I sometimes see my personality quirks as highly expressive boils on the face of life. Too loud, too swollen, too festy. I’ve been feeling this way lately and have been backing away from things a little…to give the world a break from my boils. I could probably put this prettier. But it’s the picture that comes to mind. Many of us resent our quirks, especially those of us who’ve done “work on ourselves”. You know, all that “abandon the ego” stuff…But I’ve had a helpful insight today. I’ll explain….
I was at meditation group Monday night, and my teacher Tim was sharing something about the different stages of transcendence or some such. I can tune out to such speak. I’m about 2984757 lifetimes off transcending. When I meditate I don’t sink blissfully into some ephemeral space where “Wow, I just zoned out…did 20 minutes and three semi-trailers really just pass by?!?”. I don’t drift off anywhere. Nope, my experience is a jerky, nervous, chattery one that is far from inspirational. I’ve written about this before here.
But Monday I tuned back in when Tim mentioned that one of the outcomes of steering oneself to transcendence entailed refining your personality quirks in a fresh way, such that you become more YOU and more LOVEABLE. Two bangs for the buck.
I have many personality quirks. I don’t know where to begin detailing them. I have a deep-seated inclination to flee. It’s a big part of why I ride a bike. So I can flee when the quirk strikes. I have to talk to strangers wherever I go. This always annoyed my mother.
I’m a control freak.
I find it hard to get comfortable in a new space. My friends just know now that I will move several times when we meet at a cafe. Often it just doesn’t feel right (the wobbly table, the draft, the vibration of the coffee machine), and I just can’t settle until it is. Last year, when I was in Spain, I climbed out of a window in a small hostel at 1am, along a ledge and along to another (locked) room down the hall when my original room didn’t feel right.
My quirks border, boil-like, on neurotic. I know this. Overall, I despair of my quirks. I feel awkward about them every time they fester to the surface and I apologise for them often (often by drawing attention to them first, thus saving those in my presence from the burden).
But back to this “fresh way”. Tim shared the benefits of using meditation to touch “the transcendent”, or pure unbounded consciousnesses. Once you’ve exposed yourself to this (non)experience, even if just in a fleeting brush (for me it lasts a second or two and I’ve written about how it feels like sitting next to myself on a bench before), our egos, resplendent in quirks and “individuality”, are forever changed. Once you know that you are not your ego, that there is more, that you fit into a much bigger picture, you don’t forget.
Let’s abandon the boil visual. And swap to the ocean. Our quirks are waves, frothy expressions of the unbounded ocean beneath. We and our quirks are made up of the same stuff as the ocean, as the footpath, as a flower, as a cockroach. We are all just quirky spontaneous expressions of the same thing. Once you see that your personality quirks are part of the bigger oceanic picture, you simply can’t see them as froth and foam any more. Does that make sense?
But to the bit that struck a chord for me…. Tim went on to say that ego does not have to be abandoned or resented or seen as something to try and move beyond (or seen as a boil). Instead the simple process of being aware that our quirks are part of the ocean necessarily softens them, thins them out. “We see ourselves in context and the ‘individuality on steroid’ starts to dissipate,” Tim said.
And in so doing, our quirks become more refined, gentler. More appreciated. More helpful. We like them. When he shared all this, I had a wonderful moment of “getting over myself”. You know, realising it’s not all about me. But simultaneously I got an equally wonderful sense of ME. I saw the froth and foam that I am and had a whopping great wash of fondness for myself. I smiled at myself.
I’ve gone off on a waffly tangent today. I needed to. I needed to be looser and a bit happier. Do you need the same today? Do you need to reacquaint yourself with the ocean?