Nobody in Phoenix

Cacti in Phoenix

One of my favorite books is The Magic of Awareness by Anam Thubten. I’ve read it through twice now. The other day, I read the first chapter again. This is always the hardest chapter for me. It’s all about being — gulp — nobody. My ego doesn’t approve. Yet because of a recent business trip to Phoenix, it all hit me in a fresh, new way and gave language to my experiences there. 

I flew into Phoenix a day ahead of my colleagues because I had signed up for a pre-conference class. That left me with Saturday afternoon all to myself.

First, I checked out the hotel pool. It  was located on a fourth story outdoor deck with views of the city — very cool!!! Later, I wandered about the city in search of a healthy meal. There was something immensely freeing about it all. Now I understand why. For a while, I was literally nobody. No ties. No connections. No roles to play. Just a nobody wandering the streets of Phoenix.

As Anam Thubten puts it:

We can discover that consciousness inside that that is literally nobody. It goes beyond all the roles and personas we take on in this lifetime.

This statement really helped put my experiences into context. Finally, I could see that egolessness isn’t anything to fear. In fact, it’s extremely liberating to step outside all those conditioned roles we play and just be a nobody. Ahhhh…

To be clear, though, the Buddhist concept of anatta — egolessness — doesn’t mean that we’re not a person or even that we lose our personality and preferences. I still wanted a healthy meal because that’s what I prefer. I was delighted to find a Grabbagreen and have a Mediterranean rice bowl and Detox juice. However, I quite believe that in those moments my consciousness was open enough to even enjoy a Big Mac if that was all I could find. Truth be told, I would have relished it.

What I learned?

Being a nobody isn’t something we need to fear. Indeed, it’s kind of nice to set aside our personas and just be for a while. Guaranteed, the roles we play will come flying back soon enough. We are, after all, constantly in relationship to others playing our part in the story. It’s just how it is.

Yet, if we remember the freedom and simplicity that’s at the base of our consciousness when we’re playing those roles, we can embrace our duties with a wonderful sweetness and joy. In fact, we might say the true path is constantly remembering that we’re nobody even as we’re being somebody.



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Kimberly Holman

Kimberly is a Certified Mindfulness Meditation Teacher with a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Maine and an M.A. in Religious Studies from Naropa University. She has been practicing Mahamudra Meditation since 1996 and studies Dzogchen with her teacher, Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche.
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