The Narrative Self

If I ask you who you are, your narrative self will answer.

You will identify with it and tell me about your peak experiences and recent experiences.

We have a narrative self in our head that picks and chooses experiences and weaves them into our personal story.

As the years go by, our self aggregates experiences.

It’s easy to identify ourselves with our experiences.

But are we our experiences?

Or more like a vessel within which they occur?

Often, our narrative self tells us what we should do.

Maybe you too have lived under the tyranny of the shoulds at some point in your life.

At other times it steers us towards this or that ideal of happiness, towards this or that image of ourselves.

That’s how we people are, we like to tell ourselves stories.

Do you ever pause to observe your mind?

Do you ever let your thoughts come and go and try not to cling to them?

It’s the opposite of inventing meaning.

It’s not easy.

After you read this, put the screen aside and close your eyes.

Don’t think of anything.

Feel your body from the inside—your breath in your nostrils, your busy heart, your thought factory.

The thought factory seldom stops, thoughts will distract you.

But return to your breathing, return your mind to your body.

Give yourself a break from the narrative self.

Escape your personal story for a minute.

You’ll find that you are you even without your story..

An (Extra)Ordinary Day

Painting of greenery and bridge by Rizna Munsif

You wake up, get out of bed, get dressed and do things you have to do.

Noon comes and you do a few more things you have to do. Some things you do for yourself. Others you do for others.

The afternoon creeps on you, and behind the afternoon sneaks evening.

Night falls. You sleep alone or with someone. You dream.

In the morning you remember your dreams or you don’t.

You get out of bed, brush your teeth, get dressed and do things you have to do.

A week passes, a month, a year. Life seems so short.

Pause for a moment. Breathe. Be still. Is life really short?

It only seems so because we tend to do the same things at the same hours.

Our cells program us for efficiency. Our cells are selfish. But we are not only our cells. Between stimulus and response, there’s “I”. There’s “you” and there’s “me.” We can choose our response.

There are 24 hours in a day. 1,140 minutes. 68,400 seconds. That means quite a few choices.

You get more than one chance to make your day different from yesterday. In fact, you get many chances every day. You only have to pay attention to them…

1

When it’s time to eat, eat something new. Try a new recipe. Or ask the waiter for something you haven’t tried before.

2

Take a different route home. Wander. Take your camera with you.

3

Talk to a stranger. Be the one to start the conversation. It’s okay if they think you strange. Strange is harmless.

4

Read different books. If you stop in a bookstore, go to a bookshelf you don’t usually go to. Get rid of prejudices. Read philosophy. Read a treaty on medicine. Read a soapy romance.

5

Listen to different music. Shuffle more.

6

Keep a journal. Write down your thoughts and experiences. Writing deepens your experiences and also broadens them.

7

Become aware of your habits and routines. Change them bit by bit.

8

Do something you always do but do it in a different way. Brush your teeth with your left hand.

9

Don’t do anything at all. Stop. Still yourself in a chair, in bed, or on the floor.

Who are you? What do you want? How many days do you have left?

It doesn’t really matter.

What matters is that every day you try something new. Even if it’s only a different kind of salad.

It’s the simplest way to make your day belong to you more. To make life richer, longer.