Many years ago, my first teacher told me that I needed to find my “personal reference points” to find true inner peace. He said that as long as I defined my personal comfort zone based on circumstances, “things” or people around me, I would always be susceptible to my world getting turned upside down. I needed to find an inner definition of self that was unchanging so that no matter what changed around me, I would always have my centre.

So, what are these reference points that he speaks of?

Times of “No Thought”

“Even in ordinary life you feel the futility of words. And if you don’t feel the futility of words, that shows that you have not been alive at all, that shows that you’ve lived very superficially… When for the first time something starts happening which is beyond words, life has happened to you… When the ultimate knocks at your door, you have simply gone beyond words. You become dumb. You cannot speak; not even a single word is formed inside.” Osho

Can you think of a time in your life when all the world stood still? Can you think of a time when your mind turned off? Or when you were so blissfully happy that you almost couldn’t contain yourself?

Or maybe it’s that feeling when a piece of music makes the hair on your neck stand on end. Or the feeling of expansiveness that comes with gazing up into a starry night. Or maybe it’s something completely unique to you.

Very often, we know that something is a reference point because it is hard to explain what it feels like.

For me, there was the feeling of checking in on my children as they slept… standing by the door, there was a kind of silence in the world like everything was so perfect. Unexplainable, yet so simple and profound.

I remember sitting at my Uncle David’s funeral. He had been a beloved choir director in schools and in church. At his funeral, members of his many choirs formed one great mass choir and sang songs that he had written and other favourites of their time with my uncle. They stood at the front of the church with tears flowing down their faces as they sang their hearts out in beautiful harmonies. Being a part of that is forever etched in my soul in a way that I could never begin to explain.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are experiences of extreme joy. It could be the feeling of sunshine on your face, the taste of chocolate or the feeling of a warm bath.

Or it could be the experience of sheer bliss and orgasm during intimacy. It is impossible to explain that sense of rolling joy and bliss, the way that connection nourishes every part of you, the pure lightness and freedom of deep, loving connection. In that space, my mind turns off and and I am free to just be.

In times of real turmoil, when I return to any of these places in my mind, “something” happens. A stillness returns. It isn’t necessarily instantly transforming or even calming. Whatever is going on around me is still going on. But there is a true centre within me again… Where before, I was flying in the whirlwind, I am now in my centre experiencing everything whirling around me.

Who Are You?

There is a definition of who you are that does not change no matter what is going on around us. The challenge is that we have been taught to define ourselves based on external structures and institutions.

For example, someone might come up to me and say “So, tell me a bit about yourself, Katrina.” The expected response is, “I am from Canada. I went to the University of Waterloo and studied mathematics, beginning my career as a computer programmer. I got married in 1993 to a dairy farmer and had two children. I am the daughter of Vic & Isabelle. I once owned a business… etc.”

These are the kinds of facts that we all expect so that we know where to “slot” people in the filing cabinet in our mind.

And beneath that, there are ways that we want to define ourselves as. This is how we choose what we tell others about ourselves. Maybe we want them to realize that we are smart, successful, responsible, in great shape or interesting. Or in the opposite vein, maybe we want others to believe that we are bad-ass, rebellious, and don’t care about anything.

Either way, we now have attachment to someone thinking a certain something about us.

But who are we really? Who are we whether we are successful or not? Whether we are rebelling against something or not? Who are we whether we are fit, young, old, or responsible?

Who is the person within you regardless of the circumstances around you?

Ask Someone Who Loves You

Sometimes it is hard to name our essential aspects of who we are because we are not allowed to be proud of who we are. We have been taught to be humble — even falsely humble if need be.

This is why we must ask our best friend, parent, sibling, colleague – anyone who loves us.

They might say that you are kind, honest, hopeful, interesting, curious. They might tell you how being around you has affected them in wonderful ways. They might remind you of that time when you did something that really helped them or helped them turn a corner.

This is the core of who we are. This is who we are no matter what storms are raging around us.

Finding a New Anchor

There is a place where we can safely anchor — a place where can we be flexible enough for our boat to be able to rock in the seas and weather whatever storms come.

It is in these personal reference points. Of course, the challenge is that they defy intellectual definition. We cannot explain them or even write down the coordinates.

We have to feel them.

We have to trust what we feel.

We have to close our eyes and remember moments when we touched infinity… moments that we can’t describe but that we were definitely there for.

We need to feel who we are. We need to connect with the part of us that is unchanging — that was the same when we were six years old and who we will be when we are 90.

This is where we are truly safe from the storms. This is our lighthouse. This is where we get to observe and experience the world around us with a peaceful centre.

This is where we truly live.

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