What Are You?

Are you a Republican? Are you gay? Or straight? Are you pro-choice? Are you anti-environmentalist? Are you a Buddhist? Or a Jew? And, if Jewish – are you Reform or Conservative? Or Reconstructionist? Are you a vegetarian for moral reasons? Do you smoke?

Are you a writer? Or a lawyer? Or a businessman? Are you a failure? Are you a woman?

Write down all the things you are. Use a pencil and not a pen. How big can you make the list? Are you a husband? A good father? A bad friend? Maybe you are lonely? Are you an artist?

Did you write down the list? Hold it up in the air. Look at it carefully. Did you put everything? Are you a bad son? Are you on the side of those who favor nationalized health care? Or against? What college did you go to? Are you a jealous person? Are you Nigerian?

We all have a list of labels. I have a big list. Too big. I wrote it down just like I’m asking you to do. I had about 50 items on my list.

Then erase each item one at a time. Do it slowly. After each one close your eyes. Imagine what it’s like to not have that label. Imagine you will never have that label again. Maybe even imagine you never had that label to begin with. It’s just imagination. You can return to all of your labels in a second.

If you were once a Democrat and now you erased it, what does it mean? For one thing, it means you can’t really argue with Republicans about politics. Or Democrats. You’re neutral. You just don’t know what the right answers are on political issues. Congratulations. Nobody does. So now that’s off the list. Phew!

Every item you erase think about all the people who were on the other side of that item. Take a breath to think about it. If you were a vegetarian and you erase that on your list then the non-vegetarians are no longer on the other side. If you think your “poor” then how do you feel when you erase that from the list? What things are you now rich in? If you wrote down “sick” imagine that deep inside you are the healthiest you’ve ever been.

We’re just playing. You don’t have to start eating meat. But just imagine “I am no longer labeled a ‘vegetarian’ “. I’m no longer “a Jew”. I’m no longer “great at basketball”. I’m no longer “psychotic”.

When you are done erasing just close your eyes for a minute. You’ve done a lot decluttering. You’re no longer “lonely”. Or “ivy league educated”. Or “Confucianist”. Or “Irish”. Or “a failure”. You need to relax for a moment. Take a deep breath. Search around inside of your head. Did you miss any clutter? Don’t rush. Breath a few times. Slowly. Do you feel the air going in and out of your nostrils? Your throat? Make your stomach go in and out with the air. Nothing to do. No labels left. This is the Paleo Diet for the mind.

And wonder…now that you’ve erased all the labels, is anything left? Breathe. Really picture it. Feel it. What’s left?

You. You’re left.

I’m right.

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