Growing up I was exposed to a lot of different cultures and ways of thinking. The first four years were spent in the Highlands of Scotland in a small rural community. This was followed up by attending the Maharishi School – an educational institution that taught the Mahabharata instead of the Bible and Sanskrit instead of French. I was given a mantra at the age of 5.
At the age of 8, I was moved to a public school in Lancashire. Life was rougher here. One girl broke a boy’s arm by pushing him over in the playground.
Then we moved to Guernsey where I attended Melrose. The fancy all girls school was worlds away from either the Indian influenced Maharishi school, or the scarier world of UK public school. It was scary in a posher, cliquier way.
As a teenager I was then sent to one of the top co-educational boarding schools in the country set on Canterbury Cathedral. The girls wore broaches and tails and the boys wore top hats.
Amidst all of this change I was trying to define a sense of self. Learning the ropes of society and culture, except society and culture didn’t seem to agree on very much. I tried to conform, to morph myself to fit in to each new environment.
It didn’t feel very good or powerful. There were so many questions, so much about my previous experience that didn’t fit into the context in which I found myself. A powerful and well-liked girl at the Aristocratic boarding school commented that she didn’t like poor people, people laughed and nodded. But I knew plenty of ‘poor’ people that I loved and treasured.
Everybody in these cultures seemed to know the ropes, and more confusingly, they all thought they were right. But they couldn’t all be right.
It’s all made me think a lot about truth. What is true no matter where you are? And who am I in this hugely varying world?
As a child it was very confusing. As an adult it has been amazingly liberating. If there is no absolute truth of culture then perhaps I’m free to define myself as I see fit. I get to choose what’s true for me.
It is my practice to question every cultural assumption and sift through it for any wisdom, discarding the rest. This mirrors a lot of what you would hear from healers and coaches about ‘limiting beliefs’, the ideas masquerading as truth that we all carry around in one way or another.
Vipassana insight meditation (or mindfulness) has been an incredible tool with this. I feel like it has helped to wipe clear my internal decoding system to be able to connect with what is absolutely true for me.
After all of this reflection - testing and verifying beliefs and ‘truths’ - I’ve come to what I hope is a reasonably depthful and robust framework of beliefs.
I believe that everyone is doing the best they can with the resources and information they have available to them at any time. If you walked a mile in someone else’s shoes, you would understand their viewpoint better.
I believe there is more that connects us than disconnects us. Family, food and laughter is universal. We all cry tears, we all bleed red.
I believe this dance of life is a mixture of birth, death, fear, joy and above all love. That in the end, only love is left. I believe that understanding that one day we will all pass away, helps us to live with greater integrity.
I believe the world and the universe is an enormous place and it’s always good to know how much you don’t know. I try to continually be open to reassessing ideas, should new information or ways of being become clear. I believe in diversity - everyone is different, everyone has a place, everyone has a story - and that this makes the world stronger and more interesting.
I believe that in the end, we all have to be true to our own internal compass. Society and culture will impose ideas and beliefs upon us, but in the ends it’s up to us to decide which ones we take into our hearts and live by until our dying day.