You Are Beyond Definition


A contemplation on defining your true self.

I was boiling some water while keeping mindful of my breath. As I observed my breath rising and falling and the water began to boil, I saw a stream of thoughts that I felt needed to be shared. The stream came like a flood, demanding satisfaction. I left the stove and rushed over to my laptop to get these words down. I think this is what some people call channeling.

“They do not want to be ‘just a this’ or ‘just a that.'”

Who you truly are beneath all of the labels and words is completely beyond definition. When we assign ourselves a single tag (an idea, name, concept, preference, hobby, job), we truncate and compress the gloriousness of our true nature which is why so many people in my generation are stuck in life. Most Millennials (and even post-Millennials) feel they don’t know where to go because any “career” they might choose seems stifling. They do not want to be “just a this” or “just a that.”

I have overheard it used in actual conversation, “I do not want to be known as ‘that guy’ or ‘that girl.’”

There’s a sense of urgency; there’s a need for direction while feeling inherently beyond direction. Too creative to work at a desk but too in need of a framework to be completely free. That is how I felt, and that is how many of my friends felt (and some still do).

“Maybe it has been easier for those people to ‘fit in’ their entire lives…”

There are the opposites, of course. Those few people (most of us know at least one) who found a niche and fell right into it. Maybe it has been easier for those people to “fit in” their entire lives (or maybe it just looks natural, and they are dying inside…). Most of my friends who found a way in life beyond bouncing aimlessly between jobs and interests have become nurses. Crazy, but true. Second tier down in most common millennial careers amongst my personal peers is hairstylist/MUA (which stands for Make Up Artist but sounds like kissy noises, which I am convinced is entirely deliberate). Then there are the internet star millennials which seem to make a living traveling the world and having fun; a concept beyond comprehension to a lot of us.

The reality is that no one, even the people who broadcast whom they are, thus defining themselves in suffocatingly limiting labels and categories, is merely their career. Currently, I teach full-time at a high school in a rural desert town in California, but this is what I do for money, and consequently what I spend the most of my time doing.

Many success gurus will tell you that your life is defined by what you spend the most time doing. This is a great motivation tool, but from a spiritual standpoint – the comment is constricting.

“Who we are is beyond definition.”

We are not merely our job, and hopefully, everyone knows that (though most young people get caught up thinking about who he or she will “be” when he or she grows up, not realizing that he or she will be themselves). We are not our hobbies either. In public or when meeting new people we can say “I am a teacher by day and musician by night,” and be okay with it because we know full well it is just a summary. The real me, the real you, is there, much deeper down.

The study of most Eastern Religious Philosophy aims at the self-discovery of all that you are. Through the various practices like yoga, meditation, or prayer, a person comes to discover their true self: the self beyond all categories, labels, and words. Through these practices, and there are many, one can enter into alignment with their true self; what many call the “higher self” or “inner being,”

Some Hindu sects including some schools of Buddhism refer to the true inner self as the “heart of the lotus,” which uses the infinitely blooming, never ending or beginning lotus flower as a metaphor for the self and the entire universe. The heart of the lotus, the source of its plumage, is the very center. The mantra, “Om Mani Padme Hum,” praises the jewel at the heart of the lotus (though it does have quite a few definitions and translations).

“Praise the true Self; the Self whom resides deep within. The Self who lives where I point when I say the words ‘I am.'”

Other sects and schools refer to this Self as the “Atman” (Sanskrit) defined as, “the spiritual life principle of the universe… the inherent real self of an individual.” Other religious practices refer to a genuine self as “Tao” meaning “Way”, or “The Kingdom of Heaven,” or “Brahma,” or the Buddhist’s “Anatman,” meaning “no-self.” All of the above, and many more, primarily refer to the Self which is beyond the personality self, beyond categories, thoughts, labels, and words.  

Written in the Tao The Ching as “The Tao (meaning: Way) which can be told is not the Eternal Tao,” which is to say: the self that can be spoken about is not the eternal Self.

“Thus, who you are is actually beyond definition.”

Once we begin to name the experience of being in alignment with one’s true Self, we lose it. Its nature exists beyond words thus the turmoil amongst religions. Religious differences boil down to a difference in name and practice. Practice, too, is a form of categories. Buddha is known to have said something along the lines of, “My dharma is merely a finger pointing to the moon. Do not mistake the finger for the moon,” which is to say, “do not mistake the practice for the outcome.”

Mathematicians know this one to be true, there is often more than one way to reach the same answer. The answer here is enlightenment, or the coming into alignment with one’s true Self, thus ending all forms of suffering. Once we end suffering within ourselves, then we can begin to heal others.

But how can you come into alignment with your true self?

“If you meditate, keep on meditating. If you pray, pray silently and sincerely, seeking your true Self…”

Whatever you practice, whatever religion you associate yourself with, go deep with your practice. If you practice hatha yoga (the most common form of Yoga in the United States), use it as a meditation and follow your breath. Be fully within the present moment. If you meditate, keep on meditating. If you pray, pray silently and sincerely, seeking your true Self through God.

Find the jewel in the heart of the lotus, the Atman, Brahma, Buddha, alive and living within you, as you. Christians say to seek Christ within or accept Christ in your heart, and thus you may enter the Kingdom of Heaven – it is you. Align with yourself.

“You are more than a Stranger Things fan…”

Alignment with the Self will free you from confining labels based on job, social status (which is an awfully touchy subject in The United States, not so much in India), hobbies, music tastes or what you are binge-watching. You are more than a Stranger Things fan, even if you dress up like Eleven at every CosPlay event. You are beyond the words. You are beyond your past experiences. You are beyond your future ambitions. You are beyond your success and failures.

You are beyond the embarrassing teenage moments and awkward mid-20’s job interviews. You are beyond your favorite band, beyond your favorite beer, favorite strain, and certainly beyond your long list of least favorite anythings.

You are beyond words.

You are beyond definition.


Author: Jake Zelinger

Writer - Musician - Teacher - Meditation Instructor

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