I’d never seen so many stars in my life. I was on Mauna Kea – highest point in all of Hawaii – my fingers frozen, my head buzzing from the altitude (13,000 feet!).
Our guide had set up a telescope for us. Throughout the course of the night we gazed at Saturn and Jupiter and marvelled at twin stars. A distant galaxy, drifting 38 million light years away, was pointed out to us. Through the telescope the galaxy appeared as a wisp of light, only faintly discernible. We lined up constellations too and found improbable order in disorder, and I could only wonder what went on in our ancestors’ heads when they woke up to a world like this, at a time when there weren’t yet books written about the stars.
Standing under this glassy bowl of a hundred billion stars I was overcome suddenly by a powerful urge to become the person I really am. I cannot say where that feeling came from. But there it was, and I felt it profoundly. It was a mystical moment to say the least (and perhaps only to be found on top of a mountain, 13,000 feet above sea level).
In the milky dark night, in the midst of the mystery and wonder of my own existence – and the existence of everything in this universe – I understood something: If I could only become who I really am, I would be able to live a limitless life.
In that moment I understood also – or rather I knew – the utter pointlessness of success or achievements of any sort. I needed to pursue instead deeper spiritual growth, expansion of my consciousness, and a greater love for all things.
Call it a message from the stars.
On our way up to the mountain, our guide Gordon told us that he hadn’t originally applied to be a guide. He was a jolly good fellow – in his 50s, maybe – with a dry sense of humor and a chill vibe. Very Hawaiian.
“I applied to wash vans, actually. But the boss asked me, why don’t you be a guide for us? You have a degree in Geology! But I told him, I only want to surf, go fishing and wash your vans for two hours a day!”
Again the stars were talking to me. This guy – who only wants to surf, go fishing and wash vans for two hours a day – feels like someone who’s just being exactly who he is. Completely comfortable, non-competitive, at peace with wherever life brings him.
As for me, I have been trying to unpack what “becoming who I really am” means.
Fundamentally, I think, to become who I really am is to live out of love rather than fear. The root of my past misery has been my fear of not being loved and accepted and the fear of never being good enough. All my insecurities, desires and superficial goals stem from that fear. That’s why I always needed to be good at something; that’s why I always wanted to be successful; that’s why I always dreamed of achieving so many things. I was only afraid of not being loved.
But when I become who I really am, I am no longer afraid. I am no longer ashamed of myself, I no longer need outer validation, I no longer need every one in the world to love me, and I certainly don’t need to be anything the society expects me to be.
When I become who I really am, I move beyond my ego – which is my false self – and I stop wanting things and giving things for the wrong reasons.
Knowing who I really am – already perfect and wonderful as I am – I then have the courage to go out into the world and live a deep and true life out of love, and not fear.
I have always known this, all that I’ve just written about, but standing on a million-year-old mountain and being so close to the stars had a way of drilling the message in deep.
Finally, I think, knowing is not enough. Now I have to live this knowledge through every decision I make every day of my life. And that is the mammoth task. But there is no other way to live.