How to “Steal yourself back”
From an interview with award winning author, Alice Walker, on The Importance of Being True to Yourself
It is that time of the year when many people make their New Year’s Resolutions and unfortunately most also break them sooner or later. So I thought I write again something about new year’s resolutions and why we mostly break them. Few ideas crossed my mind and I started writing how our resolutions are usually towards achieving something or stopping some bad habit or changing ourselves for some reason or another. And that while such intentions could be right and helpful in themselves, but they might not be truly right for us because their orientation is usually outwards. In that sense, they take us away from our true self towards satisfying some seemingly necessarily, but actually unnecessary need.
Having made some progress, I felt like giving myself a ‘well deserved’ break. When I came back to my computer, an email caught my eyes. The subject line read: “The Importance of Being True to Yourself“. I immediately knew that I should open it. Inside, I came across an interview with the celebrated author and activist, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award, Alice Walker, author of the critically acclaimed novel “The Color Purple”.
The title of the interview was ‘Alice Walker: Led by Spirit’. I listened to Tami Simon of Sounds True interviewing Alice with her always apt and penetrating questions. I was so moved by Alice’s profound yet simple and flowing words that I decided to transcribe a small part of it to share with you, instead of continuing with my own writing.
You can listen to the full interview here.
Alice, soon turning 72 feeling still young talks about wonder of life, readiness for death, admiration of nature, purpose, community service, activism, acceptance, love, aging, being an elder, commitment to the youth and a wonderful poem at the end of her interview:
We alone can devalue gold
by not caring
if it falls or rises
in the marketplace.
Wherever there is gold
there is a chain, you know,
and if your chain
so much the worse
and sea-shaped stones
are all as rare.
This could be our revolution:
to love what is plentiful
as much as
Listen to Alice and be inspired by her palpable solid fundamental trust. I highly recommend it.
Find your calling by stealing yourself back
Around the 19 minutes mark, Tami quotes a line from one of Alice’s essays and asks what she might say to people who might not be clear about their calling, who are experiencing they don’t feel free in their own voice, their own voice feels somehow reserved or trembling. Alice responds:
Well you know I love meditation; and I love it because that’s where you find what your voice is. You cannot really find it easily in this culture, this culture is the noisiest culture ever, ever. And I think the damage that it’s done to people is in the realm of financing them, they’re overwhelmed by gadgets, they don’t know what to think because they are so heavily programmed about what it is that they should want and what is it that they should think.
So in a sense you have to steal back yourself. You have to steal back your own mind, and meditation helps in that area. So meditation is like the cloak of a good thief. You find a corner or somewhere where you can actually entertain your own self, your own soul and understand what is your work here.
You are not here just to be a clone, you are not here to be a copy, we have enough of those. I mean you know, you don’t have to apply, you don’t have to even go there to be absolutely yourself, real, here, now on this planet. There is just nothing like it, you can only stand so much ecstasy. I can never get over the mystery of this wonder that we bumbled into. I mean I can’t think anybody was planning it exactly; but who knows, you know, I don’t know, I just know that somehow we got here, so that there is reason for an ecstatic existence, and also that ecstasy is not sustainable forever. At some level maybe it is, but I’m just saying that if you can connect with that, even if it is just a moment of ecstatic wonder that you exist at all in this huge magnificent sprawling wonder, you know, you are fortified. It’s like minerals for the spirit where you get fortified and then you go out and you want to protect, save, keep, honour, join, whatever makes more of this, or makes more help for this; it’s really mind blowing.
So if you can get over being in despair and stop thinking about the soldiers who are shooting up the eyes of children deliberately, or setting people on fire in their beds, and bombing hospitals, and chopping people’s limbs off, and chasing people out of their homes and not wanting to shelter refugees, you know all the things. If you can just for a moment step back from that and say okay I am here so I must have done something right to get here. I’m here, I’m really loving this so thank you so much. Well however this happened, I just adore you and thank you. And out of that feeling then you turn to whatever needs doing, and it could be next door, it could be in your house.
I don’t require myself or anyone to go beyond what they feel they can do. I just do suggest for their own eventual happiness that they go as far as they can. And they can usually go much further than they think.
Alice Walker’s words are not new, they are rooted in timeless universal wisdom. In fact around 800 years ago, Rumi’s soul was ignited with similar words which turned his life upside down and made him into one of the greatest wisdom masters of all times. It is said that Rumi’s spiritual companion and Sufi master Shams, recited this poem for him at their first encounter:
Ignorance is many times better than the knowledge which
does not claim you back from you.
May your new year’s resolution be about stealing back yourself; your true self.
Happy New Year!