Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Releasing Something Every Day

When engaged with learning, every day something is acquired
When engaged with Tao, every day something is released
~Tao Te Ching

Learning in our everyday lives is a process of acquiring knowledge, information, skill. There is nothing wrong with that. “Learning” in our spiritual lives, however, is a process of “unlearning,” letting go of whatever it is that blocks our awareness of and engagement with the present moment. It’s not always easy. We can be very attached to the very things that hinder our full experience and enjoyment of life – for example, judgments, opinions, beliefs, stories.

For me, I can see that in the past, I became attached to identities. When I have gone through major life transitions, one of the hardest things has been giving up who I thought I was in whatever stage I’m transitioning out of. As I look back over my life, I can see how quickly I latched onto a new identity, a new story. This was especially true in my younger years.

Okay, if I’m not going to be a back to the land hippie, I’ll be a pianist. That didn’t work out, so I’ll be a lawyer. That worked out for many years, and along the way I added some other identities. I’m a mother, a teacher, a martial artist, a blogger, a grandmother, and more. Each one has a story. As I’ve gotten older, some have changed or dropped away. It’s not as traumatic as before because my attachment is not as deep rooted or desperate.

In addition to the external identities, I have had inner ones as well. I am a good person, an ethical person, an intelligent person, a spiritual person, a person who sometimes has mystical experiences. These identities all have stories too. These identities are all just stories.

We all function in the world in various roles. It can’t be otherwise. But when we hold onto these roles as identifying who we are, when we latch onto them because letting them go is terrifying, then we create our own closed universe within which we are trapped. Any perceived threat to our identities is then met with resistance and defensiveness. We can no longer engage with Tao because we are fully engaged with our self-created misperception of reality.

Who am I when I drop all the stories, when I release all the identities? Who am I when I quit judging, when I question my beliefs, when I cease to hold my opinions in such high regard?

I am you.

Some of us think holding on makes us strong; but sometimes it is letting go. ~Hermann Hesse

12 thoughts on “Releasing Something Every Day”

  1. "These identities are all just stories."
    How true, Galen! We do tend to define ourselves by the roles we play, not who we are when we simply let go and decide to "be." No, it isn't easy, but it's necessary.

  2. Yes, I think that's why we see people having so much trouble when they change careers or when kids leave home or when people retire. Our identities get so caught up in our roles, that we don't know who we are when we have to or choose to let go. Thanks for commenting, Martha.

  3. I have struggled with this problem of identity my entire life. When one of these other aspects of me-ness needs to be retired, I chafe and resist for a long time. I was a skydiver for twenty-five years, and it defined me. Now, I can hardly remember those years, and they were not that long ago. I am happy to have become an elderly yoga student and hiker. 🙂

  4. Well another interesting post that I will have to spend some time pondering upon. I feel like I do know who I am and what my roles are and I know beyond doubt that I am a child of a loving Heavenly Father and He loves all of His children and desires that we all return home to him. His love for us is infinite. Having this knowledge gives me my identity and purpose. I know where I came from, Why I am here and Where I am going.
    Have a sweet week dear friend. Hugs!

  5. That is a perfect example, DJan. I know exactly what you mean and have experienced that myself. I look at past identities that I was so invested in, and now that person seems like someone else. Your comment made me think about the difference between being a person who skydives and a skydiver.

  6. The identity as a child of God is one we all share, regardless of the roles we have in life that might change over time. When my identity becomes attached to a role, then it is hard to transition. But if my identity is rooted firmly in my eternal Self, then roles can come and go more easily. Thanks, LeAnn, for that distinction.

  7. Amen to this, Galen. I wonder how many people get stuck in a groove like you mention here ''because we are fully engaged with our self-created misperception of reality''. When we realise this is what we have created for ourselves,a kind of trap that certainly can cause suffering, it's then we can try to let go.

    I've had a few roles in my time, and when I was younger I felt it all more keenly. There was one role I hated, and that was working in a department store where the heirarchy prevailed and we really had to follow strict rules and practices. There was no place for individualism. I used to say to my hubby, right here goes with wearing the rubber suit then, when he dropped me off outside the staff entrance. Putting on an imaginary flexible armour helped me adjust to this alien environment. So that was one role I was happy to let go of and yet I learned so much there about myself – aspects of me I was happy about. Being yourself in any place in any mode is a big learning curve that has taken me years to get closer to, and that has been by letting go of ego driven feeling and expectations. A great post, as ever!

  8. That is a great example you shared, Lynne. Thank you.

    Your observation about being trapped in our misperception of reality reminded me of a Star Trek episode in which the characters got trapped in a closed universe that seemed real but was an illusion. One by one, they escaped by "going towards the light" until only one was left. The others couldn't figure out how to communicate with her to tell her how to get out. She was all alone and finally decided that her only option was to leap into the light on "faith." Sure enough she came out into the "real" world where everyone was waiting for her.

  9. I really did relate to this post Galen. It seems that the parts of us that are bigoted or judgmental or even impatient is not the person we truly want to be. But I am finding that my attitudes mean a different thing as I grow older. What seemed acceptable when I was a young woman does not fit in my today world. So I think that in that sense I to have reinvented myself.

    I try very hard to forgive myself because I know I was unsophisticated and not yet grown up.

    Here is the paradox. Even though I know I am not that person, I have a hard time not feeling guilt and grief for the acts of the old me. I did not commit any big wrongs so why is it I am finding so hard to let go?

    I will, I suppose, eventually figure it out. I am finally finding the peace that meditation can give me. That is good.

    I hope you are well. Give M. a hug for me!


  10. I'm right there with you, Barbara. I still relive choices I made that now are hard to forgive or release. For me, I find that it is a process I must repeat from time to time. And yes, meditation helps and that is indeed good.

    So nice to hear from you. And M has been hugged. Thanks.

  11. 'Who am I when I drop all the stories, when I release all the identities?…I am you.'

    This is the most profound realization isn't it. After deep inquiry on, who is this "I", beyond identities in separation, we realize that it is all part of the one being. It is the one 'you'.

    I have a habit of saying thank you when I first wake up and begin meditation. I asked the question recently who is this you, who I am thanking when I say thank you. Is this You a universal being which we are all immersed into somehow. We are a collective of individuated consciousness 'I' living within finite and limited parameters, in time, that is also somehow connected to a universal consciousness. When we realize that we are all one being then the statement "I am You' makes sense. 'You' is a a word for the universal consciousness which is who we are. We are individuated units or fractals of this one consciousness.

    ……interesting thoughts, Galen.

  12. Thanks, Brian. I also have that "thank you" habit. I don't think it really matters whom I'm addressing. I'm simply expressing gratitude. Fractals — what a great word! Great to hear from you. Thanks for commenting.

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