“And the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have powers the Dark Lord knows not…neither can live while the other survives…”
-Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
“The table’s existence is possible due to the existence of things which we might call ‘the non-table world’: the forest where the wood grew and was cut, the carpenter, the iron ore which became the nails and screws, and countless other things which have relation to the table, the parents and ancestors of the carpenter, the sun and rain which made it possible for the trees to grow” – Thich Nhat Hahn
How do you define yoursellf?
Perhaps you define yourself by the roles you play – sister, brother, employee, partner, teacher, painter. Or perhaps you define yourself by your values – you’re dedicated to honesty, or play, or authenticity.
But then think of that label you’ve made for yourself. Ask yourself – is it true 100% of the time? Are you always 100% honest, or always playing the role of an employee?
(want to listen to this blog post?? Check out the podcast episode here!)
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Very likely not. Very likely, there are times that your self-definition is different than a specific role that you play (e.g., you probably don’t think of yourself as an employee when you’re spending time with your family), and there are likely times that you’re not fully in line with your values (white lie ever?).
So that means that at the same time that you’re “employee” or “honest”, you’re also “not employee” and “not honest”. And what this means is that you go from creating your self-definition in relation to others to creating your self-definition in relation to yourself. Inside of you, there are “honest” and “not honest” elements. There are “employee” and “not employee” elements.
And this is the Buddhist idea of interdependence. That even when we look at a table, we are seeing non-table things. That the wood was once growing in a forest. That someone had to fashion the table out o that wood. That so much energy went into it’s creation and it’s actually a conglomerate of SO MANY distinct parts.
This is an important concept because so often, our self-definition becomes limited. For example, we have a bad day at work, and our self-definition becomes “failure”. But….we’re “failure” and “not failure” at the same time. We are not ALL failure. Or ALL employee Or ALL anger. Or ALL sickness. We need to look beyond the table in front of us to see the component pieces that are just as important.
Let’s relate this to Harry Potter (which is why I got on this thought train in the first place). By the 5th Harry Potter (Order of the Phoenix), Harry’s come in contact with Lord Voldemort on an almost yearly basis. He’s realized that Voldemort is obsessed with killing Harry, but in the 5th book, he also has the disconcerting experience of being able to see inside of Voldemort’s mind, viscerally feeling his anger, happiness, and even his actions.
Harry starts to worry – is he too similar to Voldemort? Do they share a connection? Why can Harry talk to snakes, and why did the Sorting Hat want to put him in Slytherin, Voldemort’s own house at Hogwarts?
Thanks goodness we have Dumbledore, who explains to Harry that though they have many similarities – orphans, half muggle, dark hair – it’s their differences that make them important, even more than their similarities
Yes, Harry, who experienced an awful childhood full of pain and devoid of love, could have arrived at Hogwarts consumed by anger, as Voldemort did. But instead, he was shy, humble, and just desired friends. He has moments of jealousy and selflessness, anger and mercy, great joy and great sorrow. He knows each of these feelings so acutely because he’s also experienced their opposite.
And that is the power of understanding interdependence. Suddenly, there is no “other.” We encompass everything that we are AND it’s opposite. And so…our definition of ourselves expands. We are all encompassing. And – our definition of others expands. We can no longer look at someone and say “that’s not me”….because we may have elements of that thing, too.
And that is compassion. That is understanding. That is how we create oneness, not separation. And that lack of separation equals to more compassion, peace, and understanding in our world.
So take a minute to think of someone you’d consider an enemy. What qualities or roles do you use to define them? Can you see how those qualities can sometimes be found in you? Can you see how that person can encompass the opposite of those qualities, too?
We are not one thing. We encompass the range of human emotions, roles, and values. Then, it’s our choice to choose which roles and values we prioritize, creating our own destiny.Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful day,
Samantha Attard, PhD, is the founder of Happy Healthy Human. Sam is a performance coach and yoga instructor who helps people eat, move, and live with intention. Learn more here.