Yesterday evening. I was trying on Vipassana meditation, the 7:00p.m. class at a Buddhist meditation. And after a few sessions the instructor asked how it was going for me.
“You know, my mind feels emptier, and I suppose that’s good, because you say it is. But . . .” I said sheepishly, not quite understanding my own gravitas at the time, “my heart feels dry.” Strangely so, i don’t even know who i am. So much like Alice.
In the Disney movie adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, Alice is wandering along in the weird woods and she happens upon a caterpillar sitting on top of a mushroom and smoking a hooka. When he realizes that she is staring at him he asks her, “Who are you?” She answers him with a bit of a studder, “I-I-I hardly know, sir.”
Then they begin a conversation about who she is and what her problem really is. Alice is very confused about who she is in fact, she is so confused that she can’t even explain why she doesn’t know. I often feel like Alice. I am writing because it’s in my soul, straight down to the marrow in my bones. I have to or else i’d go crazy. Sometimes i write to find out who i am but when i finally get on the path to knowing who i am, do i remember or do i stray? Vipasanna has driven me insane i guess. Put on the kettle, or bring your iPad to bed with you. We’re going in.
In my twenties, I was fascinated by stories of spiritual transcendence. “This is my last lifetime here,” I declared to a girlfriend while we hennaed our hands. “I’m burning some karma, and then I’m outta here.” I planned to assign myself to another dimension in the next life, one that didn’t have melancholy or menstrual cramps. Truth bone, struck. A few tears. Strange relief. We talked ’til 2am.
Coming of age in the New Age intensified my purification pursuits. I was confessing my sins to my instructor who taught me that I had to earn my keep on the planet, that I wasn’t quite enough. Worse, that someone other than myself knew what was best for me, and if I could access their formula, all would be well. I walked out of the session with guilt and confusion, questioning myself who actually i am.
In writing as in life, it is so important to know who you are. Some say that is the whole purpose of life: to discover yourself. When you don’t know who you are, you feel confused like Alice. You’re wandering around looking at other writers wondering how they do it. You think that if you copy their style, you can be like them. Maybe. Most likely not. You might begin a new writing project with enthusiasm and write furiously until you get to a point. That point is when you look up and think: what the hell am I writing? I don’t know where to go next. Should I even continue with this?
So, this is my quest now, to seek myself, know who i am. As of now i am confused and that’s alright. I’ll sit in silence and let this feeling sit and gel. I want to be comfortable with ” not knowing ” for a little bit. And have i not learned a little bit more about myself already !! Yes. I have learned that i can sit in that uncomfortable place of not knowing, and i survived. In fact, i thrived.
Alice eventually discovers who she is. So will i.