I was working as a teacher and one day I walked into the classroom and wrote the words: ” I am….” on the board. Then I asked the students to finish the sentence however they wanted. The only thing I asked them not to write was their name because we’re so used to introducing ourselves that our name is very likely to come up as one of the first things to finish this sentence with , but this was not the purpose of this exercise this time.
I was so curious about what the students would write. The answers ranged from I am afraid of going back and home and having to look for a job, to I am a student, a good friend, feeling tired, excited or sad; a sister, daughter, a woman, a man, a pretty woman, a handsome guy, son, brother, member of my family, a lawyer, a teacher, a human being…..
Before you read on….try and answer the question yourself, if you’d like! What do you get?
The things is, we tend to identify with our roles and feelings. We describe ourselves as one or several of the roles we’re choosing to play or with how we feel at the moment. Yes, we are men, women, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, daughters and sons…; we are also teachers, lawyers, doctors, engineers…whatever our job is; and we do feel the full spectrum of emotions as well, from sadness and desperation, to happiness and ecstasy.
But I’d like to ask- Are you the sadness that you feel? Are you the pride, joy, happiness? Or are you the being, the consciousness, the spirit that is experiencing these feelings? Of course, the latter. You’re not a lawyer, you’re and amazing powerful being who is choosing to play as a lawyer temporarily as part of your experience.
And deep down, we all know this. We know that all of the roles and feelings we tend to identify with are temporary experiences we choose. All this exercise comes to show us is what is our core focus at the moment. Which of these roles is the most dominant in our lives at that moment. Why is this important to know? Because it affects all other areas of our life and how we see them. You see, when I was teaching, I absolutely loved it. I loved my students, I loved the stuff that we did, and I got so much love and appreciation back. And because it felt so good, I had started identifying a bit too much with the role of the teacher. All of a sudden, no matter where I went or what I did, I was a teacher. And at some point I realized that this was hugely limiting. Who else could I be? What else could I do? Is this who I truly am to my core? No, I wasn’t. I did have the ability to teach and enjoy it but it wasn’t who I was.
I was offered a different job as a teacher manager and it was tempting. I no longer had to think of inspiring activities every single day, read numerous essays every night, and keep track of activities, grades and attendance. I would be able to hire and train teachers and hopefully have a greater impact by inspiring teachers to empower their students.
I was scared to let go of the role I loved so much , a role that loved me in return too. And although I was scared, I decided to take it. I cried when I left and the sweet words that I got as I was leaving made it even harder…
The new job was challenging, it required a completely different set of skills. It was a corporate job with hierarchy, masks, and countless of meetings. With e-mails we sent to CYA’s ( cover our asses) instead of actually walking over and talking to people and all the rest of the corporate politics involved. For most of my time at the company, I grew, developed and honed in on a ton of other skills, met some amazing people and got a much more clear idea of what I was REALLY here to do .
The job story is only to illustrate that we can re-invent ourselves and be successful in our re-invention any time we want. And that when we do that, we expand and awaken a tad or a lot more to our own true nature.
I am not telling you to get a new job, but rather inviting you to look at the roles you are identifying with right now and how this is affecting your life. If you absolutely love it, you can absolutely keep it but sometimes focusing too much on one or a few of our roles, makes us forget who we truly are and what we really came here to do. And for now, it’s enough to just ponder these questions.
When I gave this assignment in class, and others like that, there was always at least one student who would ask me how I would answer the question I had given them.
I wrote that I was an eternal, divine, powerful being, having an experience…that I was a drop in the ocean but the ocean was also inside of me; that I was a singularity but I was ALL THAT IS as well. And so was everyone else in the room.
And so are YOU.
Now this sentence felt complete.