“I’m nobody, who are you? Are you nobody too? Good,
then there’s a pair of us—don’t tell! They’ll banish us, you
know. How awful to be somebody, how public, like a frog,
to croak your name the livelong day to an admiring bog!”
— Emily Dickinson
“I don’t know where I came from, I don’t know where I am going,
but I know that I came well, and I will go well.”
— Walt Whitman
“Being Nobody, Going Nowhere” is the title of an amazingly simple and powerful book by a Buddhist nun, Ayya Khema, who as a Jewish child in Germany was saved from the Holocaust. She later became a wife, a grandmother, and a wise and scientific practioner/teacher of the Buddhist journey to love and peace, the same journey– with different signposts– made known to those of every faith and no faith who study without prejudice the laws of existence.
The first sentences of the Dhammapada, the path experienced and taught by the Buddha, gives us the key to shedding the almost universal pain that arises when we think we have to be somebody, and we have to know where we are going: “All that we are is the result of what we have thought; it is founded on our thoughts, it is built of our thoughts… If a person thinks or acts with a self-less thought, joy follows that person as a shadow that never leaves.”
What does it mean to be self-less?
I can’t recall the moment when I first experienced vividly and gratefully a flash of the truth of Einstein’s conviction: The idea that we are each a separate self is what he termed “an optical delusion of consciousness”. That belief, that thought that I am a separate self, taught to me by parents, teachers and peers, and harbored for so long, not only creates many toxic feelings, but also blocks me from the free and delightful creativity and harmonious relationships that my experience of the Oneness of all things can confer.
Without a practice that in its own time grows me into the Consciousness of a non-self, an inter-being composed of clouds, earth, rain, sunshine, memories, mental images, emotions, physical sensations—without such a practice I would be one hell of an unhappy, lonely, angry primate.
Over decades of meditation and the allied practices of concentration, I have more and more often experienced liberation from that pernicious but almost universal belief of separateness.
Meditation is, fundamentally, a practice of letting go. Concentration is the practice of thinking or speaking or acting in a consciously specific, focused way that has been proven, for you, to arouse happiness: loving kindness, compassion, forgiveness, gratitude, joy and peace.
These are some of the healing thoughts I try to practice throughout the day, thoughts that have proven their worth by adding to my ability to enjoy the giving and receiving of love, and my efforts at creative expression: “Love the Oneness that is God, the Love that is God; love thy enemy; love thy neighbor as thyself” (Jesus)—“No matter what your afflictions you are meant to laugh, to sing, to dance, these are the highest and purest forms of prayer. Worship the Absolute Oneness that is God, by simple acts of loving kindness to others” (Baal Shem Tov)—“We have no need for temples, we have no need for complicated philosophies; our temple is the human heart, our philosophy is kindness” (Dalai Lama)—“Center yourself in every urge to love; drink that, the wine of heaven, and enjoy.” (Thakur Anukul Chandra Chakravorty)
Weaving such teachings into moments of intense work as therapist and creative writer, and into moments of intense relating to family, friends, co-workers, clients, neighbors and strangers, and into moments of restful aimlessness, provides a deep, fresh, alive, nurturing garden in which joy keeps blossoming, blessed by a river of energy for loving and creating.