Mirror, Mirror On The Wall, Who Am I? I Want To Know…

“Know Thyself” – the dance of a lifetime and beyond. You look in the mirror every day, but do you know who you are? Are you satisfied with your name, nationality, family history, job description and relationship status as a definition of self? My cat curiosity was not, so I opted for an adventure in the unknown. Join me if you like 🙂

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First, there was the fog of all I thought I was. Seeing through it was difficult, but not impossible.

How do we learn about ourselves? Can you see yourself without a mirror? Relationships with others and the environment are our mirrors and ways to learn about self. Take any baby in the world. When it is born, it is simply a helpless innocent being. Then it gets a name chosen by the parents, their race, nationality, culture and later on adopts the family values and traditions. All of that is added onto us when we are little and then it ends up defining our life. If we accept it. And all of us do, for we depend on the others for our survival, so we follow along.

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Hi! My name is Slava, I am a white female, I am Bulgarian, I am Eastern European, I am Eastern Orthodox, I am an English Major, I am a photographer, I am divorced, I am a legal alien in the USA. It works well for an introduction on a plane, but there surely has to be more than this to me…

“How can I accept a limited definable self when I feel, in me, all possibilities?… I never feel the four walls around the substance of the self, the core. I feel only space. Illimitable space.”― Anaïs Nin

I have always been curious about the nature of self – is it something stable that you are born with and you can never change, or is it something more flexible that evolves as you gather experiences in life? When I first came to the USA over 10 years ago, I would describe myself as an introvert who does not make friends easily. I used to think of myself as smart, rather than creative, shy versus outgoing. Little did I know that picking up photography as a hobby would open up a whole new world to me! It all started with 365project.org, volunteering at the Visitor Center, entering a photo contest, then doing my own postcards, prints, wall art, photo shoots for people other than friends and family, exploring boudoir and creating a blog promoting downtown {Re-Discover Washington, if you remember}. Every step led to the next, I had no master plan, just followed what was naturally flowing and felt good. All of this combined, made me get out of my shell and share my gifts with the community {I was unaware they existed, until I was nudged by life to uncover them within and exhibit them without}.

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From being a shy introvert and not knowing anyone in town, in just a few years I made so many friends and was even a part of the 175th anniversary parade.  I guess, people can change.

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
― Anais Nin

Once I got photography and blogging down, I wanted to explore more areas of life and to go on new adventures. Knowing that my idea of self was fluid, it was only natural to keep pushing the boundaries and see how far could I go. Not sure if you got the “Moana” reference, but Hawaii had always been a dream of mine and after traveling all over the USA, I made my tropical dream come true. The funny thing was, the more I was going after what I wanted, the more resistance I was facing from everyone around me. Had I listened to well meaning advice, I would have never discovered the joys of house/pet sitting and trusting people, the awesome experiences work&travel offers, the enriching conversations that could be had with strangers, the way that things miraculously have a way of working themselves out when you follow your heart instead of a mind map, the incredible surprises the journey offers that often surpass the end goal.

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Is your life a problem to be solved or an adventure to be enjoyed?

“You live like this, sheltered, in a delicate world, and you believe you are living. Then you read a book… or you take a trip… and you discover that you are not living, that you are hibernating. The symptoms of hibernating are easily detectable: first, restlessness. The second symptom (when hibernating becomes dangerous and might degenerate into death): absence of pleasure. That is all. It appears like an innocuous illness. Monotony, boredom, death. Millions live like this (or die like this) without knowing it. They work in offices. They drive a car. They picnic with their families. They raise children. And then some shock treatment takes place, a person, a book, a song, and it awakens them and saves them from death. Some never awaken.”

― Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1: 1931-1934

As I was experiencing these adventures and meeting various people along the way, I was exposed to so many different ways of living and being. Slowly, but surely I was turning into a free spirit, embracing the unknown and boldly piercing through the illusions of my own perceived limitations. Of course I had to face fear head on many times, but once I locked eyes with it and refused to look away, it would always miraculously vanish into thin air. It began to dawn on me, that life is a fertile ground that lands itself to our imagination. If I believed that something was possible for me to achieve or be, the way to do it always appeared with ease. However, if somebody else who had a different outlook on life tried to accomplish the same thing believing it was hard or impossible, it would end up being hard or impossible for them. What you sow is what you reap – so much wisdom distilled in a few words, that needs to be experienced to be fully understood.

