Written by Anna-Marie Swan
It seems such a wonderful idea, that we are all one. That there's this thread that runs so deeply through us all that no matter what is happening, there is something greater than our seemingly-shallow human responses to each other of frustration and anger and rejection, or even joy and love: the idea that beyond it all, I am you and you are me.
One of the lessons that I have learnt from over 20 years as a seeker and an explorer is that there is nothing that is more right, and nothing healthier, than our individualised sense of self. And I am deeply, deeply grateful that I know this.
So many of us have sought the non-ego, non-self ideal that spiritual teachers we have placed above us hold up as enlightenment, and the only road to reach it. They asked us to tear ourselves apart into separate pieces - our souls from our bodies - all the while encouraging us to wage war on our minds and our egos. As though all of these weren't a perfect part of us.
And throughout it all they told us that I was you and you were me.
But there is no single human on this planet that is me. Except me. And no-one that is you, but you.
You are not me and I am not you.
I'm so in love with having a body. My body. I struggle, of course, with ideas of beauty and perfection, and we tussle around health and strength, but my body can take me onto my yoga mat and into the woods and make love and dance and write. These are not your legs, your arms, your beating heart, or your sacred inner places. They belong to me, and me alone, as do yours. You have every right to say exactly who comes into your space and who interacts with your body, because it belongs to you, as I do with mine, because it belongs to me.
And God, do I adore my mind. We have words from time to time, and it has been a long, challenging journey to come to terms with the thoughts I have in the way I have them, but I am so utterly delighted by what it can do. Yes, it's wild and untamed and can lead me down some deep, dark dead-ends, but it is deliciously bright and adaptive and inventive and creative and funny. And very, very alive. These are not your thoughts, your ideas, your impulses, or your words; they are mine, and mine alone. Keep your mind as yours, and I'll keep mine.
As for this war against the ego: a healthy ego is the key to everything that is grounded and adult. My ego does so much for me. It has allowed itself to be sculpted by life, and I am so grateful for its sense of sovereignty and boundaries, and its always expanding understanding of what is right for me and what is wrong. Your ego can never be like mine in the same way that your life can never be like mine. We have each walked through this world on a path that only we have walked on, and that is just as it should be.
Lastly, I cannot put into words the tenderness of the love I hold for my soul. That gives me access to something beyond me that may well be completely different to what yours gives you access to. My soul, that is formed of something you can never have. In the way that your soul is formed with you, and only you. You are not my soul and my soul can never, ever be yours. I may choose to share it with you, to allow you to be touched by it, to see it through my speech and the words I write, to know it through my laughter and my tears and my everyday me, but it is mine alone, as is yours. And I love when you share your soul with me.
There is so much to be celebrated about being here in our lives. Being grounded and in our bodies. Taking ownership and responsibility. And seeing others as separate from us and therefore utterly, continually fascinating. Who needs to read another book when there are so many stories to be heard?
But don't get me wrong. There is a thread that runs through us all: a commonality, a shared humanity. Owning our differences does not take anything away from that; on the contrary, doesn't it make it magical that there are billions of us and we are all unique? That we each live out a life that has its own textures and shades?
We can probably only really fathom around 1% of what other people’s lives are actually like, the rest being so far removed from our own experiences. There are countless worlds within this world; some lives that are partnered by pain and suffering from birth to death, some full of opening doors and easy joy, most probably somewhere in the middle. To think that we can truly understand what it’s like to be in the subtle nuances of another’s universe is arrogant. And deluded.
Besides, it’s the fact that we live – and can only live – within and from our personal experience that makes it so wonderful when we share our innermost worlds and have those moments of recognition; when we laughingly go ‘oh my God, I do that too’ or we’re moved to tears by another’s story.
Just one last thing. The next time someone says to you that you are me and I am you...
And then allow yourself to beam with joy. In just a moment or two they will kindly hand over their car, their partner, their bank accounts, their house, and their dog when you ask. Since they are you, after all.