You are Nobody. Thank Goodness.


You are Nobody. Thank Goodness.

“I always wanted to be somebody. Now I realize I should have been more specific.” ~Lily Tomlin

A friend of mine recently shared with me something he learned from the philosopher Osho, and it goes something like this:

You are nobody. And you are lucky that you are nobody. You cannot, due to the nature of things, be somebody. Trying to be somebody is the source of all suffering, because as soon as we become that somebody, we become finite: there are boundaries around who we are, and our possibilities, our hopes, the ease with which we encounter change–it all becomes so much smaller. And a lot less fun.

Do you ever get the feeling when you hear a quote or read a certain author and it’s almost like the inside of your head sighs? That’s how I felt when I read that.

We go through our lives trying to define ourselves by something—to get that education or that job or go traveling to that place so we can be just like our parents (or not at all like our parents). When someone challenges our perceptions of ourselves, we can get really defensive about it—we get our backs up and turn to protecting the ways in which we think we are somebody.

Of course it’s important to have values, to believe in certain things, to practice discernment in terms of what works for us and what doesn’t, but we also have ot be willing to let go of those things and sometimes change. We have to let situations and relationships change us. They do anyway, so why resist?

I think we do this in our yoga practice all the time—we think certain things about ourselves and our bodies and expect them to be the same from one day to the next. For example: “I love backbends.” “I will never be able to do Crow.” “My upper body is so weak.” “I have a beautiful dancer’s pose.” But get on the mat, and—wow, what bullshit we tell ourselves—it’s a whole new story, what we can and can’t do.

Side plank, or Vasistasana, for example, is a pose I’ve felt really comfortable in for a long time. I don’t shake like some folks do. And I’m darn proud of that.

So today, I get on my mat, lean over sideways to slip into the pose, and yep, I’m shakin’ like a leaf. So the ego steps in and wants to know:

WHY is it so hard today? What did I lose from last time? And is the yogi next to me judging me for my shaking-like-a-leaf-ness? Will my students think less of me? do I EVEN KNOW HOW TO TEACH YOGA??

Or, I could go with this instead:

Oh, this pose is hard today.

Who cares, really, if I can do side plank or not, now or ever? Who cares what we can or can’t do? Who cares who loves us or thinks we are attractive? Who cares how many friends we have on Facebook? Who cares what will happen tomorrow? We are nobodies. When we stop forcing ourselves into the round pegs of our somebody-ness, we can go ahead and be square nobodies. And then be octagons, if we want.

We define ourselves in such small and silly ways, and it’s human to want to find meaning in everything. I was watching a documentary recently called The Examined Life in which philosopher Avital Ronell asks, “See those dogs playing over there? Why reduce that to ‘meaning’ rather than just see the arbitrary eruption of something that can’t be grasped or explicated, but it’s just there in this absolute contingency of being?”

When all this grasping for meaning and boundaries and somebody-ness can be let go, according to Osho, we make it possible to love. Love: the forgetfulness of the past and future, and the remembrance of this moment, this throbbing, alive moment. When we try to analyze, fix, control, change, and put boundaries around something, we’ve already lost it.

I’ll leave my last word with Pablo Neruda, who always says it better:


present moment,
as a wooden slab,
immaculate hour,
this day
as a new cup
from the past–
no spider web
with our fingers,
we caress
the present;

we cut it
according to our magnitude
we guide
the unfolding of its blossoms.
It is living,
it contains
from the unrepairable past,
from the lost past,
it is our
growing at
this very moment, adorned with
sand, eating from
our hands.
Grab it.
Don’t let it slip away.
Don’t lose it in dreams
or words.
Clutch it.
Tie it,
and order it
to obey you.
Make it a road,
a bell,
a machine,
a kiss, a book,
a caress.
Take a saw to its delicious
And make a chair;
braid its
test it.
Or then, build
a staircase!

Yes, a
the present,
by step,
press your feet
onto the resinous wood
of this moment,
going up,
going up,
not very high,
just so
you repair
the leaky roof.
Don’t go all the way to heaven.
for apples,
not the clouds.
Let them
fluff through the sky,
skimming passage,
into the past.

your present,
your own apple.
Pick it from
your tree.
Raise it
in your hand.
It’s gleaming,
rich with stars.
Claim it.
Take a luxurious bite
out of the present,
and whistle along the road
of your destiny.


Yoga and mindfulness can be tools to living a richer, more meaningful life. Explore with Julie...
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