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Manuscript Excerpt #2 – Barnacles

Getting to the heart of who we really are is like scraping barnacles off a boat. Barnacles are marine crustaceans that adhere themselves to hard surfaces like the hull of a boat. Barnacles are also those false notions about us that influence how we see the world and respond to life.

Of all the creatures in the animal kingdom, only humans accumulate emotional residue from past experiences (barnacles) that we’re not willing or able to fully process and release from our true self (our boat). We carry it around for so long that we think it’s a part of us, another flaw in perception.

That residue is anything but us. We can still sail with barnacles on our boat but we meet the current with more resistance. They increase drag, impeding our progress through life. Barnacles are often hidden beneath the surface so they’re easy to ignore. And because life gets so busy, instead of working on removing the barnacles, we work on becoming more efficient at sailing with them.

Barnacles stem from our beliefs about the past, how we perceive what happened and the meaning we give it. They’re like carry-on baggage, full of perceived importance validating our need to keep them close at hand. Just as they attach to us, we attach to them, making it difficult to distinguish between the barnacles and our true self. It gets even murkier when we interact with others barnacle to barnacle instead of boat to boat.

It’s not what happened that attracts more barnacles to our boat. It’s our resistance to it. Resistance to what is, not to mention what was, creates inner turmoil and emotional residue. Like swimming against a strong current, it drains our energy and hinders our ability to navigate the present waters effectively. Acceptance allows us to conserve our energy and direct it towards presence and peace and ease.

If we can clear ourselves of the agendas and filters that keep us from noticing them in the first place, then we can work on removing them so they no longer tether us to the past. What often keeps us holding on is the risk that we might actually see that our boss is hostile, our children won’t ever live up to our expectations, and we don’t have it as together as we pretend to. We lean into the truth by chipping away at the false.

What value do we receive from the barnacles? They perpetuate the illusion that we lost a sense of control we never really had, then justify us trying to regain it. We somehow can’t let go of what’s already gone. By maintaining the illusion that we still have access to the past begs us to question the perceived benefit of living in it, barnacles and all. Getting to the heart of who we really are may be all the encouragement we need.