Some time ago, I was challenged by Spirit to take a good hard look at my concept of “identity”. Initially I had some idea what I would find, but as I delved deeper into the existential idea, I became aware of just how much humankind is influenced by what we have adopted as our identity.
When we think about our identity, we often associate it with our given names, our jobs, our financial income, what we have or do not have and where we live. We may relate our identity to aspects of our childhood; how we grew up, what our parents may have put us through and what town we grew up in. We may relate our identity to a chronic illness; physical mental or otherwise. And we may even relate our identity to what we believe we look like relative to others. Further, perhaps on a deeper level, we can examine who we think we are by acknowledging our likes and dislikes. What are we passionate about? What moves us? What do we stand for? What do we stand against? What makes our skin crawl? The list of question goes on. And most of this list is compiled by external influences.
According to Buddhist, Hindu and Spiritualist faiths, all of what we have constructed within our minds to claim as “who we are” is simply a reflection of ego. When we observe the concept of “ego” we are referring to the term indicated in Hindu scriptures that opposes the term “self” which refers to the naked soul. This soul is our true nature, free of Earthly desires and fears. The self is the immortal part of our experience that lives out each incarnation in any body it chooses in order to learn whatever experiences it needs to in order to fulfill its higher purpose.
Along with the self, the ego incarnates into the body. The ego exists for the purpose of teaching us how to make peace with it. Apart from the self, our ego forms attachments to the experiences we have had and integrated them as our identity. When we become invested in the experiences that we have had, we become very attached to them and how they have affected us. And we begin to dwell on them. We begin to allow these experiences to shape our personalities. They easily become who we believe we are. When we relive a story time after time in our minds, when we continue to rerun it over and over, we become so attached to it that we believe that this is who we are.
Often we will find ourselves using these experiences that we have had as excuses for ourselves. They become our belief systems as to why we “can’t”, “shouldn’t” or “are afraid”. These excuses and belief systems that we have wired into our minds become the blueprints that shape the rest of our lives- if we let them.
Our identity is often fuelled by our image. In our minds it has become very important to pay attention to what we look or seem like to other people. In some cases we can spend our lives trying to fit into a mold and making ourselves look or seem appealing in one way or another. We become attached to the idea that we need to look a certain way. We become attached to the idea that we have a specific role to play. We become attached to the idea that we are “strong”, we are “sick”, we “can’t afford” we are “depressed”, we are “the well-dressed man”, “hot girl”, “fat guy”- all of these images that we feel we can relate to become our identity. Even chronic illness becomes our perceived identity. When we feed into these identities, they begin to run our lives. Instead of understanding that these circumstances are external and remaining detached, we integrate them into ourselves and they become who we are. And in doing so, we are missing the point. When we seek validation from external sources, we are only seeking to fill a void within ourselves that can only be truly filled with self love. This self love can only be attained by making the time to look at and work on the parts of ourselves that can be uncomfortable and dark. Though this can be highly unpleasant at times, the resulting self love brings with it a beautiful sense of peace and well being.
If we take a moment to examine who we are, free of our experiences and beliefs, we may come to a profound insight. Let’s use myself as an example: I am J Morgan Saifer. I am an Animal Communicator. These statements are valid, as they are my given name and my occupation. However they are just that- a name and an occupation. Let us understand that our occupation does not define who we are. Our occupation is a choice that we have made in order to fulfill certain Earthly needs. If we are fortunate, our occupation is one that we enjoy and can bring Light to others. However, no matter how spiritual a job is, it does not define our identity. In fact, years ago I was in the company of many new people at a party. And when asked the socially prevalent question “what do you do?” my answer was simply “I love”. I stand by this statement.
When we remove the occupation (or any other external experience such as poverty, wealth, family trauma, etc) of the identity, we are left with: I am J Morgan Saifer. Upon examination of this statement, it is valid, as this is my given name and how I identify myself to others. However, when we look at what the given name represents, we can peel away its layers as well. Saifer is my family name, a lineage that has little to do with my “self” and everything to do with my ego. Because my body (DNA) belongs to a specific set of genetics, I was born with the identity of my mother’s and father’s genetics and all of their belief systems. This, as well as any other family lineage in the world has presented many blessings and challenges; all of which have been accrued due to previous generations of human experience.
Further, when we remove my name, we are left with the phrase “I am”. What am I? I am a female. I am 36. I am Caucasian. I am a healer. All of these adjectives and titles that we call ourselves are once again borne of identity. These are Earthly depictions of how we identify ourselves relative to others. These identifications have nothing to do with the self but for the challenges of making peace between it and the ego identity,
We are then left with “I ”. The name “I ” accounts for the Earthly belief that each of us is separate from the next. This separation occurs on Earth due to each individual’s concept of her own identity. But when we view this concept from a higher perspective, we will find that this separation is in the minds of the human ego. When we view this separation from a higher perspective we will see that when we become one with the self, there is in fact no separation at all; we are all one. We have all come from the same benevolent origin and continue to incarnate with ego life after life in order to find peace with it. And until we realize this, we are subject to this cycle of reincarnation.
And then we are left with nothing. When we are truly one with the self, all of the individual identity dissipates and we become reconnected with the benevolent source from which we came. And according to Buddhist, Hindu and Spiritualist beliefs, this is the nature of human existence, and the sum and parts of the meaning of life.
It is necessary to have awareness of what we identify with to survive in society. However the key is to be aware of these aspects of our ego and remain healthfully detached from them. By living our lives in this way, we may find that our lives become more peaceful; for attachment is the root of all suffering.
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