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”

― Anais Nin

The Universe as a mirror: what you project, is what you get

Suddenly, I could see clearly. Most people’s idea of self was a limited concept, steeped in fear and lack. The more I was exploring my idea of self through tearing down the walls of fear and limitation, the more expansive I was becoming, merging with abundance and love. My lifestyle reflected this process of growth, and naturally triggered many people around me, who deep down inside knew they were that expansive too, but were too afraid to transcend their own perceived smallness and venture on the journey of self discovery. Why would you be afraid? Because, in order to become something you haven’t been, you have to let go of what you think you are. This is how the lobster grows – it loses its old shell and is “naked” for a while until the new one comes in. Most people find the process of growth too stressful and uncertain, and they are not willing to let go of the comforts of the familiar unless they are guaranteed what comes next. Life, however, doesn’t really do that – no guarantees offered, only the wisdom of insecurity.

Are you ready to have all of your preconceived ideas of life shattered? If not, I’d suggest you stop reading here… Just kidding, keep reading! I am only sharing my truth and it does not need to threaten yours. Do what you like, always 😉

“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”

― Anaïs Nin

The quote above is a favorite of mine. Read it carefully and let it sink in. I turn to it often, lest I forget. Luckily, an awesome friend of mine got me a keychain with these words that I carry around as a constant reminder. Whenever the people who love me try to shame or guilt me for what I want or how I live, I tell myself that they are only projecting their own fears and limitations on me unconsciously and I let it be. The same refers to me – if I do not understand someone, I try to simply love them versus attempting to change/fix/convince them. This is what freedom and peace of mind feels like. Free to be me and allowing others to do the same, without oppressing them with my idea of lifestyle and reality. Why did it take so long to realize this? Better later, than never 😉

Slow and steady wins the race. I have always been better at long distance runs.

“Every day we slaughter our finest impulses. That is why we get a heartache when we read those lines written by the hand of a master and recognize them as our own, as the tender shoots which we stifled because we lacked the faith to believe in our own powers, our own criterion of truth and beauty. Every man, when he gets quiet, when he becomes desperately honest with himself, is capable of uttering profound truths. We all derive from the same source. there is no mystery about the origin of things. We are all part of creation, all kings, all poets, all musicians; we have only to open up, only to discover what is already there.”

― Henry Miller

How does being free look like? Simply doing what you want to do when you want to do it and not having to explain why. For example, last year I decided to do a 3-week pet sit in Coronado, California. Other people’s opinions: {By yourself? Isn’t that too long? What are you going to do there without a car? Be careful}; my idea: {this will be such an exciting adventure by the beach with a cute dog to walk}. Not only did the latter turn out to be true, but I happened to make an awesome new friend who took me on amazing sight-seeing trips and we got to share incredible conversations, delicious food, and fun beach dog walks. I also got to talk to another wonderful stranger when I went to the local coffee shop for their open mic night, who made me realize I am a go-getter. Somehow, in my head I had always connected this word with somebody who wants a lot of material things in life, like money, status and fame. However, that night it dawned on me that I was somebody who simply wants to get a lot of this experience in a body on Earth. The spiritual realm fascinated me more, the diversity that exists all around, the in-numerous ways of doing things and creating and re-creating one’s life. This is how I realized I am a dreamer, an explorer of the unknown realms, someone who is interested not in redefining the old, but in creating something entirely new.

Constantly learning through new ways of seeing and being seen…

“I am an excitable person who only understands life lyrically, musically, in whom feelings are much stronger as reason. I am so thirsty for the marvelous that only the marvelous has power over me. Anything I can not transform into something marvelous, I let go. Reality doesn’t impress me. I only believe in intoxication, in ecstasy, and when ordinary life shackles me, I escape, one way or another. No more walls.”

― Anais Nin

My search for self was beginning to resemble assembling a puzzle. As I was experiencing life, more and more versions of me were coming to the surface and more and more reflections of myself were being projected back at me in the mirrors of relationships. If somebody’s idea of me was nothing else but a concept refracted through the prism of their own self {in other words, their vision was only limited to what they have seen before/had uncovered within themselves}, and my idea of self was pretty much the same limited way of seeing based on my own conditioning and beliefs, was there a real me at all, and if so, what was it? The more I persisted in the chase of self, the more elusive and confusing the journey was becoming.

“Why are we so full of restraint? Why do we not give in all directions? Is it fear of losing ourselves? Until we do lose ourselves there is no hope of finding ourselves.”

