“Give up defining yourself –
to yourself or to others.

You won’t die. You will come to life”
– Eckhart Tolle

My family and I live in a magical place.

A place, where we balance on a cusp of all things civilized and all things wild.

Located between the city and country, we balance on this cusp in a pleasant area of houses with acres, wild lakes and woods. People have manicured lawns and ancient trees, asphalt driveways and gravel, landscaping and nature’s handiwork. It is a wonderful area of contradictions and dichotomy.

The streets are hilly and wind their way through our neighborhood offering a wonderful way to exercise in nature. Working my way up some of the more challenging climbs prepares me for when I hike in the mountains and offers me an opportunity to breathe a little harder and feel my heart and lungs stretch out of their comfort zones. The descent downward reminds me to watch my footing and bask in the contrast of what I just endured moving up the incline.

And I do it all while carrying a big stick.

Everyone who walks in the neighborhood carries one, so I’m not the only one. To be honest, I only carry one when I am walking in the dark, wee hours of the morning because I have seen everyone else carry one. I figure they must know something I don’t, right? But some people even carry them in broad daylight and at high noon.

I am sure the reason is because one just never knows what they may encounter in this magical place between worlds. This is a place where the howl of coyotes can be heard from the depths of the woods. On more than one occasion, I have encountered a fox scurrying across my path and even a snake curled up on the edge of the street. One of the more exciting and (at the time) scary encounters was when a large buck emerged out of a patch of wooded trees, stared directly at me and then disregarded me and sauntered off into the entrance to a larger wooded area. I stood amazed and petrified. Not that I ever thought that this beautiful creature would harm me but it was the largeness of the experience itself that was so amazing.

I have never used my stick. I assume I take it for protection in the event that a buck should charge me or a coyote goes berserk and tries to attack. Or maybe if a giant bear or chubacabra should emerge from the woods…..

Okay, let me be clear, I would never kill or hurt an animal. So, I have no clue why I take this stick with me. Maybe it is to ward off a human attacker, though I can’t imagine who in their right mind would be cruising our neighborhood at 4:30 in the morning other than the reluctant, newspaper delivery person. I can’t imagine what my fellow walkers would be doing with their sticks either. It’s not like a rabbit is going to fly out of the woods and attack an innocent passerby, like a scene from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”

But still, we carry our sticks.

We all carry big sticks, not just the ones you can swing and wave around and use to ward off attack rabbits.

We carry big sticks in our every day lives as a sort of protection as well.

My big stick used to be my job title and job responsibilities. I was really caught up in that whole trip before I left the “big job” and moved to our quiet magical, place.

No matter what anyone would throw at me or think of me, I had my “big stick” of my title and how many people I managed and how much money I made and what my resume looked like and who I had worked with historically. Oh, so impressive!

But I left that big stick behind.

Now, I have a job that I enjoy, people I like seeing each day and even though I am proud of the things that I create and are a part of, I don’t talk about it a great deal outside of work. When people ask me what I “do,” now, I usually name a project that I am working on or a recipe I am building or a brief description of the chapter of the book that I am developing or maybe the weeding I need to do in the garden. It’s not that I am not grateful for my employment, I am trying to not identify with things that are “outside” of me. I am attempting, everyday, to be more authentic.

“It doesn’t interest me  what you do for a living.  I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.” – Oriah  Mountain Dreamer 

The crazy thing about the “big stick” and setting it down, is that you may find yourself picking up other “big sticks” or perhaps small sticks that we feel make us seem more interesting and impressive. Some of the things I listed above could be little sticks if we attach our identity to them.  We have a tendency to use what we “do” as our definition of who we are, rather than how we connect with Source and use that energy to reach out and connect with each other.

So why do we carry our “big stick?”

Well, the true authentic us doesn’t carry it.

You guessed it! Our E-G-O-s do!

Ego is so afraid of not being considered important or impressive that it has to carry a big stick for protection. Nobody wants to be considered less than anyone else and in a world where people around us seem to invalidate us and belittle us (ego’s perception) it is comforting for this primal thinking to carry something that can protect it.

The truth of the matter is, no one is better than anyone else. You probably heard your mother say that a thousand times. But it is true. I find myself saying it to my own son, now.

The more we fill our time and space with our own self-importance, the further we move away from our core and our Divine spirit. Sometimes we carry bigger and bigger sticks so that we can win in any battle – real or perceived. Sometimes the burden of carrying so many sticks weighs us down so that we can never fully experience our deepest potential and our brightest light. We cover up our heart and our Truth with the stories we tell ourselves and others so that we never have to feel vulnerable or not worthy. If we carry this burden and remove ourselves from authenticity and real experiences then consequently, we won’t get hurt. At least, that is what we believe.

If we look deep within our own Truth, we will inherently know that Divine spirit does not see us as better or even separate from each other. We are all aspects of that experience. We are all fingertips of the Divine or as my good friend Serena used to say, “We are all drops in the ocean.”  As individuals we are viable and worthy, yet no one drop of water is “better” than the next. But combined together, drops form into puddles, into waves, into tides, into oceans – it is a marvel and it is magical.

“And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson

Our sticks that we carry keep us separate.  But also, if we spend a great deal of time observing other people and what they “carry,” that keeps us separate as well.

I am reminded of a presentation Eckhart Tolle once gave and how he summed up ego and our perception when dealing with others.  He suggested that when we are “not enlightened” or not working on ourselves, we see everyone as separate and we get really caught up in who is saying what and doing what and how we are being invalidated. However, when we start to do the work and we experience these same experiences, even with the same people, we tend to say things like “These Egos, they are all out to get me.” It’s rather funny. It’s like the Ego calling the Ego – “Ego.”

Other people’s sticks are as much ours, as they are theirs – if we let them be.

For me, I am starting to observe if someone is waving around their stick and how I start to look in my pile for what I can whip out to impress them or beat them. It’s kind of stupid. Wait, it’s really stupid. Because no one can ever win this asinine battle. It only serves to move us away from our path of learning and our path of serving.

We spend so much time trying to one up each other in order to protect ourselves from feeling less than worthy, that  we miss the whole point of this experience.

“If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are.”  — Mother Teresa

We are here to take care of each. We are here to grow exponentially on the spirit level. We are here to be a part of this wacky life experience with all of these wonderful other aspects of the Divine in all of their crazy disguises.

This morning, when I took my walk, I left my big stick at home. At first, I was afraid (perhaps of the Monty Python bunny). I kept having this feeling that I had left something important behind and perhaps I wouldn’t be safe.

But the further I walked, I realized leaving the stick behind was freeing. It was liberating. I could walk with my arms moving more freely and my chest open to breathe in the fresh morning air. I didn’t have to drag extra luggage with me on my journey. It was just me and the world around me.

And in the quiet morning hours of pre-dawn, as I thought about the sticks I use to carry and still carry on occasion, I smiled at the realization that I could just as easily leave those behind. It would be scary at first, because I might not feel safe.

But it would also be freeing and open my heart to the true beauty of the world and to the real and authentic experiences that this journey offers.