What about when life is really hard? When it feels really rough?
Today, I want to share one of the things that helps me.
We have lots of choices about how we identify – different ways we can think of ourselves, different concepts we can hold of who and what we actually are. For me, often the key to lessening suffering lies in changing the very way I’m thinking of myself.
Here’s what I mean:
There’s ego identification: being identified with all your ego/personality/life biography characteristics and thinking of yourself primarily in terms of those.
For me that means: I’m Tara, the woman in her thirties with brown hair and brown eyes, about five feet tall, who writes and teaches and lives in San Francisco and is married to Eric, who has these friends and these interests and this life history…
That seems normal, right? How else could you possibly think of yourself?
Well, there’s another way I can identify. I can identify as a soul (feel free to use the word “being” or “consciousness” here if you don’t click with the word “soul”). A soul that is not of this world but is temporarily in this world. A soul that is here to learn and to bring light via the life experience that is playing out in front of me.
I know for myself this is true: When I am thinking of myself in that first way – thinking of myself in terms of my ego/personality/life story, I have lots of complaints about how things are. I always want this or that aspect of the story to be different. There’s a sense of never being quite enough. There’s more comparing myself to others, more mean voices rattling off critiques of me in my head, more striving and more pressure to accomplish.
Most important, when I’m in this mode, the hard stuff hits me very hard. It feels more devastating, overwhelming, frustrating. It’s an invasion on my biography! It’s an attack on a frail egoic self that is oh-so-afraid. It’s an unfair assault.
But if I am thinking of myself as a soul who has been around for a very long time, and is here in this particular life to learn, experience, and bring light where there is darkness, well, then the hard stuff feels different.
I can approach it with a little less gripping, less intensity, because I’m connected to a part of myself that is bigger than what is happening, and bigger even than this lifetime. It’s like widening the camera lens, so that what seemed really big starts to shrink into proportion – even if that proportion is that its an excruciating, unwanted experience I’m having in this life. But the camera lens is much wider than “this life.”
When I think in this second way, I can replace my immediate judgments of what’s happening with curiosity: How is this here to help me learn, and to help me serve? What is this experience really about – in terms of my soul’s learning?
This is not about dissociating. Emotions still come, big emotions. But the emotional drama, and the emotional looping lessens.
Do I know that this second way of thinking is “true?” No, but I believe it is true, and I know it relieves suffering.
Making It Practical
If you’d like to try this, here’s what I suggest:
1. Place your hands on your heart, and connect with a place in your chest that feels like your soul, or like the heart of your being. Just connect with it. Feel how it is vast, wise, and connected to something much bigger than you. Feel how it’s existence in time is much longer than your chronological age.
2. Try on the idea that the real you, the core of you, is a spark of being here to learn and serve. A being that came into this biography for just those reasons. Consider the idea that whatever life is presenting you is for that learning, and service.
3. Return your attention to a painful or difficult situation in your life. Ask, “What is this here to teach this soul, or allow it to experience?” Ask, “What opportunity to serve is this calling me into?”
You can do this right now. It only takes a minute. And I’d be honored if you share what you discover.
photo credit: Felix Russell-Saw
Join the discussion 39 Comments
A profound and heartfelt practice. What came up for me is how much of myself I put into fallow ground. My intension is to observe myself as I interact and overreact and find fertile soil.
Thank you, Tara. Reach4u
Beautifully put and puts into simple English what I’m reading in esoteric books.
This has really got me thinking especially as I am mid-way writing the copy about me for my new website and I will to express more from the heart rather than what is expected.
When you explain about learning and serving it makes it a lot easier to go with the flow and simply be me and not get caught up in what appears to be glossy ego.
I’ve been so encouraged and blessed by your thoughts/writings/courses for over a year now. I’m so glad I was introduced to you by a friend 🙂
This is a very timely blog. I have recently picked up the book based on Toltec wisdom that contains a similar theme to help cope with the daily struggles and suffering we put ourselves through. It is not easy to change the way we think about ourselves and how we deal with the issues we face but it is critical to our happiness and continuously evolving. Great advice and something I am personally putting into practice.
Thank you for this, it has helped to make it better for me.
This helps to keep things in perspective.
Grateful for your willingness to share!
This helps put an issue I have been struggling with in perspective. Human relationships are so fragile and important. Difficult at times to balance both, especially when it involves someone you love deeply. Your human awareness and willingness to share even the soulful stuff is helping many. Thank you Tara…
This is one of the most beautiful writings so far Tara. How true this has been for me. It pulls everything into the proper perspective.
Thank you for your beautiful soul.
It’s amazing how spirit sends you messages when you are going through a challenging time. I am currently switching careers, and these thoughts were going through my head yesterday. I was struggling with my ego vs. my soul’s purpose. Thank you for validating this process. It’s a reminder to trust the process and to remember why we are here in the first place.
So great!! What a nice reframe – away from the “assault on my bio”. I love this.
I love this post, Tara. Thank you.
For me, it requires diligent practice to reframe my perspective so that I’m able to see the bigger picture. And I find that if I’m coming from a place of ego and I’m not asking the question: “How is this here to help me learn, and to help me serve?”, then I am destined to circle back to the same lesson again and again. Funny how that works…
So true, Tara. Connecting with my deep heart has given me peace, guidance and such pure divine happiness. We really are here to have a human experience and to fulfill a soul purpose. This doesn’t mean something lofty, it means connecting with others in a very intimate way. Brava for connecting!
