This week I saw a series of pictures of the moon taken at the same time each day for one year, then collated into one photograph. The various phases of the moon, taken over time, formed the symbol of infinity. Think about that for a minute. The moon’s cycles follow a pattern (each day, each month), but the overall result of that pattern is a symbol of infinity – endless, boundless.
Western society sees time as linear. We think about our life as having a beginning (birth) and an ending (death). As I prepared to write on this topic, I reviewed personal journals that I have kept for the past 25 years. They represent annual snapshots of my life. Like the moon, I found a pattern; not linear but cyclical.
Looking back, I have cycled through a similar story line – discontentment, struggle, reflection, growth. No specific ending or beginning. Each phase lasting for a stretch of time. Each time seeming to learn or relearn whatever I needed to in that moment to move on. Then, cycling back through the story again. If I had the written words of my journals in a visual form, it would show a pattern. When I think about it visually, I imagine my life’s journey as a sphere. I am the object rotating through a pattern; spiraling towards my authentic self.
Freud explains the ego ideal as “an image of the perfect self towards which the ego should aspire.” I am not sure that the perfect self or ego ideal is the same thing as core or authentic self. Perfect is not attainable. Human beings are not perfect. To be constantly aspiring to the perfect self leads to frustration and feelings of worthlessness. Reaching inward to connect with the authentic self is different.
Authentic self is more in-line with Jung’s theory of self, which includes a shadow side. Life is an endless series of dichotomies – light/dark, up/down, objective/subjective, happy/sad, endings/beginnings – all connected and necessary for the other to exist. Authentic self holds space for all possibilities. It is the connection between our mind, body, and spirit.
Right, so how do you know your real, authentic self? Many people think it is the voice in their head. I’ve always been curious about that: is the real me the voice speaking (often judging) or the person listening (feeling judged)? What if the real me is neither? I believe our real, authentic self exists at our center, in a place where you can just be. A place that quiets the mind, relaxes the body, and rejuvenates the spirit. As Michelangelo chipped away the access marble to find David contained within, we can find ourselves in the same way.
Although we see this time as the ending of one year and the beginning of the next, really it is simply one moment in time connected to another. It represents our world in perpetual motion. In my very first journal, at the tender age of 25, I began with “it’s funny how I’ve always been waiting for life to begin; it seems to have started already”. That journal ends with “only the beginning”. All of it has been a series of opportunities for me to fall a little further into my authentic self. A human being, becoming.
“What if the question is not why am I so infrequently the person I really want to be, but why do I so infrequently want to be the person I really am?” Oriah Mountain Dreamer – The Dance