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‘If you are in the jar you can't read the label’ (J is for Jar)

I was familiar with the phrase about ‘not seeing the wood for the trees’ but I have only recently heard the expression ‘If you are in the jar you can't read the label’.


In today’s world ‘busyness’ is the norm but this sometimes means that we can’t see the way forward or work out how to prioritise things we need to do from distractions, in order to simplify our lives, reduce stress and flourish.


When thinking about this metaphorical jar, many questions immediately came to mind :


What is our jar ?


Our jars are perhaps our bodies and our lives ; the boundaries we set, the values we have and everything that makes up our inner and outer world.


Why are we in a metaphorical jar in the first place ?


Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.” Margaret Mead

Everyone is unique and in their own jar because each and everyone has come to the present moment with a different background of experiences. and our jars provide us with our own unique perspectives on life.

What is our jar made of? What is the quality of the jar ?


"We are all jars of clay, fragile and poor, yet we carry within us an immense treasure."

Pope Francis


More questions arise :


Are our jars solid and stable, well designed and made of good quality or are they flimsy and can be damaged or destroyed at the slightest thing ?


What about our lid ?


A jar usually has a lid but if, as is sometimes the case, a lid is screwed on too tight then we might not be able to open it to get out to read the label.


Maybe we keep our lid screwed on tightly deliberately so we never have to leave our comfort zone ?


Who wrote the label on the jar?


None of us like labels but we all have them. We are someone’s daughter, son, wife, husband, partner, friend, mother, father etc as well as all the labels given to us related to our professions or occupations.


It is often too easy to categorise others and make assumptions rather than ask questions for clarity


Let’s normalise asking questions for clarity instead of making assumptions and making responses based on the story you’ve created in your head which may or may not be true


We are initially the product of the values instilled by our parents, religion and teachers, then later perhaps our circle of friends, the local community, society as a whole, etc .


Have we taken time to examine our label recently?

Does it still show the labels that others have given us or is our label continually changing and adapting to reflect our growth ?


What’s in our jar ?


“The amount of sensory material stored up or stored down in the brain's and the body's systems is inestimable. It's like a culture at the bottom of a jar, although it doesn't grow, I think, or help anything else to grow unless you find a way to reach it and touch it” Seamus Heaney


When we look at the description, is it accurate ?

Does the labelling accurately reflect the contents of our own individual jar ; our own values, and beliefs and thoughts ?

When we look at the contents are they healthy and contributing to our well-being ?


Jars often have instructions as well as a content label. Wouldn’t life be so much easier if we all came with instructions ?! Lol !


Why would we want to get out of our jars ?


"The more aware we are of our basic paradigms, maps, or assumptions, and the extent to which we have been influenced by our experience, the more we can take responsibility for those paradigms, examine them, test them against reality, listen to others and be open to their perceptions, thereby getting a larger picture and a far more objective view." Stephen R. Covey

We all see everything through our own assumptions, interpretations and judgements but it is only us who can really shine the light of authentic awareness and honesty on to our lives and see ourselves for who we are so perhaps this is a reason why we would want to get out of the jar, so we can examine the label ourselves and see whether our intentions and actions align with our values and how we think we portray ourselves and the life we want to create.


Integrity starts from within; with self-awareness. You can’t be whole or complete without first knowing who you are. We need to spend time discovering our true selves often hidden under layers of personas, limiting beliefs and masks. This requires honest assessment and introspection so that we can access the core of our being and integrate all the different pieces of ‘us’ into one complete whole. It also requires courage, because living in integrity means that we share the 'real us' with the world i.e. become a WYSIWYG person. It is vital to make time to reflect on what is important to us and why and then uphold those ideas, even when it is not convenient or to our benefit.


Whilst out of the jar examining ourselves, if we allow ourselves to become vulnerable, we can also use the opportunity to really look past the labels that others are carrying on their jars too without prejudgement and see their true essence and reach out to make proper connections.


How do we get out of a jar to read the label ?


I saw an image of someone inside a jar with another person holding up a mirror so that the person inside the jar could read the label. Although the image was amusing something about it immediately disturbed me and it produced another lot of thoughts.


The person inside the jar would be reading the label right to left with the letters reversed (mirror writing) and the implication was that the outsider would always be in a better position to reflect our characteristics back to us.


Even if the outsider simply read our ‘list of ingredients’ to us would they still be in a better position to show us ‘our true self’ ?

Assuming they read the label accurately without any prejudgements, would not our own interpretations of what we think is being said distort our understanding ?


We need to stop and step back sometimes in order to see the bigger picture or look at things from a different perspective. When we are too close to something we can’t see things clearly and sometimes we may need others to provide and outside perspective.


We all have a choice whether to live up to our labels and accept the labelling others have given us or to take the time to carefully examine every aspect of our jar and create our own contents and packaging. We also have the ability to take the time to regularly assimilate and/or accommodate our ever changing experiences, asking ourselves whether our jars reflect our true characters or are there as a reminder that we need to make some changes ?


"Do not disregard the accumulation of goodness, saying, 'This will come to nothing.' By the gradual falling of raindrops, a jar is filled." Gautama Buddha



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