― Henry Miller

Led by “Not all who wander are lost”, I kept going. Books and YouTube videos shed some light on the steps to take, but the journey of self discovery is a very individualized one and the best way to do it is to do it. You encounter everything on the way, facing your biggest fears is a given, and the pressure is what reveals the diamond you’ve always been. Tough, but so worth it. In a nutshell, you come to discover that… ok, maybe you should stop reading here.

If you ask “Who am I?” long enough, the answer will come…

“I must be a mermaid, Rango. I have no fear of depths and a great fear of shallow living.”
― Anais Nin

That cliffhanger did its job, didn’t it? Essentially, you come to discover that you are nobody. In the sense, that you are not your body. You are spirit, you are what everything is made of, the infinite awareness that lives in all as all. By giving up your limited idea of self, you dissolve into the ocean of Love that sustains all, realizing the oneness of the absolute. When you go there, time and space dissolve and with them your idea of personhood. Out the door goes your fear of death. Peace, joy and love become a permanent state. Your desires disappear, because you contain all within and know it as you. Hate and judgement make way for love and acceptance. The opinions of others cease to matter, since you have mastered the art of responding rather than reacting. There is no “me” to defend, and no “enemy” to fight, for the walls of separation have crumbled and you are it.

“Serenity is when you get above all this, when it doesn’t matter what they think, say or want, but when you do as you are, and see God and Devil as one.”

― Henry Miller

Naturally, embodiment is the tricky part – coming back from your hero’s journey into the thick of life with this new self-realization, determined not to lose it. Where do we go from here? A hermit, a guru, a life coach, a motivational speaker, a writer, an artist, a lover of life completely surrendered to the mystery? Loving awareness/unconditioned consciousness has no limits, but it has chosen this experience of forgetting to remember in the confines of a body. Why reject the human suit, when you can use this miracle you have been given and enjoy it to the fullest? Now is the time to play and create your own rules of the game, knowing that whatever garment of consciousness/self concept you choose to put on (the dominant thoughts and feelings you maintain, plus your steady focus), is what you are going to become. You can play any role you wish, but the key this time around is that you are not attached to it. You also know that all the other actors on the stage of life are you in the form of another, so you accept the saints and the villains alike. Duality exists for the sake of experience, trying to obliterate it is like playing a martyr/victim in the game you designed for your own enjoyment and expansion. The best part is the realization that the external “reality” no longer defines who you are, but the other way round – your inner being/environment creates the outside world you encounter.

Enlightenment is simply seeing life in its totality, and getting to experience it with more lightness of being.

“Let me be, was all I wanted. Be what I am, no matter how I am.”
― Henry Miller, Stand Still Like the Hummingbird

Naturally, there is no need to become anything. Most of the time, you are content to simply be. When you want to accomplish something, you consider it done, and it kind of happens on its own. Free from your own self-imposed limitations, you return to the center of all things. Recognizing your kinship with everyone and everything, you treat creation with kindness and compassion. Your soul knows where it needs to go, and you simply follow. You know that you don’t know and that’s ok. You surrender to the mystery of life and trust it to live you, as it has always done. You are free to reinvent yourself over and over. You lose the need to explain yourself to others and to be understood, because you accept yourself completely. There is nothing to conquer anymore, and strive gives way to ease. You can be happy for no reason and it’s ok to feel all of your emotions without having the need to hold on to them or overanalyze. Presence settles in, and the here and now become your home. Again. All is Love, as it has aways been.

“The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware.”
― Henry Miller

The divine paradox: give it all up, to gain all

“A good traveler has no fixed plans
and is not intent upon arriving.
A good artist lets his intuition
lead him wherever it wants.
A good scientist has freed himself of concepts
and keeps his mind open to what is.

Thus the Master is available to all people
and doesn’t reject anyone.
He is ready to use all situations
and doesn’t waste anything.
This is called embodying the light.

What is a good man but a bad man’s teacher?
What is a bad man but a good man’s job?
If you don’t understand this, you will get lost,
however intelligent you are.
It is the great secret.”
― Laozi, Tao Te Ching

In the end, the snake bites its own tail… back to circle one, to keep expanding into an infinite spiral…

P.S. Do you see why I am not on Facebook anymore? The media within me is so much more fascinating to explore and uncover... You can follow ThingFinder for more inspiration 🙂

This entry was published on July 29, 2020 at 8:40 pm. It’s filed under Musings, photo essay, Selfies, This and That and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

2 thoughts on “Mirror, Mirror On The Wall, Who Am I? I Want To Know…

  1. Pingback: The Wondrous | Slava Bowman Photography

  2. Pingback: In A World Of My Own | Slava Bowman Photography

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