Witnessing One’s Self

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The places within us that are not yet healed, and have not yet been dissolved into the pure and guiltless and shameless and never-confounded substance of being, are like movie stars, and the events of the lives we lead the flash bulbs of a traveling horde of annoying paparazzi.  Our wounded places simply can’t avoid them—can’t get a break.  Offstage, without their make-up on, these stars just want to be left alone.  Can we not just have a day of peace and quiet?  What about—Heaven forbid—a day when everything goes right?  Just a taste of effortlessness…


Life keeps dragging these places buried within us back out into the open.  Look at yourself, Life says.  Is this you?  Because this is what seems to be going on in there…  Some days I don’t much enjoy this looking.  The problem I say, is the paparazzi, not the movie stars within.  If those hooligans would just leave me alone…  Unfortunately for these secret inner places we’d like to keep stashed in the corner, but ultimately of good fortune for us as whole beings, they can’t stay indoors forever.  Even the most distorted of self-concepts must get out and buy groceries at some point.

These hidden places are the contradictions we can feel within our inner lives, the twinges of hesitation and unrest.  When the flash bulbs go off, we’re smiling and hiding our face with our hands at the same time.  When we are conflicted about how to respond to a situation, we know… we’re of two minds.  I had an experience recently in which my personal and professional integrity felt not only questioned, but more or less bullied in front of a small audience, and this came in circumstances in which free speech simultaneously felt as though it would have been potentially detrimental to life as I know it.

Wham!  Flash!  Pop!

There’s that contradiction: the knot of anger bound up with restraint, the shame of thinking I’d been too weak and failed to appropriately mount a defense in the ring, the shame of thinking I’d gone too far with the few statements I did make, the guilt of having been drawn into the scenario at all, the perplexity at the fact that ultimately the one by whom I felt accused and I share a similar desire and yet somehow my efforts to clarify this fell on deaf ears, the swiftness with which I was the victim of other parties’ previous decisions that had ultimately led me to this point…  (It wasn’t of my doing, right!?)  It goes on and on…

Then last night I watched an interesting video and the subject happened to be about just this sort of thing.  About living without contradiction.  About letting go of drama.  Then I really felt like an idiot.  Nothing better than getting burned by the coals and flipping on the television to watch people walk across them one after another unscathed.  I started to think about what I should have done differently, what I would have done differently if I had possessed the type of inner composition being described, but I was honestly not making all that much headway.

A day later, my wits about me, I am thankful for these events.  I have seen firsthand where I would set aside equanimity to defend concepts.  I have witnessed a contradiction latent within myself, and felt myself interpret on the fly against the vantage point of Love.  The funny thing is while this was all transpiring I had those moments when I felt as big as, larger even, than the whole room.  I understood the various vantage points and felt no grievance about the events as they unfolded, but then I had these loyalties.  Professional loyalties.  Prideful loyalties.  Thoughts of what I should be doing and thinking.  They momentarily outflanked me, and once they’re out of the barn, they like to kick up their heels and tear ass around the pasture for a bit before you can corral/dissolve them.

I don’t think sitting passively by is the thing, but I do think I could have recognized the drama and blessed it rather than diving in and making it my own.  I probably could have offered my own statements from a holier place, less defensively.  I probably could have smiled inside at the whole charade, and remained in communion with the deepest possible content the room had to offer.  And now I have witnessed these loyalties that bind me up in contradictions.

And now I bless them, and choose again…

I invite the paparazzi in for tea and we sit awkwardly together as they look around into space, wondering what it was that we were going to talk about…


  1. Thanks for this wonderful story. Getting out of the scuffle unscathed would be the primary objective, I think, and piecing it together with mindfulness after the event. A big repair job possibly. If it were to happen on a regular basis, you’d get better at it… Go back and see those people who questioned and bullied your personal and professional integrity and ask if they could schedule it, say once a week? Wham! Flash! Pop! What’s been achieved in the meantime is the airing-out of all these movie stars in the closet? I agree with you about not sitting passively by, but sometimes it’s the only thing to do – and that’s okay too.


    • Thank you… I love your idea of scheduling fresh encounters on a weekly basis. The funny thing is, that is probably exactly what is going to happen! I’m kind of thinking that there is a way to be in such a room with consistent compassion and humility, without being triggered into feeling small/meek or grandiose/prideful. I think that involves relocating those movie stars into sunlit rooms. No hiding. What a great experience, at any rate!

      As I thought some more about it, I thought how amazing it is to see people respond to their own stories of what is happening. I certainly had my own false meanings that were layered at some point or another over the actual events. Some other people had the same. When you get half a dozen or more people in a room, and they’re all talking to these ghosts, the phantoms of assumption and misperception that arise before our very eyes, you can have quite a scene…



  2. I know that crowded room – infinite creations, stories, stars, ghosts, realities all stuffed into a single timeline; I have one recurring right now, in fact, not quite as touchy or life transforming as to threaten my idea of how i make a living, but I keep putting it on the calendar, Sunday afternoons, in fact, and every week, I try to squirm my way out. 🙂 – It would be courageous indeed for a weekly visit for such a bugaboo as yours! But much like Maren’s untidy toilets, (http://seeingm.wordpress.com/2014/03/04/toilets-as-teachers/) as soon as one was at the ready with a daytimer open for scheduling – the movie stars and the Paparazzi would have miraculously moved on to the next premier down the block.
    I am struck, too, in this moment for the power of such sharing. Laid bare is the sting of the act of engaging in these arenas, the after thinking, the shame, the woulda shoulda coulda, the feeling that one should be beyond such experiences…turned on its head by giving it a spin with words – such power in the creative human for examining, sharing, turning life into art! Bravo, M!


    • Thanks, Marga. You write wondrously of the subject and I hope your bugaboos dissolve into radiance. It is funny, not like Ha Ha, but ironic I guess that these moments of stumbling, when they are laid bare, can really unite people. We all have these experiences. We understand what it is to be in a stare down with one’s creations and feel the knees buckle, or the blood rush to the head, or the feet beat for the door. And I think as we live through these things somehow we do so for everyone. Not to get melodramatic, but it strikes me that healing never occurs alone. I think somehow it reverberates down the halls of Creation and somehow we are blessed by others, and offer blessing to others, when we offer the willingness to engage in this work.

      Thank you for your voice of recognition.



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