The source of our thinking does not live in a world divided by thinking. It’s product –our ego– lives in a world divided by labels. We have them for ourselves, for others. Egos even have labels for who we want to be, or who we wish we weren’t.
If we each looked at our lives and earnestly thought about how we would describe ourselves, or our life itself, we would quickly see that we would mostly be using labels.
We would use things like, Captain, Doctor, Politician, or Homemaker. Or they can be things like accomplished, skilful, talented, or clumsy. But they could also be things like, single, happy, poor, stressed, healthy or lonely.
The point is, no matter which definition we’re at, we will either consciously or subconsciously have a ‘want’ surrounding many of our labels. We want a promotion to a better title, we want to move from the gopher maze to the corner office, we want to move from sick to healthy or depressed to happy, or we want to be seen as equal, or strong, or worthy.
Many of us want to move from single to dating, and dating to marriage, but the very same person, a year later, can want to move from marriage to divorce. Egos call that a failed relationship, but to our soul it’s just another adventure. Hot or cold, it’s all weather.
Our ego’s life is really made up out of making these label shifts. The worst and most painful shift is when we don’t even want to be ourselves, or anyone at all. These are times where our ego will use its thoughts to paint itself into a corner without even noticing.
That can be a very dark place, but fortunately, we can always get out by doing the reverse of what got us in.
As we review our histories looking for past label changes, or pursuits, or rejections, we can see that in a thought-based ego-created world, we’re label-hopping. And little more.
Like stickers applied to the inside of a glass-domed, space helmet, our labels will actually impede our view of the universe. But that’s how egos express their individuality. Since each person’s space helmet is plastered with different combinations of labels, we each have the gaps in our helmets in slightly different spaces.
It is through those gaps in our ego that our inner light can shine through. That is the light of wisdom. It’s a light we all share. And that is the light that can help another person recognize their own label, or one that is put upon them. And it can do the same for us. Served unconsciously, a label can be tyrannical.
Yet, when our light is at its brightest, it exposes the thin, superficiality of all labels. And recognizing that, is the salvation people are truly seeking.
Many of us see our job as getting ourselves label-free. That’s the way we initially see enlightenment. But if our view was always clear, we would lose our ability to participate in the drama. That would be like being a soul before birth, or one after death. We’re just not in the game at that time.
When we’re engaged with life, our soul has entered a biological, time-limited body, within which our ego can think its dramas into existence. But our ego needs labels to create those dramas, or else our soul can’t tell one character from another, nor do we know how their labels interrelate to create the plot, for the story of our lives.While the labels are necessary for life, lowering them does feel rewarding. The only time when we’ll all feel safe about lowering our labels is when we choose love.
There is a version of ‘love’ that is merely a label, but there’s another ‘love’ that is more the essence of our non-ego self. It shines in that light from within us. And if two egos spend enough time together, they can come to learn to see each other’s light quite consistently.
Focusing on the light around us can be very helpful. Contrary to that, our greatest moments of suffering are when our desire for a new label is at its most intense. We can’t see our light due to our hyper-focus on some label. Thoughts about it fill our mind with words and phrases and expressions that relate to our desire.
As each new word-judgement comes into play, our inner light is further prevented from shining through. And yet our greatest moments of exaltation and communion with the universe are when two or more people lower all of their labels and they meet as naked souls.
This is what makes those faces so happy from all of the photos from V-Day after WWII. No one cared what anyone’s label was, they all gathered under two: safe, and victorious. All other differences were ignored.
In a marriage, or friendship, or business relationship that’s gone awry, the differences in our perspectives are the issue. And so if we seek to resolve differences with others, the first thing we should review is not their behaviour, but rather our application of labels to the other person, and to ourselves.
If we’re studying the labels closely enough, we’ll eventually notice the light behind them. And that is something we can build on. Because our job is not to describe to others which labels they should have. It’s to clear more of our own so we can see those we love for who they more completely are, while still leaving enough ego for an interesting life together.
As we move about our lives, it’s worthwhile to occasionally stop to ask ourselves, which labels we have that we currently dislike, and which labels we currently desire. Knowing what those are can bring a lot of clarity to confusing situations.
By leaving the labels we leave the drama to unfold. But by seeing them as labels, whether we take the opportunity or not, we retain the flexibility that allows us to always fall in love again.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.