It seems as though we are inundated with influences all throughout life directing, guiding, or even forcing us to be who others wish us to be. We actually are less self-driven than we might think! In subtle and manifest ways, we emulate role models, such as a teacher, or a parent in childhood. As we begin to read, we are influenced by many other role models such as Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Napoleon, Alexander the Great, or Gandhi. Others might emulate rock stars, celebrity chefs, fashionistas, or even high profile criminals.
Our interest here is not to decide what are healthy or unhealthy role models, or how we “should” behave, but instead explore the dynamics of influence. In that way, we can become clearer regarding which influences we might wish to continue that relationship with and free up our mind to explore new role model influences. However, as we explore, we must be mindful, as there will be lingering disarray from unhappy modeled influences.
How we decide toward what we wish to direct our own life is also influenced by what we seem to have a natural talent for or what we are attracted to enjoy because we are skilled. For example, if you are good at math, you might want to become an engineer. Someone with a natural talent for art and feels a love for it might seek to become an artist in order to continue enjoying that their whole life. However, how do you know you love art? How do you know you love math? Behind that, you could reflect how you decided that you loved math or art and became attracted to it as part of developing another kind of growing up process.
Some might say that it just makes sense to love what you are good at, but there are other decisive factors hidden behind. There are many people as tall as basketball players who are not basketball players, so we can say that there are tall people out there who could be and are not. In much the same way, it is not enough to dismiss a careful logical progression by using circular logic saying we want to do the things that make us feel good, and so we enjoy them, and practice them. Becoming more skillful makes us better at that activity, so we must continue in order to maintain loving them.
If we begin by reviewing the ordinary dynamics that cause us to become one kind of person and not another, we can understand by tracking experiences using our ordinary memories. If we use our own ordinary life as our research, we can discuss a mechanical process of decision making like scientists. We can see it more easily, and then we can see how those same decision dynamics might be alive in our spiritual wanting as well. This is the way of dharma inner and outer work toward transformation. We gradually remove the obstacles that prevent us from being awakened, and the awakened state will arise, as though we could not help becoming enlightened!
Friends often complain that society told them not so much what they could be, but what they could not be. For example, one friend said “Well, I wanted to be president, and they said, ‘No, there are no girl presidents,’ then I wanted to be a doctor, ‘ and they said, ‘No, you cannot be a doctor. You have to be a mother.’ I remember saying that I wanted to be Jesus, and I was told, ‘You cannot be Jesus.’”
So the possible criteria for how we decided who we wanted to be was equally filled with negative conditioning telling us what we could not be. A further point is how we react to that negative conditioning. Unfortunately, I think many believe it and try something different and less controversial. This is not just for girls. Boys also have negative conditioning from society telling them what they cannot be. They cannot be sensitive, cannot be spiritual, they cannot have awarenesses… They cannot cry.
Another kind of influence on us in formative years (which we are still in, by the way) is gratitude. For example, there could have been a doctor who saved your life, and you think, 'I want to be like that one.' I have also heard that yoga teachers often have a story about how yoga helped them recover from something that they had been struggling with for a long time, and now they are a yoga teacher to contribute back to society.
Still another interactive influence for your seemingly spontaneous choices of how you want to lead your own life is your body and its physical abilities. For example, you might have a body especially suited for running. I watched a story about runners in Kenya who have extraordinary, long muscle fibers in their legs and certain physiological characteristics that make them suitable for running. Because their body is suited for running, many take up careers of running, especially those from poor families. Perhaps someone has a body type for sports. Earlier was mentioned tall people and basketball, but perhaps short, small ladies are encouraged by physical type to doing tumble dives or gymnastics. They can only be short and of a certain size.
Someone else might have a body suited for ballet. I saw a movie about ballet students. I thought it was quite amazing; they all looked identical, like little parts of some game. Young ladies with little, round skirts around their waists, holding their arms up, and they were going on their toes. It was so strange to look at it from my point of view. Maybe you look at it differently, but I find it strange for people to get up on their toes that way. They all looked identical, hair almost identical, it was very interesting.
In another way, if your parents are very intellectual, you might be genetically disposed through mental gifts for scholarship. If your parents are artists, you may be genetically disposed to have art talent, as well as growing up in that environment. You may have some mental genetic imprint that stimulates you to decide who and what you want to be.
We are not really talking about careers, but the mental component of decisions that you have already made about yourself. These led you not just to decide who you want to be, but how you are going to go about it and what you expect to gain from this thing that you want to be, isn't that so? Therefore, we must also include your expectations, as well as your emotional, mental, and spiritual influences, especially if you do not have a meditation-type process in your life at this point. To be continued….