I had a cup of strong, black coffee steaming by the keyword. The scrambled eggs and black forest cured bacon had been stowed away and digestion was well advanced. So I sat down at my computer to go through the five newspapers that I read online every morning. (I’m not much for killing trees and have an allergic reaction to newsprint) it was then that I came across the following:
It’s not legal in the UK or Ireland to marry a deceased person
I confess I did read the rest of the article but that is not what stayed with me. My mind started to make connections. A “deceased person” is a spirit. A “spirit” is a manufactured reality. In Zen thinking, the “self” is a manufactured reality. The allegiance to this manufactured reality is somewhat like a marriage - “’till death do us part.”
You see, the idea that we Buddhists pursue is that individuals manufacture an image of their “self”. It is the puppet they deploy in the stage play that their life tends to be. For most people, this avatar becomes more real than the life force that is its wellspring. In other words, the picture of the tree is taken as a more real representation than the tree itself.
Another sip of coffee, and another idea poked its head over the horizon. As humans become more and more disconnected from the natural environment in which the species evolved, they more frequently are left with the picture of the tree as their primary reference. Trees, as they occur around them, fade into the background as a kind of ill-defined context. The photos, particularly perhaps a favorite one, come to dominate their sense of what it means to be a “tree”.
I can hear the chorus of objections rising now. But before you get too overwrought, when was the last time you spent any time with the tree? When was the last time you actually touched one? When was the last time you actually pondered its existence - other than some form of wallpaper for the world in which you live?
But I drifted a bit. The idea that came to occupy front and center of my attention was that people who insist that their manufactured reality of a “self” - this is who I really am - are not only marrying a deceased person but one that has never lived.
All of this may seem a bit esoteric, but I assure you that it is not. I do a great deal of mentoring work and that has brought me into contact with hundreds of individuals who have precisely the problem I have been outlining. Each of them has worked hard to convince themselves that their puppet is actually the reality of who they are.
“I am a kind person. I am an intelligent person. I am a good person. I am who I say I am!” And the litany goes on.
Each day becomes a reaffirmation of the marriage vow. And the fundamental the determination behind its sanctity is that the manufactured reality - the avatar - is the real person and (here comes the punchline) the life force which creates the avatar is either irrelevant or nonexistent.
I have helped people reconnect with that life force. Help them recognize that the puppet which they have created - and are so insistently working to convince the people around them that it is the “real me” - is pure fiction. When it finally settles in, it is a jarring recognition.
I refer to my practice as Zen Mentoring because I employ fundamental concepts of Zen Buddhism in the work. One of the key concepts is reconnection with the life force that has spent most of its existence telling stories about itself rather than living the life that is there for it.
I call these journeys Transformational and they truly are. A life is changed in a fundamental way every time that life force wellspring is reconnected with. One of the people I worked with put it this way:
“The whole world changed in a moment. No, that’s not right. The whole world went away and another writer and more amazing toot it’s place.”
Leading an inauthentic life is like dreaming about living without ever having lived. Wake up and smell the roses. I promise you they will be more delightfully aromatic than any picture of them.
© Earl R. Smith II, PhD
PJ, Mentoring Client,
Mentoring Client, CEO and Serial Entrepreneur,
Mentoring Client, Deloitte,
CEO of Croix Connect and Host of ABC Radio’s ‘Taking Care of Business’,
Partner, IT & Telecom, Defense Solutions,