I was talking with a friend of mine the other day and we were happily agreeing with each other about how neither of us likes the convention of “normal” and what it often means. But, it got me thinking… The need to do or believe things because that is “what’s done” can be a position of comfort for some, but can drive the more rebellious of us towards pushing away from it. Neither position is really a good thing.
As life tends to do, serendipity arose the next morning and I read a quote from good, old Alan Watts about pretty much this very thing. In his book, The Way of Zen, he states that,
To be free from convention is not to spurn it but not to be deceived by it. It is to be able to use it as an instrument instead of being used by it.
~ Alan Watts, from The Way of Zen
Not a new concept for me, but I like how he puts it. The idea is to not get caught in extremes. Don’t reject convention (being “normal”) out of spite, but also strive to be self-aware enough that you are not blind to how you may be caught up in it.
It’s like the idea of that goldfish in their little fishbowl who does not know anything about water because the water is the “ether” that completely surrounds them. It’s not always so easy to just become aware of the things that we are caught up in. We are deceived or caught up in many things, we just don’t know it yet. They are hidden in the “water” of our awareness.
It’s only when we can start to notice our blind spots that there is any possibility of taking that subjective position of it being part of who we are and objectifying it into something that we can “hold it at arm’s length”. Keeping a perspective of curiosity about yourself and your life is a good way to start looking for the edges that might already be peeling away from your hidden identities that, as mindfulness teacher, Jon Kabat Zinn is fond of saying, “feels closer than your skin”.
We all have the right to think and live as we want. However, if you are interested in personal growth and moving past the anchors of your past self, give a thought here and there of how you might be too complacent with your ideas about yourself and the world or how you might be making too much of a habit of being a contrarian.
If you still wonder if you are seeing yourself clearly or not, try asking someone whom you are close to and trust their opinion. They may very well be able to give you some (kind) feedback about your blind spots or unconscious habits. Sometimes it’s only by how you show up in the world being reflected back to you by others that you can get a more complete picture of who you are. You are not alone, never were. Seemingly paradoxically, you connecting more with others will make you more yourself.
There is nothing inherently wrong with being the sheep or the rebel, but those are really just facades of you, on some level, posing and living unconsciously. It has much less to do with you than your unconscious self keeps telling you. Learning to question and identify things in your life gives you awareness. Awareness allows you the choice to do what you want. That’s a good thing. We love you only more when you are you on purpose.