Stop saying ‘I’ so much.
Several nights ago, I drove one of my best friends and her partner to the airport. On the way there, we had a conversation about how I was doing and where I was in my life personally, romantically, and financially. I love these kinds of conversations, because they always shed light on something that at least one of us needs to work on. I was telling them that I had been feeling really depressed and confused. I was having a hard time just being here in this life. I didn’t know where I was headed or how I wanted to contribute to the world. I felt lost. My friend turned to her partner, who was sitting in the back seat, to ask him what he thought about my situation. I know him to be a stunningly aware and wise human being, so I wasn’t surprised that he did, indeed, have something to say.
He asked, “Can I give you a small piece of advice?”
“Please”, I replied.
He came back with, “Stop saying ‘I’ so much”.
His words hit me like a ton of bricks, and I wanted to cry in that moment. I’ve always thought of myself as a fellow truth-seeker and have been known to be “wise” in my own right, so it was incredibly embarrassing to think that I had not come to this simple realization myself.
Refraining from using “I”, or “me”, or “my” in speech was something I had begun practicing during my yoga training in 2016. Yoga teaches us to detach from the ego and to understand and know our Oneness with all of Creation. Refraining from using this kind of language is one method that can facilitate this realization. However, I discontinued this when I returned home out of fear that I wouldn’t be able to connect with or relate to those who didn’t know this practice outside of the ashram. Plus, I didn’t want to be looked at like a looney bird when I told everyone that, “This body is 27 years old” rather than, “I am 27 years old”, or that “There is anger” as opposed to “I am angry”. So, as things go, I fell out of alignment with this practice of detachment. My friend quickly highlighted this fact by saying that I was identifying too strongly with the ego, which was absolutely true, and that if I was not able to rephrase a statement without using the word ‘I’ then there is no need to say it at all.
The ‘I’, or ego, is not who we are but rather a construct of the mind built to protect us and ensure our survival. It’s a very useful tool when we are running from danger or when we find ourselves in a physical altercation of some sort. It is not helpful, however, when it sounds the alarm when we experience intense emotions, fear judgment, receive criticism, or have to spend the week with family members with whom we don’t exactly see eye-to-eye. The point here is that when we constantly identify with ‘I’, we are identifying with the egoistic, earth-bound version of us and disconnecting from our Oneness with the Divine. We are, instead, confining ourselves to the labels we have given this bodily form. The ‘I am this’ and ‘I am that’. There is no room for expansion, creativity, or curiosity. We either remain complacent, or continuously move in circles, revisiting the same old thoughts, patterns, and behaviors; and we never really move toward where we want to be.
…when we contradict the infinite wisdom of the Soul with the limited perception of the mind, we remain in a limited reality.
My friend then said to me, “You’re at the stage of awareness or consciousness where you want more out of life. You want to give more and experience more of the Divine, but you’re too set on trying to understand everything before you make a move, which isn’t possible. You’re not meant to understand first. The understanding comes after you start making moves. The small voice in your head is always telling you which way to go, but you insist on arguing with it.” He was right. I knew he was. My higher Self had been trying to guide me for ages, but I chose to argue with it and turn against it. The way I see things is that the “small voice in your head”, the one that speaks in soft whispers, is actually the intuition. It’s the voice of the Soul channeled through the heart and is the first one to speak. The second voice to speak (or shout, in many cases) is the analytical voice of the mind, the voice of reason and contradiction. It aims to understand things whereas the voice of the Soul knows things.
The problem with reason is that it can only take us so far. There is a limit to it. Reason is related to the ego and is bound by our limited perception of life, and so when we contradict the infinite wisdom of the Soul with the limited perception of the mind, we remain in a limited reality. Now, I’m not saying the rational mind should never have a say in things. As mentioned earlier, it’s incredibly helpful when we are in real danger. It’s also very useful when helping us navigate mundane tasks like getting onto the bus, ordering a cup of tea, and articulating our thoughts during a conversation. But when it comes to knowing who we are and how we fit into the grand scheme of things, it often hinders our progression. The voice of the Soul, on the other hand, is the source of all creativity, exploration, and expansion. Where the rational mind requires analysis and reasoning, the intuitive Soul requires trust and surrender. And this, unfortunately, is where most of us fall short. Society neither teaches nor encourages us to trust our intuition. We pride ourselves on our big-brain intelligence, which is wonderful and necessary for our evolution but is destined to bring us into a downward spiral if we do not embrace intuition along with it.
We have to know something before we can understand it.
Intuition creates the space for us to step into something new and unknown, something with which the ego and intellect are very uncomfortable. They rebel against it at all costs. The Soul says, “Go here”, and the intellect responds with, “Why the hell would I do that?! It makes no sense! There’s no proof that going there will ever work for me. It’s never been explored before, and probably for good reason! It’s dangerous. It’s unknown! If I go there, I could fall into a deep, dark hole, and I don’t know that I could pull myself out!” The rational mind comes up with so many excuses. It can’t understand the reasoning of the Soul, because there is no reasoning. The Soul is one with Life, and there is no reason to Life other than to be. And so, since the rational mind and ego cannot understand the Soul’s words, they argue against them.
This is why listening to the Soul requires trust and surrender. We have to trust that it is wiser than the ego could ever be and surrender our mind’s need to understand something it cannot yet grasp. Allowing ourselves to step into the unknown gives us the opportunity to explore new territory, which the mind can gradually explore and with which it can become familiar. This seems to be the essence behind what my friend said about how understanding comes after we begin to make moves. We have to know something before we can understand it. We have to know our Oneness before we can explore it.
There’s been a much greater awareness of language around and the identification with my old, worn-out, I’m-so-lost-and-depressed story since the conversation that night. “I” statements are now rearranged or reworded to form more objective statements, which allows for the removal of one’s self (ego) from situations where it would have otherwise manipulated the outcomes. There are much fewer overwhelming emotions of sadness and despair. Old patterns are revisited less and less often. Decisions are not so difficult to make anymore, and, this time around, others’ opinions are of less importance. But mostly, there is space—space to feel, to witness, to surrender, and to create.
My hope is not that you simply take my word for all of this but that my friend’s words of wisdom have shed some light on what is possible if we just give ourselves the chance to change the language of our experience in this lifetime. My hope is that you try this new way of relating for yourself. Step into that which your Soul knows, but which does not always make sense to the rational mind, so you might come to understand your place within it. Allow yourself to quiet the “I”, the part of you that is afraid of what is unknown, and trust enough to sit with the non-sensical, unsettling mystery of being.