Thank you, Tara. I needed that “reminder.” XO
This is so beautiful and really resonates with me Tara. You are so gifted, so wise. You inspire me and practically help me live a graceful beautiful life. Much love and appreciation.
This is really powerful. You writing style is so authentic, caring and wise. The world really needs this type perceptive shift to heal. Thank you. This is so timely and appreciated.
“human awareness”…perfectly stated.
I’ve grown to call this current existence “earth school” for all the reasons you listed. Thanks, Tara!
Oh, how I love this exercise, Tara; thank you. I launched right into the exercise after reading the post, spending 60 seconds in expansiveness, in curiousness, wholeness. THAT is the place I want to live and act from. Too often I forget to live through my soul, to see through its lens, and connect with the wholeness that’s there. So, thank you for this reminder. x
Interesting how the universe provides insights at just the right time. I was participating in a discussion on my writing coach’s blog about labeling ourselves: writer, photographer, artist, etc., how difficult it is to “say” who/what we do, who we are. I’ve eschewed these tags for eons because I agree with what you say Tara, who/what we are is so much more. So much about essence. Your post is so timely!
But, still no answer to my quest to “say” who I am, what I do in terms that make sense to someone else, when that question comes up, “What do you do?” Which then leads to a limiting label which doesn’t tell my truth. Or help anyone know me, nor I them! Connection at the level of soul, light, love.
Beautifully said, Lee. Yes, I think we all keep slipping into the fallow ground territory (it’s so easy in our culture) and have to keep re-rooting in the richer soil.
Thanks Deanna! I’m touched by that.
Thanks Kris. I’m feeling pulled to share more of the “soulful stuff” lately.
Thank you Robin. I’m really touched by your words!
Yes, let’s keep remembering!
Thank you Sidra. I always try to share in an authentic way, and I really do feel so much love for everyone reading – I’m glad to hear you can feel that coming through.
Lucie – I’m so glad you *did* it! Yes, we all forget, and we all get to return, return, return.
Thank you, Tara. Your words allowed me to see the opportunity to serve myself in a situation that i’m currently grappling with.
Thank you, Tara. Your words allowed me to see the opportunity to serve myself in a situation that i’m currently grappling with. X
Wonderful article Tara, I often do personify myself which leads to ego identification and I am working really hard on focusing on what truly interest me about all aspects in my life in a genuine way that removes this personification that I so often do. It helps not only in the stressful times, but in the times when doubt about who I am creeps into my thoughts. Best to you always!
Wonderful clear way to describe it! Thank you. I just went through a similar experience of opening up to higher self and connecting the most essential of all soul qualities:
check it out:
[…] this week, I wrote a post about the benefits of identifying with soul and the challenges that come with identifying wit… I believe in what I wrote there 100%. But this post is a necessary follow up- because I don’t […]
Such a lovely post and such a great reminder to co-create each day with our higher self.
As women we have two hearts. The upper heart in our chest and the lower heart, our womb. When we connect in with both we get clarity and grounding and step beyond the realms of the ego into our most authentic self.
Blessings on this wondrous adventure.
Hi Tara, I feel blessed to be in connection with you now (following your latest WISH summit interview). This is a fantastic post. Juliette S above said something great which is that “We really are here to have a human experience and to fulfill a soul purpose”. I see it as the human experience and heavy influence of the ego – to identify with the ego – creating the greatest challenge to maintain and pursue our soul’s purpose. It takes practice and diligence even for those of us who understand this. And many people don’t get to that point (which is a shame)! Think of what the world would be like if we all did!!
I am here to learn how to be honest and true to myself, God and my family. And when I say family, I mean the people around me, who I am really truly connected to. I don’t feel connected to my birth mother. I am so different than her, I can’t even relate to her at all. And yet, I understand why God had the plan for me to be born to her and my father. He showed me the way not to be with my own family.
God is calling me to be the advocate for those whose voices are not heard – the disabled, the downtrodden, the abused, the victims. The fact that I was a victim in all these makes me ideal. There is a calm that comes over you, once you realize how God intends to use you.
It was interesting. When I decided to try your exercise at the end of this piece, I instinctively brought both hands up to my chest as if my soul was to be held carefully and completely. I just found that interesting and wanted to share.
Right now I’m dealing with being recently divorced after a long marriage and the prospect of a potential new job that may mean moving abroad and leaving my daughter behind. Sometimes it feels unbearable, but other times, when I look at myself as this ”soul on a journey” and see how I am coping and all the new things I am doing because of learning to survive and adapt to this new situation, I feel proud. Yes, without these tough experiences I would have been stuck in an unhappy life/or lives to come!
Tara, you are so wonderful! so right, so true, so inspirational and so gracious. Thank you for sharing so selflessly and so honestly. You make SUCH a difference. I send you blessing & love & prosperity.
you are a hero.xxx
Thank you for this offering. I tried the practice you suggested, and I felt calmer and more spacious and loving. There is this situation I have been agonizing about in the last week–even bringing it up to my mind makes me feel angry and ashamed and like I was punched in the gut.
I asked the questions you suggested and heard that this experience is here so that I can learn not to take things so perfectly and to practice experience lightness or lightheartedness. The situation that was so painful and gut-wrenching and embarassing, now feels really funny!
I know this was posted a while ago. But it would be so amazing if you record the instructions so that I could follow them with my eyes closed… Just a thought.