I have come to understand that we are the product of the environment that we are born into. Purely, because it is a matter of survival, there is nothing else for us to do. Our little nervous systems are very intelligent in finding ways to make us safe. To get the love or attention that we need to survive when we are small and vulnerable. Before the outside world is developed within our psyches, all we know is our own subtle experience. As we begin to see, touch, feel, taste, smell and hear, we come to know the world in which we must make our way. In the beginning, there is just our essence, before there is a story, before there is an I.

Becoming someone

Our experiences, the forces that are brought to bear on us, shape us like a sculptor’s knife. Somewhere along the way we find that we have become someone, with a name, an address, likes, dislikes, strengths, weaknesses, desires and aversions. We have a personal history, a family history. We are created from without. That spark within us; the will to live, to exist, to be, gets wrapped up in layers of identity that we slip on, like clothes, in the hope of protecting the tender, vulnerable, heart of our being, our innermost self, our essence, our life force.

For the first half of life (for most of us) this is our full time, relentless project – how to survive within the world we find ourselves in. We do our best. Some of us thrive. Some of us become thwarted and distorted. Possibly, the more sensitive we are, the more thwarted and distorted we become. But, we all have clothes, these layers that we’ve built up to face the world we’ve found.

Inevitably, there comes a time when that drive to survive, to make our way in the world loses its gloss, becomes questionable. Ultimately, the body isn’t going to make it, and as the inevitable deterioration of our physical existence begins, we have to think again. What is there beneath all of those layers we’ve put on to survive. Who are we, at our very core, our essence? Are we different at all, at that innermost level?

Our fundamental human worth

This is where our worth can be found. Way beneath the layers, the trappings, way down deep, we are all springing from the same well. We are all equal. The life force that sustains us. The same force that raises the sun in the morning and makes the flower buds bloom. That is who we are in our fundamental essence. That we are living and breathing is the source of our worth. Our existence is a miracle. There is no difference here, we are one and the same. We are home. We all have this is equal measure. There is not one of us that lacks it in any way.

Using differences to determine our worth

At this time in history we measure our worth, not by the miracle of our existence, our living, breathing life force, but by many other factors. We look to our differences to determine our worth. Some attributes are more highly valued than others. Our cultures and societies have dominant values. Some are explicit and others much more subtle. Some we are completely blind to, like water to a fish. The fish doesn’t know water. It is just the environment it swims in. Of course this is incredibly complex and different for all of us. To point to the measures that are brought to bear on those of us in Western civilization, let’s start with money, intellect, and material possessions. They are the big three, but of course as we explore the more subtle layers we can see male, white and able.

The crack I can squeeze myself through

I’ve decided to hop off that bus. I don’t want to play by those rules anymore. I am so grateful that I am alive at a time in history when I actually have the opportunity to make that decision. It’s risky. Once I would have been burned at the stake, imprisoned, institutionalised or disqualified from life in some way. However, as hard as it may be to step out of that flow, no matter how much that makes me feel like being on the outside. In this day and age, I can make that choice. It’s scary, and hard, and feels incredibly dangerous. But for all that is wrong with our society these days, there is a little crack that is open and that I can squeeze myself through.

Our contribution to humanity

When the external environment, the systems that shape us don’t feel right in the heart and in the belly, it’s an opportunity to turn the tide and offer some influence to what we’ve been born into. To make a contribution and stand for values outside of those that are dominant, that have sculpted and defined us. Doing so in honour of those who have suffered in the past and to improve the environment for those yet to come. There may be a price to pay but ‘better to lose the world than our own souls’.

Colonised or coloniser?

Irrespective of advantage and disadvantage, the oppressive systems that we find ourselves in can disconnect us from our fundamental humanity and worth. (These are actually not negotiable and can never be lost.) Whichever side we’re coming from, advantaged or disadvantaged, colonised or coloniser, it’s really just a matter of direction, up or down, both are untrue. There is a meeting place though. A place where we are one, fundamentally equal (I completely acknowledge that this is NOT the case in our cultures and societies).


I’m grateful. I go ever so slowly, recognising the risk that at any moment I can get swept up by the tide again, the mainstream. “Yoga is many things” says my teacher, “but at its essence it is about wholeness”. “Samadhi” he tells me, “isn’t about bliss, it’s about wholeness”. Our wholeness includes the discomfort. As I lose faith in the dominant culture and it’s values, I feel cut adrift, disappointed in the ending of the dream, very scared. As I reconnect to the sensations in my body, the visceral information that I receive from my heart and my gut, not just the ideas that have been implanted in my head, I can no longer play the game. And, it hurts. It’s hard.

But my quest is for wholeness, to become all of who I am, not just be a by-product of my environment. To know the essential worth I share with all others, my non-separation. So, I listen, to the pain, the disappointment, the sorrow. It is my teacher.