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  • Writer's pictureBarbara Emrys

Shadow Puppets

We all know the irresistible pull of self-importance and self-judgment. Although they seem to be two opposing things, they offer clear evidence of only one thing: the self. The self is difficult to define, and yet it’s used to having control over us. It works hard for approval. It wants to be recognized and appreciated. It competes with other selves. It’s elevated, celebrated, and yet routinely claims it’s treated unfairly. The result is that this ‘self’ ends up getting all the attention, all the time. Attention is the point, in fact, which makes self-judgment and self-importance far too similar in purpose to tell apart.

While we’re on the subject, what is a self?  Well, those of you familiar with this teaching understand that the mind is a reflection of what’s real. You also know that reflections, by definition, aren’t real. When light bounces off matter it becomes refracted, or distorted. In the same way, whatever the brain perceives, the mind ‘distorts’  into stories and thoughts. It turns truth into symbols and gives every experience a voice.

And doesn’t every voice deserve a personality to go with it? Sure. So the mind also creates the image of a person to take credit for those words and ideas. Each of us calls that image self.  We believe its voice more than we believe our neurological senses. We know it more intimately than we know the truth. It imposes its narrative on every situation, every memory. It stubbornly promotes its own character, its history, and its many particular traits. It exaggerates and it fabricates. The self is a judge, a victim, and (at best) a biased commentator. Its constant babble causes a lot of internal drama, for sure– and unfortunately, the drama spills outward, affecting our physical health and relationships. Amazing. And to think, this all begins with light bouncing off matter….


Let’s face it, we can all live happily without the dual torments of self-judgment and self-importance. And we can exist more comfortably with a self that doesn’t need a steady dose of drama. lf we claim to be is a smoke and mirror show. Our thoughts are shadow puppets, acting out versions of a play that can captivate us for a lifetime. Meanwhile, no amount of thinking can beat an authentic experience. No image can measure up to to the wonder of our vibrant presence.

Consider this: let your ‘self’ command less attention, and see how you begin to reflect light more truly than you ever dreamed you could.

Cheering you on, 


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