“What identities do you pursue that no longer serve you?” – Jesse van der Velde
Join entrepreneur Jesse van der Velde in exploring how plant medicine pushed him to challenge his preconceived ideas of success and identity. Explore how the pursuit of perceived identities clouds our inner truth.
- What is an identity that you’ve been strongly attached to?
- What is standing in your way from being your true self?
- Are you ready to let go of the safety of your identity?
If someone were to ask you to describe your identity, what would you say? Would you describe your career? Your house? Your family? Your culture?
We build our entire lives around the identities that we hold for ourselves. Oftentimes, we build our lives from identities that have been shaped from a young age, as I did myself. My entire life was built around my desire to be seen as successful and this identity was something I desperately held onto for most of my life.
It wasn’t until I was introduced to my plant medicine mentor that I had the courage and guidance to let go of my sense of identity and face the fear that comes with such surrender. Who are we without the identities that have shaped our entire lives? Are you ready to let go?
Identity at an Early Age
My sense of identity was shaped early on in life and was something that I was completely attached to until about four years ago. As I grew into adolescence, I found myself being “the outsider.” I was often bullied by my peers and could never maintain friendships because it wasn’t “cool” to be friends with me.
As I suffered through this time, my sense of identity began to take shape. I was afraid to be seen; afraid to be hurt; and afraid to show myself. I didn’t see my own strength and wasn’t able to stand up for myself. I wasn’t able to create boundaries and I wasn’t able to laugh at my own shortcomings. The longer I was bullied, the smaller I felt.
When I was 16, my aunt gifted my father with a Tony Robbins book and, while my father didn’t read it, I eventually did. Little did I know that this book would be the first turning point for me in my life, bringing me on a path of personal development, growth, and productivity.
After starting this path of self-development, I learned that I don’t have to be “the weak one” getting bullied – I could prove everyone wrong by being successful and strong. This was this turning point when my sense of identity crystallized.
That Tony Robbins book arrived in perfect synchronicity with how my life had been building up to that moment. It would be years later to see that the universe was responding to what I had been experiencing as an adolescent. The book arriving in my life was a reflection of the decision I had already made in my inner world – to seek success so that others could see me as successful.
My Plant Medicine Shaman Mentor
For about 14 years, my path of success grew and blossomed and I eventually built the identity I had dreamed of: to be a successful and courageous entrepreneur. Despite the success, there was still something missing. Another pivotal turning point awaited me that would turn my sense of identity upside down.
Four years ago – my friend brought me to a shaman living in the woods of the Netherlands. He had been doing Native American sweat lodge ceremonies and working with sacred plant medicines for over 30 years. When I looked into his eyes, I could see incredible wisdom in him; wisdom that had been, and continues to, guide him on his path.
I realized that, for nearly 14 years, I had been building my entire life around the idea of success: trying to become successful in the eyes of others. Yet this shaman living a simple life in the woods was successful not because of his accomplishments, but because of who he had become.
It wasn’t until meeting this shaman (who would later become my mentor) when I was truly ready for such an awakening. Before that moment, I had been completely absorbed in searching to feel a certain way – searching for something I couldn’t find in myself. Searching for an identity of success that would offer security, self-worth, and validation.
That night, my shaman mentor guided me in a plant medicine ceremony using psilocybin mushrooms, a plant medicine that is legal in the Netherlands and growing in legality across the globe. While these mushrooms have a reputation of being a recreational drug, there is a major difference to distinguish.
A drug is something we take to escape our reality; to escape what lives inside of us. A drug is something we take to search for something we haven’t found yet.
Rather than offering an escape, plant medicines guide us in expanding what lives inside of us. Plant medicines are our teachers and help us bring intention and focus on the parts of ourselves that we can heal deep within our consciousness.
Nature is Our Teacher
In that plant medicine ceremony four years ago, I understood that Mother Nature is our biggest teacher, and that life itself is the true ceremony. Around the world, native people have used ceremony for thousands of years because ceremony is where we heal and find new perspectives.
In the end, all healing is a matter of finding a new perspective, looking within and asking difficult questions, and sitting with whatever comes up. Maybe even asking questions like:
- What is the meaning of all of this?
- Why did I do this all in the first place?
- What’s next?
- Who am I?
- What difference do I wish to make in my life?
- What do I want to leave behind when I die?
Such questions are what drives us on the path of becoming, yet they cannot be answered in our minds. Meditating “really hard” won’t give you the answer either.
We must connect with Nature and allow it to be our teacher, guiding us to look within. We are an expression of Nature. We are no different than the tree, the fire, and the water. Returning to Nature will bring us to our own true nature.
In life, we often focus on the outer journey first: building our business, becoming successful, and achieving our goals. At some point, we begin walking the inner journey. It is on this inner path when surrendering to Nature can humble us with such questions as:
- What is it I have been trying to escape from?
- What is it I have been trying to silently experience?
- What wounds have I been ignoring?
When humanity returns to its true nature, there can be peace; there can be health; there can be harmony amongst the people as a reflection of the harmony within each person.
Are you ready to let go of your identity?
For my entire life, I had been striving to embody a certain identity that I believed others would approve of – embodying others’ notion of “success.” Furthermore, I had been allowing the achievement of this identity to define my self-worth.
What I didn’t realize was that this “identity” and the pursuit of it were standing between my life and my soul. My attachment to this identity was what was blocking me from being my truest self.
If I truly wanted to be whole – to be ME – I would need to let go of this identity.
But letting go of identity is terrifying because then we are left with the question: “Who am I without this identity?” What remains when we remove the layers that hide our true soul?
It was that night in the woods four years ago that I decided I was ready to dive into the unknown and truly let go of everything I thought I knew about identity. I understood that our life is a reflection of what lives inside of us.
We cling to identities, stories, and beliefs and build them up around our soul to protect ourselves and feel a certain way; to build the specific life we are looking to experience. But in the end, we are merely trying to experience this within ourselves.
With the guidance of my shaman mentor and the sacred plant medicines, I began to let go of the external roles, beliefs, and stories with which I had identified so desperately for my whole life. Surrendering identity can be terrifying – it certainly was for me. But it is the only way to allow true healing and connection within yourself.
Are you ready to let go of your identity?
Feel – Don’t think
When on the path to becoming, difficult emotions will arise and you will find yourself feeling uncomfortable at times. Breathe into that discomfort, retreat into nature, and ask yourself: “What identity have I been desperately holding onto? Who am I trying to be?” FEEL – don’t think. The answers to these deep questions are not found by thinking – they are found by digging into the place where you feel uncomfortable.
Remember that no lessons are found in the place where you feel most comfortable. When the discomfort comes up, know that it is because you are ready for it and that you can deal with it. Nothing in life shows up that you aren’t ready for.