It seems to me that the majority of folks are walking around with an undercurrent of anxiety and discomfort, and not even noticing it. Not only are we uncomfortable in our own skin, but our skin represents the possible site where we are terrified of being truly seen. It is, of course, dreadful to anticipate being perceived as fundamentally “un cool”.
The first time I recognized this awkward discomfort in myself was in my late teens while hiking in the Arizona wilderness. I had been hiking most of the day, peacefully enjoying the beautiful Arizona surroundings when, unexpectedly, I tripped and fell flat on my face. Surprised and embarrassed, I quickly pulled myself together and stood up pretending like nothing had happened.
Blushing, I became present to what I already knew…I was in the middle of nowhere totally alone! No one around for miles and I was still blushing! Even though I realized this, I couldn’t stop feeling self-conscious, and I continued composing myself, checking for injuries to my knees while discreetly pretending to tie my shoe.
“How hilarious!” I thought to myself. Who was I composing myself for? No one could have seen me, and I knew this. Yet even as I asked this question I could feel myself posturing in a pervasively subtle way, as if being watched by some kind of invisible audience. For the first time, I really saw it…that I had a perpetual sense of not being at home in my own skin. Stunned by this distinction, I also sensed the vital possibility that this opened up for me.
I saw how, on a very primordial level, I was insidiously hiding, staying inside of invisible lines, living up to unquestioned standards as if being watched by criticizing eyes. I took this sense-of-the-other-watching-me everywhere I went, to parties, to work, to the bathroom…and never left home without it.
Anticipating this possibility of embarrassment, most of us awkwardly hide our skin beneath a suit that doesn’t quite fit, because it was tailored for the eyes of another rather than our unique self. We are thereby hiding who we really are and what we truly feel, including the discomfort of the ill-fitting suit.
We all experience being comfortable in our own skin to various degrees in our lives. Yet how many of us could honestly claim that this is the baseline feeling of our existence? Most people only experience being fully comfortable in specific contexts and with specific people, or perhaps only when they are completely alone.
Being comfortable in your own skin is such a basic human desire. It is the desire to fully inhabit yourself—to find yourself already at home, relaxing into your own center. This is what it means to be present, awake and engaged in What-Is, without anxiety. From here we instinctively relax and welcome others, like a warm host greeting a welcomed guest.
Many have reported that one of the greatest gifts they receive from the practice of Circling is being more comfortable in their own skin. If you haven’t experienced this yet, I invite you to join me and check it out!