Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Cast off your Labels!

Today's past journal entry I reread was about Jill Bolte Taylor.  If you're not familiar with her story, to put it as briefly as I can, she's a neuroscientist and had a stroke.  She not only lived through it, but remembered most of the experience!  She wrote a book sharing that experience and what she learned, "Stroke of Insight."

Jill's stroke was in her left hemisphere -- the side of our brains that processes language and relationships.  Also the side of our brain where our ego resides.  So Jill lost all that.  Lost her language ability, to understand or speak coherently.  Lost all her "relationship statuses" -- who people were to her, even her mother.  And she also lost her ego! 

The right hemisphere, responsible for pictures and feelings, was still intact and functioning normally for Jill. 

Jill recalled a particular experience when she was in the hospital, shortly after the stroke. She was lying in the bed and a woman came in.  She had no idea who this woman was, but the woman laid next to her in bed and held her.  All Jill felt was overwhelming love.  She knew the feeling -- love, but had no idea this strange woman was her mother.  Still, Jill felt love in return for this "stranger."

Jill explained how we all can choose our thoughts and we need to be responsible for our thoughts.  Our thoughts don't just stay in our heads.  They permeate outwards, affecting everyone around us, via our feelings, emotions, and energy.  This energy is what Jill picked up on, even though she couldn't understand what people were saying (still had no language) and didn't know who people were in relation to her.  She felt the energy coming out of the people, regardless of what they were saying.

Whenever we have self-talk, especially negative self-talk, it's chatter coming from our left hemisphere.  After her stroke, Jill said she couldn't care less what anyone thought because her ego and past emotional baggage had all been cleared! 

How nice would that be?!

Jill no longer identified with her titles either -- who she was, who she was supposed to be, what she'd done, or what she'd had.  All she had now was to focus on the positive energy around her.

Sometimes I feel the weight of my titles.  Vegan.  "Good girl."  Responsible. 

I'm sure there are parts of me and things I've done that certain people who think they know me would be shocked to find out.  We all have beliefs and perceptions about other people.  We believe our perceptions, and that's how we think that other person is.  But are they really?  Sometimes, yes.  But usually there's more beneath the surface.  More to their story.

We are all changing, evolving individuals.  Some of us change at a quicker pace than others though.  And some people have a hard time accepting that other people change.  They want to put them in a box.  "This is who you are."  Stay that way. 

This is where I have a problem.  Personally.  As a naturally quiet, introverted person, I've always felt like people don't really know me.  With very few exceptions (my sisters and closest of friends).

They see me as this "quiet, good girl."  While that's not a bad label to have, it's annoying.  It's annoying to be put in a box, and then people act on the assumption of who they think you are, instead of taking time to really get to know you.

For example, I have seven tattoos.  Most people who find this out, strangers or family, are really surprised.  Why are they surprised?  Because apparently having some tattoos doesn't fit their mold of "quiet, good girl."  But it doesn't change who I am.  That's the thing.

Another label I'm finding particularly heavy is that of "vegan."  I've been fairly health-conscious for a good while now.  People view me as "healthy."  And since going vegan about two years ago, now people applied that label to me.  And honestly, I accepted it.  I was proud of it.  I even put it on myself.   

But here's the thing.  And I'm about to share something with all of you that I find difficult to share.  Why do I find it difficult?  Because of the weight and importance of the label, even to me. 

I'm not 100% vegan anymore. 

There, I said it.  It makes me feel somewhat hypocritical, and I hate that.  I don't want to feel that way.  And I feel that way because of the label!  Because I know people SEE me as a "vegan" and when they discover I'm not, then what will they think? 

I do still eat a mostly plant-based diet.  Probably 90-95% of what I eat, or even higher sometimes, is still vegan.  But since I'm not 100% vegan, I don't feel that I can call myself "vegan" anymore. 

That's the problem with labels.  They're so black and white.  So one-sided.  They don't have gray areas.  Either you are or you're not.

Then people make judgments of you based on your labels, either self-imposed or outwardly-imposed.  And if you ever contradict one of your labels?  Oh boy! 

Does anyone else struggle with this like I do?  If so, I'd love to hear about it in the comments below! 

I'm still, in fact, learning how to live regardless of my labels.  That's why I find Jill Bolte Taylor's story so fascinating.  One day she had all these labels, and then suddenly they were gone.  She no longer cared what people thought of her and had no idea who she used to be anyway. 

We live in our left hemispheres too much -- the side of language, labels, and our ego.  We need to learn to exercise the right hemisphere more often!  The side of feelings and energy. 

The next time you're feeling particularly ego-driven, or feeling annoyed by a label someone's put on you or an expectation someone has of you, tell yourself to "Get out of the left hemisphere!  Move over to the right side!"  Live there for a while.  Focus on energy.  Focus on love.  Focus on how you feel, not what you or others think.

I remember after I first heard Jill's story I did that.  When I'd start to feel my ego taking hold, I'd shift my mental focus to the right hemisphere in my brain.  Sounds silly and like it wouldn't make much of a difference, but it did.  It's all in our mind, and where we direct our thoughts and therefore our energy. 

Let's practice living in our right hemispheres more, and living in love!  Cast off your labels and titles and just BE YOU!  Be who you are IN LOVE.  Make no excuses.  Offer no explanations.  Just be you.  Others will think what they will, but that's really not your concern.  No matter what you do, you can't control what others do or think.  Even about you.  So forget about it.  Don't worry yourself with it.  As Jill did, focus on the energy.  That's what's really important anyway. 

Quotes of the Day:

“It ain't what they call you, it's what you answer to.”    (W.C. Fields)

“Words can be twisted into any shape. Promises can be made to lull the heart and seduce the soul. In the final analysis, words mean nothing. They are labels we give things in an effort to wrap our puny little brains around their underlying natures, when ninety-nine percent of the time the totality of the reality is an entirely different beast. The wisest man is the silent one. Examine his actions. Judge him by them.”   (Karen Marie Moning)

“As long as people are going to call you lunatic anyway, why not get the benefit of it? It liberates you from convention.”  (Gregory Maguire)  

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