Our actual needs and true talents are often inappropriately tied to a mythical process by which we are going to gloriously turn out to be the unknown person we are attempting to become. It is a quest, like Lord of the Rings for a mystical attainment of transformation that we can only hope has good motivation. On the other hand, we could be harboring destructive or counter productive demands of exactly how we are going to achieve a state that may not be the most healthy strategies, isn't that so?
For some people, the only way to become the person they envision must also be done with extreme creativity. It had to have a fluid changing quality so that each time a decision solidified of who they were, it had to be something brand new. Not only was the artistic model of personal development important, but also it could not be repeated. Since they could not do anything twice, or risk violating their principles, soon they might be doing things like running up and down the street in a chicken costume, doing random performance art, shouting strange and disconnected statements of freedom simply because it is different from anything they had done before. This kind of creativity is what I call the suffering of being ultra-contemporary.
Many spiritual seekers today were influenced by values from the hippy era of the 1960’s, a period of extreme alternative thinking, but not the same as the previous example. Based on those, they seek who they want to be, and even their careers, built upon ideals instilled during that creative time.
On the other hand, not as noble, but very real, are perceptions or wishes for fame or status influencing us. For example, wanting to be a movie star, because status perception decides this is very important. Perhaps someone wanted to be a doctor because doctors have some perceived high status, and so make long-term choices because of wanting to be admired as the owner of that status position. A not very nice example would be a mafia chief, a status of someone who does not care but has power.
A reason, using feelings of craving status and power-seeking is something that, of course, can be very dangerous but it is also common as a fantasy projection. For example, to crave the status of a movie star creates a flight of the imagination by mentally entering a star mode, so that what others are saying is not nearly as important. One does not even have to be an actual movie star, but in the mind, that one is famous. This thinking can even be a secret motivation in meditators! Wanting high status, perhaps by even pretending to be an enlightened being is wrong, and harmful, not only to the meditator but also to others.
My last submission for consideration in this discussion regarding influences, by no means exhausts this subject. I think location is a strong influence in how we became who we are. For example, living on a farm might strongly influence someone to be a farmer. Without having a huge variety of opportunities or options combined with family pressures and peer pressure, plus everyone around is a farmer, that person already lives on a farm, the family owns the farm, and so they are a farmer. This has nothing to do with loving it or not loving it, location strongly influences and perhaps limits choices. Maybe living in an isolated sheep country, makes you a shepherd. What are your choices? Shepherd, …nothing ….shepherd …nothing … This is like the choices faced by a yak herder or sheep person in Tibet.
Now you are already the result of your personal history and decisions of this life. For the wise, from here to the end of life, there is inner work that needs to be attended to, in order to have a high quality life that you can be proud that you made the best choices possible. Even then, this is not all about choices from now on, but about dynamics that feed the wanting to be something that is a something- something- something that not easy to define. Whatever the choices that you will make from now on, eventually, any defective criteria that thwart your highest potential must be destroyed. It is possible to work on it in within a transformative process.
A gnawing desire to want to know who you are, and to be something, is important. In most other cultures, so much freedom of choice does not exist, but in America, it is all about choices. Then, what is most active in Western people is how you express your choices. This does not happen this way in Tibet, but I am quite okay that you do! Why? Because that is the way it is! I cannot pretend that your society is something other than what it is. We are going to work with what it is, but we have to understand it first. To be continued….