‘You have got to know what it is you want! Or someone is going to sell you a bill of goods somewhere along the line that will do irreparable damage to your self esteem, to your sense of worth and your stewardship of talents that God gave you.’
Richard Nelson Bolles from the book ‘Bag of Jewels’ Susan Hayward.
One of the key lessons of the spiritual path, and one of the hardest to master, is that we are not other people’s perceptions of us. Once this is acknowledged, we are no longer limited by their malice or their regard, and commence to live our lives in accordance with our own inner scales of justice and balance. Very few of us have escaped unfair judgments and criticisms in our lives, and unfortunately, as long as we breathe, this will be so. Of course, it’s important to be aware of our flaws, and to take on board anything we feel may ring true, but who holds the baggage ticket for unwarranted spite, ridicule or bullying? Too often the person being dumped on claims the dumper’s baggage and ends up being weighed down with other people’s ‘stuff.’ How much lighter the load would be if we only claimed what was truly our own burden. A depiction of this scenario can be seen in the ‘Osho Zen Tarot Deck’ 6 of ‘Clouds’ card (the mind). The artwork depicts a man struggling up a steep mountain under the burden of a lordly tyrant, who rides upon his shoulders, looking foolish himself, with a large rooster sitting on his head. The tyrant is impatiently commanding the man to greater heights, ‘keep going, don’t stop’ he appears to be saying, while the man is almost buckling under the added weight. Why is he carrying the tyrant, when it’s obvious the journey would be arduous enough without the added load? Who gave the tyrant permission to ride for free, and how did he convince the man he was his superior? Nothing we can do or say in this lifetime will please everybody, and where does the fault lie for hair styles, clothes, skin colours or beliefs that do not please a majority? Who owns responsibility for ladling harm or judgment upon another human soul?
In a world desperate for integration, connection can appear to be the same thing, and whether we choose to or not, we are all becoming links in an ever growing chain. Society is now more interwoven, with threads of connection running through memberships in committees, social groups, clubs, societies and religions.
Our details are known by conglomerates and governments, driven by their need to count and tag us. We have become security numbers, pin numbers, ID Numbers, passwords, photographs, and 100 points of identification. How do we stand in our own light, in a world where privacy and independence is fast being replaced by a ‘collective’ oriented technology? We live in a time of Internet chat rooms, forums, emails and mobile phone networks connected to the Internet.
There is no longer a moment in our lives where we cannot be reached, heard or seen. ‘Networking’ has become the key to good business and good relationships, and ‘reputation’ is a valuable commodity, with many people believing their reputation is everything, and some believing they are ‘their reputation.’ Is the “Authentic Self,’ (a necessary ingredient for integration on a personal and worldwide level,) being cast aside for a permanent display of “Sunday Best?” If we can accept that we are not other people’s bad perceptions of us, can we be courageous enough to own that we are also not their good perception’s of us? People can only look at others through the filtered vision of their own life experience. If someone is less than confident, a strong, successful person might appear to them as worthy of their respect. Alternately, if someone has been a strong, successful person who never had to struggle and had everything fall into their laps, they might look down upon those (perceived) lesser souls who treat them with respect. Or perhaps, someone was treated badly by a powerful figure in their lives, and now judges all successful, confident people as bad news, just on principle. We are not other people’s perceptions of us, and therefore, cannot be contained or weighed down by them, unless we agree to be.
The world is getting smaller, there is less space, less resources, less privacy, and lots more people. It is becoming increasingly difficult to retain the ‘me’ among the ‘we.’ The good news is, it’s not necessary to elbow others out of the way to get some personal space, or to become a compulsive ‘joiner’ or a silent recluse. What is necessary is to live our truth, every minute of everyday, remembering how we come into the world is how we must leave it.
What is the message of the 6 of clouds man? I cannot look at this card without seeing the end view. The summit is reached, the man is old and worn out, too exhausted to ever climb again. He looks across, and finally, through the mist, he sees all his dreams atop another mountain. Not only has he struggled under the burden of another soul, he has been climbing the tyrant’s mountain and not his own.
His message to us all – ‘Stand on your own two feet and climb Your mountain, with your mind and spirit unfettered by fear or doubt. Let it be Your mistakes, Your embarrassing moments, Your failures, Your successes, Your joys – Your life.’