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Unconscious Expression

[You can also listen to me share this reflection here]

Each moment is an unconscious expression of who I am.

Each day when I walk in my parents neighbourhood, I get to witness the unconscious expression of nature and learn from it. The bright red, yellow and purple tulips have bloomed and are completely unaware of their own beauty. The trees stand strong yet still, grounded with their sprawling roots, some visible, most invisible. The birds sing, each to their own tune, without any concern for how they sound. Every time that I step outside of the home, every time that I look outside the window, every time that I open my ears to the sounds of the suburbs, I get to witness the unconscious expressions from one of life’s greatest teachers, nature.

A common feeling is a desire to always be productive, or rather a desire to feel that I am always productive. I call this conscious expression. It is no doubt a conditioning that I have inherited from the culture that I grew up in and that I continue to find myself in today. The desire to always feel productive is a disease for the mind, in that it can put the mind in a state of dis-ease. It can be difficult to express honestly, vulnerably and accurately if I am concerned with the production over the process.

On the other hand, unconscious expression is more concerned with process than production. A sense of satisfaction may accompany the doing however I am at peace without it. For example, I committed to myself to create the space to write everyday for the past week. It has been wonderful. Writing can be a source of inspiration, clarity and energy for me, and something that I do not to impress, influence or inspire, but merely to express. The paper is my canvas, the ink my paint and the pen my brush. It matters less to me what you think about me or my writing, and more that I express myself accurately and fully, how I am, in this moment.

A friend reflected with me recently that once she realized that she was not responsible for how her expression is received by others, she felt a weight lifted off of her shoulders. I love this reflection.

The idea that I am not responsible for how I am received by others.

I will instead allow my expression, in all of my doing and being, to be me. To allow my expression the space to be unconscious. If I am trying to be received in a specific way, I risk becoming overly conscious and can lose myself. This reminds me of an important teaching from the Gita, the book and source of yoga philosophy, that says “it is better to do your duty poorly than to do someone else’s well”.

My parents renovated their kitchen last year. As I continue to navigate where everything can be found, I get to see their personalities so beautifully reflected in the design of this space in our home. They love kitchen stuff and to my amazement, there are drawers within the drawers to store all of the kitchen stuff that they have. They like to freeze food, and as such, the freezer is as large as the fridge and often more full. There are no glass cabinets, as they have no need to display fancy glassware or bowls. Although the fridge is massive, there is not a single shelf that could fit a wine bottle, as they do not drink. There is only recycling and compost, no trash. The reason that I love to spend time in the kitchen and admire it so much is not for its function or form, but because it is such an accurate reflection of who and how parents are.

The garden beds wrapped around our home are a clear expression of my mom’s passion for flowers, plants and produce. They, like my mom, are not really well organized but instead appear like a collage of randomness. However, every time that I walk in our backyard and open my eyes to really look at the garden, I smile as I see my mom’s personality so authentically reflected back to me. I know that she could hire gardeners and professional landscapers, however I hope that she never does. The end result with hired help may look better, cleaner, neater, tidier, fuller and brighter, however in doing so, she would miss the entire purpose of gardening. For my mom, gardening is not about any final result. It is the activity, the daily struggle and joy, despite her arthritis and other body aches, that she gets to experience. We have started to talk about visiting my sister and brother-in-law in Ottawa sometime this summer, to which my mom’s response is “but I can’t leave my many children behind”. She is referring to flowers and plants in her garden.

If you ask me what my parents do, I cannot tell you with any specificity except to share that they often claim to be “very busy”. Doing what, I am still quite not sure but that is besides the point. Their respective desks do appear very busy. My father’s desk in particular looks like it may have looked in the 90s, with papers sprawled everywhere, you cannot barely see the beautiful wood desk under the piles of papers. On a few occasions, I have covertly organized them on the shelves and cleared the desk space. Within days, the papers are spread back everywhere, without any discussion or comment. This weekend, I have started to quietly remove the excessive stands, tables and chairs from both of my parents' offices, where papers naturally accumulate however I doubt it will make any difference. On the other hand, my desk is paperless and spotless. At first glance, you would not believe that I spend hours each day at it. What I have now realized is that each of our respective desks is but an expression of who we each are, how we like to work and the conditions that we each thrive in. There is no one way.

There is a humility to know that to express and observe expression implies that I have the space to do so. I am fortunate. Fortunate to not have concern with food, shelter or safety on a day-to-day basis. Through no doing of my own, but of so many others around me, I can enjoy the freedom to explore the many shades of expression that continue to come into my awareness.

Everything that we do is ultimately an expression of ourselves.

Every space, every action, every word, every thought, is but a mere expression of our identity. When I remember that the purpose of my doing, whatever it may be, such as guiding a meditation, running a business, taking a walk outside, speaking with a friend or cooking a meal, is to express myself, then I feel less pressure. The doing begins to feel effortless. However, when I get confused about the purpose of my doing and assign to it an expectation of the achievement of a specific outcome, then the doing feels heavy and effortful.

True expression may just be an act of the heart over the mind. My one word intention for this year is heart, which means I dedicated the year to explore the many expressions of my heart. To create the space for expression has involved learning to listen to the sound of my heart and simultaneously turn down the volume of my mind.


Each moment I am an unconscious expression

Not as I may have been

Not as I might desire to be perceived

Not as I hope to be

But as I am now

There is a freedom that I now feel with unconscious expression.


Related Reflections:

The Desire To Be Productive

The Many Layers Of Our Identity

My One Word Intention For 2020

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