A while ago, maybe in January of this year, I was browsing TED Talks for some inspiration when I came across this one by actress Thandie Newton. Let me tell you, y’all, this talk was EXACTLY what I needed at the time. Besides her melodious speech and eloquent language skills (sometimes I just listen to the talk when I need something calming in the car) , Ms. Newton’s concept of the separation between “self” and “essence” and her description of living in “oneness” with every other living being brought such a peace to me. I had been struggling with my own new mom self at the time and it seemed like divine intervention for me to stumble upon this talk.
I would encourage you to listen to the whole talk as I cannot do it justice, but to summarize: Ms. Newton describes how too often we let the social construct of our ‘selves” get in the way of meaningful human (or animal, or nature) connection, even so far as causing us to hurt others. She tells how the need she felt to develop a self that fit into our world caused her shame and anguish growing up, and it wasn’t until she discovered this concept of self as a fluid and temporary thing that she was really able to find where true happiness as a human lies. She explains that it is the selfish ego of these selves, our need to cling to a definition of who we are, that is responsible for many of the atrocities that our world faces. She encourages the listener to do more of those things that allow you to lose yourself and get back to your essence (for her, dancing and acting).
I thought about it like this: how much time and strife have I spent figuring out what my personal style is, what genre of books I prefer, what I’m good at, how I want to style my house…I can go on. All of this contributes to my definition of WHO I am: my self. And it is easy to get caught in the rigidity of a definition. But when I think of Ms. Newton’s idea of self, I imagine it as an article of clothing that I can shed when it doesn’t suit me, when it becomes too small, when I like something different that doesn’t fit into my definition of my self. I can allow my self to change and evolve, and there is something freeing in realizing this impermanence.
In the very beginning of the lecture, Ms. Newton asks, “You know how newborn babies believe they’re part of everything;they’re not separate?” This is something I regularly observe in my daughter and take inspiration from. She’s not a newborn, but she sure as hell thinks she’s a part of everything! Lucy is not yet at that point where she allows her self to get in the way of interacting meaningfully with others. If there is a group of children around you better believe she will insert herself in that group. She dances freely without shame. She’s unapologetic in her exploration of her world, and she loses her self in figuring out how things work, including her own body. I love watching Lucy be all essence when she’s really entrenched in learning something new, being physical, or being outside. She’s gotten me outside more these days, and it really does help me feel more alive to connect to our planet.
There’s so much more I can say on this topic. It took me a long time to get these words on paper…and I still don’t feel like I did it justice! But maybe that’s just my self’s pride getting in the way ♥.
What do you do that allows you to lose your self? If you get a chance to listen to to the talk, please let me know what you think!