Image vs. Self-Image/I AmThat

I am the girl driving the big blue van. I am the girl making hemp jewelry; I am the glassblower; I am the mother, the wife, daughter, sister, friend, and yoga teacher.

The roles change as we move through our lives and, as we meet others, and we play these roles and that will be the image that they will have of us in their minds. Our minds, however, cling to certain roles that have made such an impression on us that it is hard to let go.

It’s been many years since I was the girl driving the big blue van on Grateful Dead tour. For some reason that is still the image that I have of myself even though I am married with kids and I have traded in the big blue van for a minivan. Why? What is it about that role that I still feel is me, more than 20 years later?

Over the years, my life has changed. I am more grounded and secure. I am married with kids and I run a couple of small businesses. I’m very involved in my community and I consider my life to be a success.

Then, there are those moments during conversations about my work when I will exclaim, “Whoever would’ve thought that the girl selling grilled cheese on Grateful Dead tour would be doing this?” The people around me will just laugh. Clearly, I am the only one who ever doubted that girl.

I see that girl that I used to be is flighty, curious, and brave. I was alone but willingly. But, I don’t think I had confidence. I don’t think that I really believed that I could do the things that I wanted to do even though I usually did the things that I said that I was going to do. There is a difference. Deep down, I had dreams but they did not fit into my self-image. I mean, what does teaching yoga have to do with being a glassblower? Can these two pieces of myself co-exist within one lifetime?

Then, there are my friends who knew me in the big blue van and still picture me in it, even though they have witnessed my transformation. To them, I am That. Those who have met me as a wife and a mother and a yoga teacher, to them, I am That.

Which leads to the question, who am I? Who gets to decide? How do I merge all of these images that I have of myself, into one whole being?

Moving fluidly through life, with a willingness to except change has been my rock. While my roles have differed, depending on the specific time, place and people in my life, I always held onto a sense of “I am-ness”. No matter who I was at the moment, I recognized the moment for what it was, a passage through time. “I am” remains while the description that follows changes.

Letting go of some of those descriptions of myself has been easier than others. Naturally, those identities that made me feel the most fire, un-chained, wild and adventurous are loaded with attachment! And, while those times laid the foundation for the woman that I am today and, I have no regrets, that life cannot be relived. Those lessons have been learned and those miles have been travelled. The way now is forward and steady. Is there more adventure ahead? Oh, I will be sure to create some! However, who I am now will respond rather than react to life’s situations. Who I am now moves in thoughtful, more deliberate ways.

This new “I am-ness” offers a new sense of freedom than what I had in my past. Slowing down creates space within that expands the potential of what’s next. That potential helps me recognize the variety of opportunities that surround me that I didn’t know where mine for the taking while submerged in my former roles. There is a chance to grow, to move forward, to learn from my successes and failures, to peel away the outer layers of identity that have clouded my ability to see who I truly am deep inside of myself.

That is the part of myself that is unchanging. No matter where I live, the car I drive, the jobs that I have, there is the sense of self that never leaves me. It may be buried deep under 20 identities but it is there. The practice of yoga has helped me tap into that space with greater ease. Breath awareness leading flowing movements of the body has brought stillness to my wandering thoughts that attempt to convince me that I am all of these other things when really, deep down, I am That. I am That which is connected to all that lives and breathes. I am That which holds within the microcosm of the Universal plan. I am that whose potential continues to unfold into a world of possibilities.

This new role of “I am That” is slowly becoming the lead role in my life. Admittedly, old habits die-hard so it’s easy to slip back into my former self. But, just like practicing yoga postures, this too, becomes a practice. The more I try, the easier it gets to embrace who I Am.