Your tangled web of expectations, assumptions and obligations

words & photo by Brian Thompson.

We spin our life outward in a complex web of our own design, and with each passing year our web grows larger and becomes more intricate.

We are at its centre, with all of our responsibilities and agreements building the outstretching web that we’ve attached ourself to. We weave our life through unspoken contracts with family, lovers and friends, promising that we’ll always be there for each other. We weave our life through obligations with our work, our career, and our community. We weave our life through financial contracts with our banks, with our utility providers, and with all of the outstanding loans we’ve acquired from the school we attended, the car we leased, and the toys we bought.

We also weave our life through personal commitments we’ve made with ourself for going to the gym, getting groceries, walking the dog, mowing the lawn, doing laundry, cleaning the house, and all of the recreational passions we pursue. Our likes and our dislikes, our opinions and our beliefs, our worries and our problems, they all build outward in ever-widening circles, each one making the entire pattern more complex.

These are the roles you play. These are the people and the systems that rely upon you, and you upon them. Every relationship comes with its own set of expectations, each requiring a piece of your attention, each needing a parcel of your limited energy so that it can be properly maintained. Every new agreement that you enter into attaches itself onto the next, intricately entwining everything together.

You are the sum of these obligations. This is your identity. At least, that is who you think yourself to be.

Who are you, without all of the commitments and obligations you identity yourself by? Do you cease to exist once they are gone? Clearly not.

Your true Self is underneath all of the responsibilities you’ve adorned yourself with. Your true self is not bothered by your outstanding student loan or your overdrawn bank account. Your true Self is waiting to be realized, and yet many never do. The distractions are too many, and the "spare time" to do the self-enquiry that’s required seems far too short. The demands upon your attention are too many and the truth is too scary of a realization for many people to face.

If you define yourself by everything you do, then there’s too much at risk to consider letting it all go — even if it’s only a mental and emotional detachment. What would remain? The threats to the comforts of normal life are simply too great to expose your true Self, the You who stands apart from all of the things you’ve become attached to.

Like a web, even the slightest disturbance on any of the outstretched segments will shake the entire thing. The larger the web, the more dramatic the shaking is when it’s bumped. The whole world trembles when even the smallest movement is made. If a strand breaks, the stability of the entire web is compromised, and if another section tears away completely then the whole thing could collapse. Your peace of mind is determined solely by every element being perfectly calm.

The more complicated your web of life is, the easier it is for your entire world to fall apart.

We assume this is how life must be. We’re wrong.

You are not your web. You are not attached to it, no matter how sticky it might seem. Like a spider, you can learn to skillfully navigate and use your web, without becoming tangled by it. You must know when to walk away from it, and also know when you need to return.

When you see life in such a way, it is so much easier to step away from it and see your true Self — a Self that is strictly a presence of awareness, a being that is beyond any social agreement, expectation, belief or assumption. You must realize that you are not the web you have spun. You are not your attachments. Your are not your obligations. These are merely strands your ego has become stuck on.

A smaller web is so much easier to maintain, which is why having a minimalist approach to life is so fulfilling. When you simplify, you create time and space within your life, outside and within. Your mind has less to worry about. You are less stressed by the burden of your empire crumbling and your true sense of Self can find its proper footing in something that is real rather than illusory.

When you see that you are not the web you’ve spun, you realize you can build a brand new one, without ever getting stuck.

You see the web for what it is — you also see all that it isn’t.