Here is a practice for you to try:
With a friend, go to a supermarket,
But not your local supermarket, where you may know people.
Drive a little way to the nearest town.
Take the shopping cart and enter the supermarket.
Your friend will be observing you,
And will give you a mood, a personality trait, or a quality to embody.
It could be paranoid, lustful, excited, antagonizing, interested, or ecstatic.
It can be anything your friend can think of.
Take five minutes to put your whole body into this quality.
What kind of thoughts do you have? How do you move? How do you look at people?
Everything becomes involved in the quality that your friend has given you.
If the word is “paranoid,” look at the frozen peas with suspicion.
Use your body to fully feel fear.
Look at the other shoppers with certainty of their bad intentions.
Do not interact with other people or disturb them, just feel this quality in yourself.
After five minutes, stop, breathe, and shake your body, loosen up.
Then take another word and another five minutes.
After you’ve changed personalities five or six times,
Discover what it is like to walk through the supermarket wearing no personality at all.
Then you can exchange roles and be a witness for your friend.
The purpose of this practice is to create some space and playfulness around what you consider to be your personality. We get used to certain moods and personality traits, like an old pair of sneakers that we hold on to long after they’ve outworn their usefulness. Sometimes it is easier to see that in other people than in yourself. When you meet someone who is habitually grumpy or speedy or critical, it may be obvious to you that it is just a habit, which could easily be broken. We get so attached to these habits that we start to think that this is who we are, that nothing else is possible. This is clearly not true. Anyone who has acted on a stage knows that it is not so, that it is possible to try something else. Whenever you consciously take on a personality that is different from your habitual one, you are able to loosen the whole grip of the personality and discover that you are actually much less defined than you thought you were. Many people speak of being on stage as one of the greatest spiritual disciplines, because they are consciously taking on a role and letting it go again. This allows you to discover who you are beyond all such roles.
This simple practice can be fun, especially when you do it with a friend. It makes something that is happening unconsciously anyway into a conscious practice. You can consciously take moods on and off, like changing a T-shirt, instead of letting them run your life. You discover that there is much more freedom than you imagined.
And, most important, you discover the possibility of taking the T-shirt off and not replacing it with anything: the capability to stand naked in front of reality as it is. You might also notice that the same supermarket looks different through the eyes of different moods, that people will approach and look at you differently.
In this freedom, you discover that the way you experience the world is a projection of your own mind.
This is an excerpt from my book, Leap Before You Look: 72 Shortcuts for Getting Out of Your Mind and into the Moment. Click on the link to purchase your copy today.