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How Can You Know Yourself?

Drop all the labels.

How can you know yourself?

Is it possible to really know yourself?

I’m at a concert in the Albany Entertainment Centre, watching Evan Ayres and the Swing Kings perform the touching Ray Charles song, ‘You Don’t Know Me’.

It’s a sad love song — “A” loves “B” but “B” has no idea.

You give your hand to me  And then you say hello  And I can hardly speak  My heart is beating so  And anyone can tell  You think you know me well  But you don’t know me

How often do we really know another person? Usually within minutes of meeting someone new it’s an ingrained habit to label them: friendly; timid; intelligent; talkative; educated; flighty; important. Then we put them in a box, stick the label on the outside, shelve the box somewhere in our brain, and think we know that person.

But we don’t.

We like labels because they make everyday life easy. Labels help us choose groceries (‘Ah, there it is — Rosella Tomato Sauce!’). Labels help us find 10 Downing Street, the house we’ve been invited to for Christmas lunch. And labels help us identify the car that side-swiped us on the highway and sped off (‘It was a blue Toyota Corolla, officer, with a number plate starting with BFG.’)

But labelling other people isn’t helpful.

When you label someone, you can guarantee you’ll never really know them.

And what about that other insidious habit we have of labelling ourselves? That’s the most dangerous labelling of all, because when we label ourselves we’re prevented from knowing our real self, as well as the real self of anyone else.

Know Thyself

Most of us have heard the ancient saying ‘Know thyself’ — attributed to the Greek moral philosopher Socrates.

How can you know yourself?

Does it involve honesty? Soul-searching? Insight? Should we canvas the opinions of our friends and enemies? Will doing a Chandler Macleod psychometric test answer the question?

You can do all these things but no matter what labels you give yourself as a result, they will be too big and too small.

What do I mean?

In his book The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle wrote:

In the stillness of your presence, you can feel your own formless and timeless reality as the unmanifested life that animates your physical form. You can then feel the same life deep within every other human and every other creature. You look beyond the veil of form and separation. This is the realization of oneness.

So, if I label myself as a mother of five, that’s too small, because I’m formless and timeless. If I label myself as a self-made, highly successful online entrepreneur, that’s too big, because it blinds me to the unmanifested life that animates and unites me with all things.

In one of his retreats Tolle refers to ‘the pure sense of beingness or presence’ we “experience” when we let go of the past and future and dwell only in the consciousness of this moment.

When we drop all the labels we’ve given ourselves we have an “aha” moment of realisation that can’t be put into words, because words — like labels — are limiting.

We need to stop labelling people and ourselves and see each other for what we are in our essence.

That ‘pure sense of beingness’ is what you and I really are.

With apologies to Ray Charles, I have made new words for a sad, old song:

Next time you give your hand to me,

And then you say hello

Perhaps I’ll hardly speak

My heart is beating so

And anyone can tell

I now know you well

I finally know you

Know yourself and others at the formless, timeless level.

“Hello, formless, timeless you.”

With love, Marlane

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