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Prompted: Removing Ourselves from the Equation
Reviewing what defines who we are and how to change our minds to change ourselves.
Good afternoon and happy Sunday.
This week’s newsletter is a bit more conceptual than usual, but I think the idea is an important one, and it’s something I’m sure I’ll be thinking about for years to come.
Let me know what you think, and as always, thanks for reading!
Removing Ourselves from the Equation
Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.
George Bernard Shaw
The average lifespan of a cell in the human body is 7 years. Approximately every 7-10 years, every cell in our bodies dies and is replaced. Even though our physical matter has changed, we still have the same sense of self. We look the same, act the same, and think the same, but we’re entirely different.
Our thoughts operate the same way, but we’re more apt to accept changes to our bodies than to our minds.
When we refer to ourselves, we’re thinking of the “I”. We say things like, “I am 25 years old”, “I am a doctor”, “I am a Muslim/Christin/Jew”, or I am a Democrat/Republican/Independent”.
We define ourselves by our physical characteristics and our beliefs. We become attached to these identities and work to protect the “I” that we’ve created. We stick our flag in the ground and declare that we are a certain way, and we don’t change because we don’t want to lose ourselves, but there’s nothing to lose.
We are not our physical bodies, our beliefs, or our emotions. We are merely observing these characteristics. If we’re skinny or fat, angry or sad, a believer or a skeptic, the “I” remains unchanged.
If we lose 10lbs or change our mind on a long-held belief, we are still there; we just think or look different. It’s not our current collection of thoughts and characteristics that make us who we are, but instead, our awareness of all of these factors and how we approach them.
No matter how many times we change our minds, reinvent ourselves, or change physical forms, the “I” remains the same.
When we believe these factors create who we are, it makes it hard to change because we feel like we’re dissolving who we are. But, we are not our physical appearance. We are not our emotions. We are not our beliefs.
Once we stop defining ourselves by these ever-changing and sometimes uncontrollable factors, we have the freedom to observe ourselves from a new perspective. This vantage point provides a level of self-awareness that makes it easier for us to change our minds and reinvent ourselves.
Instead of letting inherited beliefs or physical characteristics define us, we can step back and change ourselves because, as Shaw says, “those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything”.
How do I define myself?
How have these beliefs or characteristics affected how I behave?
What does it mean to me that I am separate from my actions/emotions/beliefs?
My thoughts for this week were heavily influenced by de Mello’s writing. This book is an easy read and worth checking out. de Mello was a Jesuit priest with a deep understanding of both eastern and western philosophy that gave him a unique perspective on just about everything.
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Thanks for reading! I’ll see you next Sunday.