June 4, 2015
When I was a child, I lived for story time. I loved the chance to become immersed in the story, in the unknown- I loved the surprises that unfolded. I loved how, for a moment in time, I experienced whatever my imagination added to the words on the page. It was like a teleportation, from my little bed out into an infinite universe of possibility.
As I got older, I realized I didn’t have to be read to – it wasn’t necessary to wait for bedtime or for someone to have time to sit and read to me. I could learn to read and take myself all those places! I worked at it joyfully, challenged and excited by the whole learning process.
When she had time, my mom would work with me. I’d sit on her lap, sounding out the words in easy books. One instance stands out, in particular. I was four years old, and it had to do with the word “bear” – which should be b-ear or beer, if following the rules. I had once seen beer being poured into a pewter mug with a glass bottom; being small and looking up gave me a unique and delightful perspective on it. Juxtapose that with the big brown scary bear in the book… I found it uproariously funny and couldn’t stop laughing and saying it incorrectly and laughing again.
Now, having two children of my own has afforded me deep compassion for my mom (actually, for ALL mothers), but in that moment of what was surely a simple correction of seemingly unfocused behavior, I made up that I was rejectable and not smart enough.
I’m sure there were other corroborating moments, but essentially, my life has been built around that belief. The achievements in school, with teachers, in college acceptances, of graduate degrees… all of this has been an attempt to prove to my mom – TO MYSELF – that I am ok, lovable, and intelligent enough. Stepping back from that insight, I can see the set up; because the four-year-old’s belief was still my own, I could never be enough… no matter what I accomplished.
That belief blocked my access to the true joy of learning and exploring the unknown. With experience, I’ve come to understand this as a common human experience: We each create a story which justifies replacing love with fear, and then we live within that fear, acquiring myriad experiences that seem to ‘prove’ we’re right.
Until we don’t.
The process of unraveling my beliefs, the stories that I have chosen to live with and by, has been challenging and deeply rewarding. Reading books, watching videos, attending talks by “enlightened beings” – these started me on a path. Having direct experience of even mere moments without fear has opened up the world of the joyous four year old again. Shedding layers and layers of conditioned, unexamined assumptions of “normal” and “real” has been terrifying, humbling and delightful. And recognizing there is no need to replace those beliefs with new ones or better ones or correct ones has led to an unimagined acceptance of not knowing and limitless freedom.
I’m not “enlightened,” although I move through the world much more lightly; I simply AM.
Colleen is a team volunteer for the Awareness Institute.