Living Your Own Life Doesn’t Mean Being Selfish

Living Your Own Life Doesn’t Mean Being Selfish

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The theme of this website and the course I teach, Live Your Own Life, can be misconstrued as a life of selfishness, the exertion of a heroic will to make things go the way mainstream culture has told us will make us happy, (which is always in the direction of increased security, status, and conformity).

To live one’s own life requires a shedding of this life in preparation for a true life. In fact, every spiritual lineage down through the ages teaches that your life is not your own—that Life or God has chosen you to do something with your life that transcends the desires of ego. It’s the paradox of having to lose your life in order to find it. Many experience that if they don’t consent to this life, they will suffer emotionally and physically until they do. This consent is sometimes called surrender, but it often feels like being broken. The title of my last book, Dismantled: How Love and Psychedelics Broke a Clergyman Apart and Put Him Back Together describes my experience of this.

What or who is being broken? I use various terms: ego, performative self, or the trying self.

This expression of self is alienated from a condition of relaxed spontaneity – having learned early and often, too often, that to be natural is to be humiliated, punished, interrupted, corrected and generally mistreated. It is what an individual looks and feels like when s/he learns to protect herself from reality as s/he has known it. The individual dissociates herself from the present, from the body, from the emergent flow of life. Will replaces trust, thinking takes over from a primal trust in the natural, sacred intelligence that is living us, animating us and expressing itself in, through, and as us. The will and all thought is recruited in the service of survival, even when survival is not at stake. The dissociation is from life itself, as we experience ourselves as isolated creatures forging an existence in a hostile world and with humans who cannot be trusted.

Obviously, if we fashion our life from this condition we are not “living our own life” — we are surviving, imitating conventional norms, finding the words and behaviors that fit somebody else’s ideals. I contend that this describes the human condition as it is expressed on our planet today. The political, economic , educational, religious and health institutions, along with toxic families, that define reality for us are expressions of this survival mentality.

We are born into these institutions. If there is any meaning to “original sin” it is these conditions into which we are born, the “fallen” state of institutions and the violence these institutions and the humans who work within them to perpetuate a false economy, false politics, false religions, false families, etc. Conformity with these institutions, enacted to ensure belonging and identification, inevitably leads to a false life.

When the suffering of “normal” is acute enough we wake up, then grow up, and then show up to do our part in creating an alternative.

Starting with our own life.

Bruce Sanguin Psychotherapist

Written by Bruce Sanguin

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