What is the essential nature of our being? Our purpose is to investigate the answer to this question because it is the foundation from which our understanding of reality is truly known.
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- What am I if I have no name, no history, no knowledge and no concept of the future? Our purpose is to investigate the answer to this question.
- Fear and desire are our two biggest barriers to freedom.
- Our entire reality is experienced through a series of thoughts, sensations, feelings and perceptions. Where we choose to direct out attention transforms our world.
- Happiness occurs only when we experience a deep and intimate connection with something greater that helps us to forget we exist.
About Zanya Dahl
I am a visual artist, working primarily in oils and specialising in figurative painting.
My focus is around the theme of connection – the absence and discovery of it. I am fascinated by how we connect within, with each other and with our environment.
When I’m not painting, I’m playing hockey, engaging in comedy improvisation, and mothering two little people. I rely on yoga and meditation to still my mind and loosen my limbs.
Contacting Zanya Dahl
By Zanya Dahl
What am I if I have no name, no history, no knowledge and no concept of the future?
When all of our thoughts, memories and personal attributes are stripped away, what is the essential nature of our being?
Let it be our purpose to find out.
There’s nothing more significant or fundamental than investigating the answer to this question because it is the foundation from which our understanding of reality is truly known.
To get to what we essentially are, we first need to free ourselves from the clutches of two specific states of mind that dominate the majority of our thoughts: fear & desire. They disrupt our acceptance of who we are or where we’re at in the current moment. They can often be two sides of the same coin:
1. fear of not getting what we desire (validation, popularity, success, wealth, security, power, knowledge, love, acceptance or belonging)
2. desire to avoid the things we fear (rejection, judgement, abandonment, loneliness, loss, pain, poverty or death)
We spend a lot of mental and emotional energy trying to anticipate and curate an invisible future that will never be known outside of the current moment. It’s futile.
The 18th century philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau was woke enough to recognise how we have squandered our freedom, “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.”
We often try to find purpose in the life we lead to bring us towards the end goal of happiness. Fundamentally, this is what we all desire. I remember Rupert Spira commenting in an interview that happiness occurs only when we experience a deep and intimate connection with something greater than our Self – when we forget that we exist, becoming “lost in the moment”. (i.e. ‘dissolving’ in a kiss; being ‘carried away’ by a piece of music; being ‘blown away’ by a scene of immense beauty; etc.). As soon as the moment passes however, we return to our separate Self, and the happiness subsides. So we chase the next thing that will restore that happy feeling we so covet.
I began to wonder what might happen if I stopped my lifelong habit of seeking, attaining and achieving and just allow myself to be guided by something greater, something internal, that is aligned with my own authentic expression. The idea of it felt wobbly and passive. But living with my mind in chains wasn’t working either.
Contrary to what I thought, choosing to place more trust in the invisible realm of “non thought” isn’t passive – it requires presence and attention, curiosity and openness.
I don’t have to chase happiness to attain it. It arises through me when I am fully present, available and engaged.
This has become my purpose – to live more and more in the essential nature of my own being. This requires me to loosen my attachment to who I think am I and how I think my life should be. I try to focus less on the future, less on expectations of myself and of the world around me and surrender more to the flow of life. I feel my way through decisions and follow my impulses, trusting that in each step I take, life will support me.
Any time I feel myself starting to fear or desire something I don’t currently have, I think of Mark Nepo’s quote, “The flower doesn’t dream of the bee. It simply blossoms and the bee comes.”
The more of this I do, the more attuned I become to my senses, the more I feel, the more I connect with myself and everything around me, the more content and accepting I become and the less resistance and stress I encounter.
It’s not easy. I frequently get captured by my mind. But it happens less because I’m more aware of its ability to create concepts. Every concept distracts me from the immediacy of experiencing what’s arising.
It’s kind of mind-bending to acknowledge that our entire reality is experienced through a series of thoughts, sensations, feelings and perceptions. Everything is in motion.
Therefore, our most precious and valuable superpower is our attention. Where we choose to place it transforms our world.
By consciously letting go little by little, I am curious and surprised by the things I notice, by the thoughts and ideas that occur to me, by the opportunities that appear before me and by the choices I make. Overall my life is changing because my understanding of reality has changed.
In this state, there are no fears to close me off or shut me down or limit me in any way. There are no desires to be more than what I am, or to have more than what I have. There is no sense of lack and no fear of loss.
Many people accidentally discover what we truly are after a near-death experience or a life-threatening diagnosis. It can happen in an instant. A carefully curated identity falls away along with all its emotional and psychological baggage. A new lightness of being is experienced and suddenly the wonder of the world and a capacity for love and joy is magnified.
Collectively we are edging towards death – facing the threat of extinction via nuclear warfare, climate change and/or a new pandemic. Maybe that will be the time when we finally face our worst fears and realise our whole life was lived in bondage to the chains of our mind. And then and only then will we let go and enjoy the magic of our own existence while we still live.
Or we can make it our purpose to let go sooner. The moment we do, we’ll realise that there is no need for purpose because it’s a construct too.