So there I was, lying on a gurney, my nose and mouth covered by an oxygen mask, unable to speak, while being subjected to an EKG. While I was in this position, I had a clear view of the treatment room in this small, interior of British Columbia hospital. To my left the nurses and doctor would come into the room occasionally to check on the EKG machine and to see if I was OK. To my right, my wife was sitting with a friend and having a conversation.
What I saw during that interval changed my life.
It was so clear to me as I was lying there, that the nurses and the doctor were acting. It was like a soap opera – their acting was that bad. Nothing they did or said was in any way authentic. It all seemed scripted, and they were doing an unconvincing job of reading their lines.
I was totally amazed and astonished by what I was seeing. I so desperately wanted to ask my wife, “Hey! Are you seeing this the way I am?” But with the oxygen mask over my mouth, I couldn’t speak. I just kept looking at this in wonder.
Meanwhile, to the right of me, my wife and friend were also acting, but they appeared much more genuine, much more convincing in their roles than the actors to the left of me. I could still see through the acting, but I believed them as they played their roles. The contrast was unmistakeable.
This happened almost ten years ago. The vividness of that awareness stayed with me for some weeks, and has shaped how I have looked at life from that point onward. It has allowed me to come to certain conclusions, as I have observed myself and others over the previous ten years.
We are all acting. We are literally giving the performances of our lives.
We are playing a character that has a name, a story, a life along a timeline, but that is not who we truly are. It is a role we are playing.
But this play we are engaged in is so convincing! It seems so real – the thoughts seem real, the feelings, emotions, sensations seem so real, all these other actors seem very real. Our stories are very persuasive in assuring us that the character we are playing is indeed real, has a history, a present, and a future.
Regardless of the degree of authenticity in our acting, and no matter how persuasive our storyline, one thing is certain. We are not the characters we are acting out. We are something far grander, and no words are up to the task of describing it.
That’s where the asterisk comes in.
What do I mean by living life with an asterisk? Whenever we come across an asterisk in whatever work we may be reading, we know that there is more to the story of what that particular sentence or paragraph is expressing. So we find the asterisk at the bottom of the page, and read the additional information that wasn’t expressed in the sentence in question.
In living our lives with an asterisk, the additional information always has the same theme. It reads something like this: *Remember who you really are, which is the Absolute, the I AM, the Oneness, what is beyond description. What your character is going through right now does not touch this Truth. You simply ARE, and the separate self doesn’t even exist here. This field of Oneness is never separate from you, no matter how much turmoil, emotional or physical pain, or seemingly unsolvable dilemmas your character is experiencing. Take a breath, take two or three seconds to rest in that Truth, and then be with whatever you are experiencing. Continue playing your role as best you can, knowing that it is a role, and not the ultimate Truth of who you are.”
Those are my words, but you can ascribe whatever words you want to the asterisk’s appearance. The asterisk doesn’t even need words – it can be a reminder to simply stop for two or three seconds to remember the I AM, and to feel the total lack of attributes of pure consciousness.
The asterisk can be a reminder of this for you in whatever way works. I carry this asterisk around with me wherever I go and whatever I am doing, and at the very least it reminds me not to take my character too seriously. This isn’t always easy, especially when physical or emotional pain is seemingly present.
At the same time, it is also a reminder to play my role to the best of my ability. My character has been given certain attributes that I can use as I will. I can check in with my body as I go about my day, and see how it is reacting to how I am playing my role. My body will often react with certain sensations which can alert me to the fact that my character needs to pay attention to what is going on, and whether I am playing my role as authentically as possible.
The thoughts and feelings that come up are there to be noticed, and provide ample fodder for inquiry. This inquiring helps to expose the programming and patterns that have ruled our character’s behavior, and reminds us that there is no greater “technique” than simply noticing.
Just last week, I had a session with a fantastic facilitator, and as I watched the video recording of the session, I was taken with how authentic we were both being within the play of the facilitation. But there was a moment when I looked at myself and saw a thoroughly inauthentic reaction to something we were discussing. It was very humbling, and in fact, I even turned my head away from the screen. What terrible acting! My body felt acute embarrassment, and it gave me something to sit with, allow and inquire into.
Our thoughts can be so convincing. We have given them so much weight over the years, that it takes our focus and intent to remember not to buy into them. Where is it written that all our thoughts are to be believed? Where does it say that we are our thoughts? Are the thoughts even our own, or a combination of elements of our programming, or something else entirely? Do you notice how certain thoughts seem to always bring up certain feelings? Does that make those thoughts any more true simply because they produce a feeling? Where is your mind anyway? Can you even find it? (I lost mine about ten years ago.)
These thoughts are simply more variations in the play we find ourselves in. Nothing, not even our thoughts, are true in this play. It is simply a part of the play.
When we are going through a period where thoughts are nagging at us, or are particularly bothersome, remember the *. Let that remind you to take a few moments to stop and be with the I AM, the infinite oneness. (Really, words don’t do it, do they?)
Each time you do, the * can become more and more second nature, and even as you are in the busiest and most turbulent of times, you can just remember the * and know that nothing, nothing, nothing can effect what that points to. All else is part of the play in which you are engaged. Does this make your particular dilemma go away, or make it easier? Maybe, maybe not. But maybe you will be less identified with your circumstances.
Pretty soon it simply becomes automatic that nothing you are going through will be taken at face value, and the I AM will permeate your awareness as you play your part more and more authentically. For me, I don’t live in fear that some uncomfortable emotion will come up that will make my character unhappy or afraid. If and when I do feel that fear, or any other “negative” emotion, I just refer to the asterisk again, and I am reminded of my true home. This doesn’t mean the feelings immediately go away, it just means you can be noticing them from a different place than we are used to.
It is within our power as characters to remember that we are playing a role, and to find our inspiration, our refuge and the Truth of who we are in the field of I AM. Just look over your shoulder and notice the * just sitting there, reminding you of your true nature.