I’d like to play a game of ideas today. These are questions that I’ve started to ask myself, based on a philosophical tradition called phenomenology, which is the basis of the human potential / personal development experience and the purpose of our human lives.
If you’re in the mood to play, let’s start with some questions about you.
1. Can you – your existence, your “self” – be separated from the fact that you’re breathing?**
What I mean is, we know that if you stop breathing you’ll soon stop being, and we know that even when you’re not thinking about it you’re breathing, so there is something inseparable between your existing at all and your breathing.
2. So, can we safely say that “you are a breathing” that is always happening?
It’s a bit goofy to say it that way, but let’s play with these goofy words and see what comes of it.
“I am a breathing” – try saying it out loud, and see how true it feels. The phrase doesn’t describe the totality of who you are, certainly, but it seems safe to say that it’s a vital aspect of your ability to exist – an inseparable, essential part of the “you” that is reading these words.
For now, we’ll call you “a breathing,” and let’s keep playing.
3. Can you – your existence, your “self” – be separated from your heart beating?
Of course not. So, can we also safely say that you are “a heart-beating” that is always happening?
Try this one:
4. Can you be separated from the chemical and electrical signals in your brain that manage consciousness?
- If not, can we safely say that you are “a signaling” that is always happening?
- Are you – the human being reading this – separate from your body?
5. Can we safely say that you are “a body?”
Suddenly that one seems easy.
Before you began reading this essay, I’m guessing the most natural phrase you would have used to express the same thing was, “I have a body.”
Who has a body? Not I. You are a body.
Yet we still haven’t captured the fullness of you, not even with all the goofy words we’ve racked up, but we’re making progress... and it’s progress in the direction of tapping you into your intuition, creativity, intellect, and natural healing ability.
Let’s keep exploring, starting from where we left off – “I am a body.”
6. Can you continue to be a thinking-breathing-heart-beating body in the absence of water?
Thanks to the water that’s already inside you, this thinking and breathing self of yours will continue living for about 4 or 5 days without more water being put into your system, but it won’t be pretty.
We are 55-60% water after all.
7. So, can we safely say that you are “an embodied relationship to water?”
And can you continue being – with all the beautiful sensations and experiences that come with being alive – in the absence of nutrition from plants or animals?
8. Can we safely say that you are “an embodied relationship to the natural world?”
And can you continue being in the absence of atmosphere?
Easy one, right?
9. So can we say that you are “an embodied relationship to air?”
To get at another essential aspect of our Selves, we could say we are "a relating."
Because I don’t know a human who ever existed without a mother who bore him. And there was never a leader who shaped history who wasn’t herself first shaped by her culture and community (and a team who helped her, and a movement who followed her).
Having come this far, you’re possibly already seeing what we might discover about how we – as integrated humans connected to the natural world – can envision bigger possibilities for our teams, for our communities, for our societies, and for our planet as we generate a new way of relating to these teams and communities by redefining our “Self.”