Somewhere Between Failed Bogan & Enlightened Yogi
Identity is a funny thing. We do things, say things, gather possessions, acquire skills, have opinions… So we can be somebody. Then, if we’re on ye olde spiritual journey, we set about trying to lose them, then pick up more in the process.
"Life isn't about finding yourself, life is about creating yourself." - Author Unknown
I love this quote. We are blank canvases waiting for colour and form. And as we get better at painting, we stand back from the work; appraise, reflect, change, add, subtract; and over time we simultaneously develop our own style but we know more and more that the true picture is the nothingness underneath the something.
But this is lofty realisation that I imagine truly embracing in its entirety sometime in my 90s. For now, I'm having fun with colour and texture... Here are some of my working sketches to date...
Failed Country Bogan
Being a bogan was pretty much the pinnacle of social standing when I was growing up in a small country town during the 80s. Flanno shirts were hip; before grunge truly made them cool. And hanging out at the Speedway drinking UDLs was the thing to do. As was skipping school and smoking pot.
I was way too nerdy to skip school or smoke pot, so there were two strikes against me straight up… Not counting sports days when my equally non-sporty Mum would let me stay home. Much to the bafflement of my level coordinator who otherwise knew me as a student that toed the line.
The conversation went a little something like this:
“Leonie, you weren’t at school sports yesterday. Where were you?”
“I was at home.”
“Well, I’ll have to send a note home to your mother.”
“She was home too”
But I did manage to spend some evenings at the Speedway drinking vodka and orange UDL cans. You may be thinking ‘classy’ in an ironic sense, but truly, the possession of a can of alcohol was the epitome of cool when I was 15 and trying hard to define myself.
I’d stand around in the dust and the dark and the noise of the cars tearing around the track, sipping on my UDL, feeling a part of something, wondering if any of the boys liked me. And simultaneously feeling disjointed. I wanted it to be me, but it just wasn’t.
Failed Farm Girl
Similarly, I was a disappointment to my farmer father… Carting hay, tailing lambs, drafting cattle, shearing sheep, driving a tractor, holding the flashlight while Dad shot foxes, mucking out stables, emptying mouse traps; just not my idea of fun. I always preferred to be inside cooking, reading or watching movies.
My little sister on the other hand (who is now a nurse) would be in at a moment's notice, placenta up to her elbows, to help a ewe deliver a lamb.
I on the other hand was really good at making tea. I’m semi joking, but on a farm this is a very important skill. Cups of tea (or 'cuppas') are like the punctuation marks of a farm day. Numerous and necessary; commas of pause between tasks.
My uncle one day joked, “You’ll make a good little housewife someday”. At the time I was a moody, opinionated, feminist teenager, and I"m sure he was hoping to get a rise out of me. But truthfully I was flattered… However, one divorce later, it turns out I didn’t make a good little housewife after all.
The initial ideas for this article came as I was on my way to teach a Yoga class... After yelling at my kids and arguing with my partner. Hrm.
Enlightened Yogi? Oh the comedy of it. It’s downright hilarious.
But, I'm a work in progress… Not sure whether I’m gathering that identity or getting rid of it… That’s the slippery nature of enlightenment. The very ‘isness’ of it, is its essential ‘isn’tness’.
Self described Philosophical Entertainer - Alan Watts gave an excellent talk on this subject entitled Zen Bones. I'll link it in at the end.
So, one of my identities is 'Yoga Teacher'.
I know what you’re thinking… Oooooh cool and sexy, Lulu Lemon clad, buns and abs of steel, spending my days hanging out in tropical retreats sipping coconut water and saying, Namaste reverently.
Nope, I’m a classical yoga devotee. Not cool, not fashionable, considered rather dowdy in some circles. Sure we do asanas, but the main aim is sitting on your bum and doing to work. I.e. Self enquiry meditation. I wake up every (okay most) morning and sit with my lowercase self and try to find my uppercase Self, and then try to stop trying.
And as for Namaste, Kath and Kim ruined that for me! So instead, at the end of a yoga class I often say, ‘Well that’s a wrap’! Cliché-ophobia, can be a curse.
So there you go, another identity that I’m trying on. Am I that? I did the training, I’ve been teaching for a few years, I read books, I meditate daily. Am I enlightened? No. Am I even a Yogi? Questionable. But that alone is a conundrum, because the ultimate meaning of Yoga is unity… And self-realization or enlightenment is simply realizing that we are nothing, but also everything in so far as being part of the great potential-filled nothingness.
Sounds kind of impressive, yes?
Well let me tell you where I’m at with the whole Yogi thing...
Typically, after I’ve gotten up at the crack of dawn to make some quiet pre-kid time for my yoga practice, it’s the busy getting ready for school morning.
Sometimes I feel like a cross between a movie director and a lunatic:
"Get dressed, clean up, keep your hands to yourself when you eat, do your jobs, yes you have to do them everyday, it’s why you get pocket money, don’t pick your nose, stop fighting, pack your bag, brush your teeth, get your shoes on, come on we’re going to be late."
Hug, kiss, "Love you darling." …Exhale.
Mornings in our house are not very yogic... But then again, what is 'yogic'? Sitting in a quiet ashram in the middle of India meditating? If that was the case, Yoga would be something very rare indeed!
And here’s another non-yogi like admission… I may loath a cliché, but I love to swear. Somehow, a well-placed, impeccably punctuated four-letter word is never clichéd and warms my heart. Unfortunately I don’t always manage to keep the swearing-filter in place around the kids.
Here’s an example of a conversation I had a while back with my eight-year-old son:
“Indi did you call your friend f’ing annoying?”
“Well he was pissing me off.”
*Turning my head away, stifling laughter*
So, at present I am somewhere between failed country bogan and aspiring yogi. But truthfully I’m nothing at all, but I’m working on realising that.
So did you fail at being something too?
Now you've got space to wade through the paint and come back to the canvas that was your true non-identity in the first place. And then either paint a new picture or refine the present one you're working on... And that might take you the rest of your life.
And now enjoy this wonderful talk by Alan Watts (who in addition to being a wise and wonderful philosopher, was also an alcoholic). But whoever said an identity has a defined set of rules? That would be paint by numbers. Or heaven forbid - life according to the corporate policies and procedures manual. No thanks!
This article was also published by Rebelle Society.
Leonie Orton is a writer, editor and marcomms consultant. She'll create communication mediums in the shape of words, graphics and webs for your business, connecting you with the people who need you. When she's not head down with this, she's teaching yoga, creating floral artworks, running a Harvest Swap and adoring two spirited sons... Get in touch by email, facebook or subscribe to her weekly blog.