meditated hard enough and had reached a place of enlightenment, of wholeness, of union.

I felt the burning desire to be united with myself, and didn’t know how to do it.

The idea of a pilgrimage appealed to me. I liked the idea of starting off not knowing who I was, and then walking my way toward me and finding myself at the end of the tunnel.

In addition to satsangs, I met Indian gurus, and meditated, and worked on all my issues, and did healing courses.

Helpful as they all were, they never quite brought me to myself. They came close, and sometimes I got a glimpse of this elusive self I was looking for. They helped me in many ways, but I still hadn’t found the missing piece to complete me.

I presumed that it must be because I’m young. People walk the path for twenty, thirty, forty years, and they still haven’t found the self, so while I’m lucky in that I’m starting young, I still have a long way to go.

And then, my understanding of what I was looking for started to change. This linear journey from not knowing to knowing started to fall away, in its place appeared a circular, non-journey.

Suddenly this idea of following a path and finding myself at the end of it seemed ridiculous. Obviously you don’t find yourself at the end of a long journey.

The only way you find yourself at the end of a journey is if at your final destination there’s a massive mirror that reflects back to you who you are.

Out of nowhere the idea of me looking for myself seemed crazy. It’s like walking into a room full of people and not finding yourself amongst them. Obviously you won’t find yourself amongst the crowd, as you are the very thing that’s doing the looking!

It’s like how the eye can see everything but itself. It’s looking for your glasses when they’re on your head. You can look in all the elaborate places you want, but you’ll never find them until you stop and look in a mirror.

What I’m trying to say is that when the thing that is looking is the same as what is being looked for, you’re in for a very long, fruitless search.

When you are what you’re looking for, the only way to find yourself is to turn inwards, and find that you were there all along.

So long as we’re looking “out there,” we’re never going to find who we are. We might meet someone who holds up a mirror for us, and so long as we are with them and their mirror we can feel at one.

But even then we usually presume that it is only around this person, teacher, or guru that we feel good, and we imagine that they have the key to unlock who we are. This Is why we can get so attached to our mirror holders, and believe that they have something we don’t.

They journey to the self is much less of a linear path to be trodden, and much more of a turning back to ourselves.

It’s a stopping, a slowing down, and the realization that we are already complete and whole.

That’s not to say that all the satsangs, teachers, and gurus were a waste of time. They helped me let go of enough stuff; they helped me loosen my identification with ego so that I could turn in. Thanks to them there was less illusion, and less conditioning standing between me and myself.

But it wasn’t until I stopped trying to get somewhere, be it the perfect future or the end of a spiritual path that I could see that I was what I was looking for. And, that I’m in here, not out there.

It’s like (my favorite teacher) Adyashanti said at a satsang in London: if you have something really valuable that you don’t want anyone to find, where do you hide it? On the top of a mountain? In a Himalayan cave? At the end of a long journey, or on an exotic beach?

No. You make the seeker out of it, and they’ll be so busy looking for it, that they will never realize that it’s hidden in plain sight, is literally right under their nose, and is in fact their very essence.

So call off the search. You don’t need to be found. You’re already here.

Photo by Peeratam Tangtua

About Jade Doherty

Jade is a laugh-aholic who went looking for herself only to discover she's been here all along (ta-dah!). She isn't really sure what she's doing with her life but she does know that her calling lies in drinking tea and wearing a onesie. She enjoys geeking out over Philosophy books, going to satsangs, watching football, and having good conversations laced with wine. You can find her on her blog, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

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  • Sheena Vasani

    Wow.

  • Hi Jade,

    We are whole. Now. Life is looking within, to see this. Awesome message here. Life is more about releasing than acquiring anything.

    We let go faulty beliefs. We uncover who we are a little bit more. We push ourselves to let go, to surrender, we see our true nature.

    By surrendering, and chipping away at ego, we get down to our core; love and light. Love and light, yep, they are complete 🙂

    Thanks for the inspiring share!

    Ryan

  • Hi Jade!

    Loved reading about your experiences! It is the stillness of the mind that is important to have peace in life, and meditation can make that happen.

    Piyush

  • Thanks for sharing!!!

  • Will G

    It is difficult to explain to people what Tolle says in his quote about feeling a sense of playfullness in what you’re doing. I get that feeling while doing some seemingly mundane tasks these days. Driving to work, drinking my coffee, doing laundry etc. are now times when i can feel the most present and alive. Sometimes I feel a smile come over me at the sheer realization that I’m alive! Even while I’m stuck in gridlock traffic…

    Also, I love that you love onesies! Sooo comfy 🙂 I played lacrosse in college with one of two brothers who are getting their onesie company off of the ground. Feel free to check it out! http://www.onezipwear.com/

  • Jade Doherty

    That sounds lovely, and I know what you mean, I’ve getting that too! To me it just feels like reality is enough, and I don’t need to change it, or make it better, or be anywhere other than I am!

