Part of my integration and settling into fall has been revisiting personal practices that have grounded me in the past. The air is cooling outside and my body is feeling a real shift pulling me towards home and reflection. Throughout the years I have often turned to the Osho Zen Tarot Deck to receive a daily intention. At the close of my morning meditation, I pull a card and discover the gift of a message rooted in Buddhism. The card drawn each day provides a focal point when I notice the chatter in my mind increasing in frequency and strength.
I find myself still thinking about a card I pulled last week and how to translate its message to each of you. I have been hesitant to introduce it on my blog for fear that it’s significance won’t land (the same fear that always strikes me about my writing) and I selfishly want the meaning to bring you the same goosebumps I felt reading it over and over again last week. This morning, I pulled the same card. I’ll take it as a sign because when there are 78 cards in the deck and my pulling the same card twice within a 7 day span has never happened.
This card recalls an old Zen story, about a lion who was brought up by sheep and who thought he was a sheep until an old lion captured him and took him to a pond, where he showed him his own reflection. Many of us are like this lion - the image we have of ourselves comes not from our own direct experience but from the opinions of others. A ‘personality’ imposed from the outside replaces the individuality that could have grown from within. We become just another sheep in the herd, unable to move freely, and unconscious of our own true identity. It’s time to take a look at your own reflection in the pond, and make a move to break out of whatever you have been conditioned by others to believe about yourself. Dance, run, jog, do gibberish - whatever is needed to wake up the sleeping lion within.
Unless you drop your personality you will not be able to find your individuality. Individuality is given by existence, personality is imposed by the society. Personality is a social convenience. Society cannot tolerate individuality, because individuality will not follow like the sheep. Individuality has the quality of the lion; the lion moves alone. The sheep are always in the crowd, hoping that being in the crowd will feel cozy. Being in the crowd one feels more protected, secure. If somebody attacks, there is every possibility in a crowd to save yourself. But alone? - only the lions move alone.
And every one of you is born a lion, but the society goes on conditioning you, programming your mind as a sheep. It gives you a personality, a cozy personality, nice, very convenient, very obedient. Society wants slaves, not people who are absolutely dedicated to freedom. Society wants slaves because all the vested interests want obedience.
What sheep are you following? What do you know about yourself as a lion?
I can easily let my fear of being alone lead me. With practice and accountability, I have a heightened awareness around this pattern which creates space for me to choose not to let my fear lead, but it can persist. It does not strike on a day to day basis - where I find comfort in my alone time and even seek opportunities to flex my muscles at being alone (like solo backpacking this year), but it feels heavy when I think of myself being alone out there in some future point I can’t quite understand right now. I catch myself thinking, “if I make one wrong move, I am sealing in my destiny to be alone.” Alone in what? It varies. Critical voices are like that - they adapt to the situations in front of us now.
What would the lion say about being alone? It would tell me to choose to be alone - to make the decision wholeheartedly rather than carry the fear of what individual decisions mean for the longer term possibility of aloneness - a future for which I know I cannot control. To embrace the lion. Revel in this time to discover who I am as a lion. To view aloneness as an earned privilege in honoring individuality and to pull away from mu focus on physical solitude. Let my desire to be comforted by the sheep drop away and stand into my individuality.