    Thanks for sharing your happiness at the mundane!

    And thanks for the onesie info! I do love a good onesie 🙂

    Jade xx

  • Jade Doherty

    You’re welcome! Thanks for reading 🙂

    Jade xx

  • Jade Doherty

    Hi Piyush,

    Thanks for your comment! Yeah meditation is great at quieting the mind so you can rest in what’s behind all the jibber-jabber!

    Jade xx

  • Jade Doherty

    Hi Ryan,

    I couldn’t agree more, and thank you for your comment!

    It really is all about letting go, rather than trying to get something. Letting go can be difficult, and we don’t always realise that a belief isn’t who we are can be let go of, but like you said, release, surrender, ship away, repeat!

    Jade xx

  • Jade Doherty

    Thanks Sheena! So happy to have wowed you 🙂

    Jade xx

  • lv2terp

    Fantastic message, thank you for sharing your story, revelation, and beautiful wisdom!!! 🙂

  • Jade Doherty

    You’re so welcome! Thank you for reading 🙂

    Jade xx

  • Lucy Chen

    This is very insightful, Jade, and it clearly comes from your essence. It comes from a person who has searched long and hard, but realised that the most valuable thing they’re searching for is always already there, inside her very self.

    In a noisy world that is moving so fast, and everyone is trying to tell you what to do, and even what to become, it is so important to have and keep an inner sanctuary. In this inner sanctuary, we can be still, be quiet and then grow, or maybe even just to survive.

    In my personal experience, I had been told since a kid, that I should achieve success in the form of making a lot of money. I worked hard, topped in class both when I was in China and then Australia. I studied Finance and worked in a big bank. I worked in different fields across residual property development funding to derivatives trading. All at the same time, I kept studying for more accreditation in finance. But I did NOT feel anywhere near success. In fact, I felt more and more empty. I would cry and dreaded that I would live a meaningless existence.

    Then I quit. Then I had my first baby, and when he was 2 months old, I moved to China to work on the start-up company my husband founded. Over the next three years, we built a stable income stream and we’re now moving back to Sydney in December. But although I co-founded and built a business, it is still NOT me. It is not my essence.

    It is only when I took my first art course online 2 years ago, that I started to see a crack in the walls that other people built in me throughout my life, and get a glimpse of my essence.

    As I started to paint, all these walls started to collapse. And I see how powerful my essence is! She is super empowering (or maybe I should say I am)! Not only I see the meaning of my life, I am also on a mission to inspire others to find their meaning, to live an extraordinary existence.

  • Jade Doherty

    Hi Lucy,

    Thanks so much for your comment and kind words.

    And for sharing your story. Great that you found something that takes you to who you are, away from all the achieving and being good and achieving.

    I was like that as a kid; massive overachiever, wanted to play football for England, good grades, etc. But it didn’t really make me happy. Being with (and making peace with!) who you are is definitely where it’s at!

    Jade xx

  • Jayne

    Jade, your post really resonated with me. It’s not often you come across someone who is able to communicate such profound thoughts in such clear and concise terms. I too have been seeking outside myself, whilst at the same time being somehow aware that the answer isn’t “out there” but within me. I think I read all the books in the hope that one of them will provide the key which will enable me to look inside and find what is already there. You are lucky to have come such a long way at a young age. I’m 47 and feel as though this has been bubbling under the surface for a long, long time but has been buried under a pile of laundry, dirty nappies and washing up…I’ve started to realise that those everyday things are just as valuable and just as much part of “me” as meditation, philosophy books and adventure. Thanks again for your lovely post.

  • Harmony

    I love your insight about the journey not being linear but rather a circular non-journey. Great metaphors, too. (Looking for glasses that are on your head!) I had a similar realization this year. I was so concerned about reaching my ‘full potential’ but then it dawned on me that if we were to reach this place of ideal fulfillment, what would be left to do but die! We are continuously growing and expanding, going up and down this spiralling path–this is what being alive is all about!!

  • Barbara Scoville

    What a great article! Thank you for your beautiful insights. As a therapist I often have people sharing with me their deep desire to find themselves. I think what most of them are saying is that they want meaning and purpose in their lives. Perhaps that is because of our accomplishment based society, or maybe it is because of our need to be connected to others in a meaningful way. Either way, spending time in a pursuit of looking for what we already have keeps us at arms length of what truly brings peace and happiness. Thank you for this beautiful post. I’m making copies and sharing it with my clients.

  • leanne phillips

    Great article, thank you.

  • Princess Taaiebah Ebrahim

    This is the common sense typa talk that people say ain’t that common no more…
    I love it <3 Thank you, it's perfect 🙂