23 11, 2007

Breaking through the chains of identity

November 23rd, 2007|conflict, non duality, Self|7 Comments

I had a question recently asked of me, which is what this article is based on:

How do you form new identities when there are expectations other people place, in terms of maintaining an identity? How do you find ways of letting go to holding on to that and allowing more of yourself to come through?

To answer this, let’s first look at what identity is. The etymology of the word comes from the Latin words for “sameness” and “over and over’. This in itself gives a good picture of it – a fixated pattern or image that can be repeated over and over. It can be looked at as a temporary protection against the unknown. Where there is the dark unknown and the feeling of helplessness come from it, then terror appears, and so there is a desire to control that comes from this. Identity is the standard result.

Because of the nature of interconnection mentioned in previous articles, identities are not isolated towers etched in stone. Your identity depends on the interactions you have with others, particularly intimate relationships. The degree of ‘sameness’ and repetition of behavior in relationships creates safety and protection more firmly than any amount of home security. Conversely, when someone’s behavior and identity fluctuates without agreement from everyone involved, a sense of betrayal and threat is often the results. When you question your identity, ripples flow outward that invite everyone surrounding you to also question their own identity. For some, this is incredibly fearful. To real degree, this can feel if one’s life is about to end – because in some ways, it is.

Identity, therefore, is central to the perception of isolation and separateness that human beings are subject to. If you hardwire your perception of Self to be a fixed collection of thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, then you will automatically disconnect from all beings that are not this collection. You may see this in such actions as politics; the identity is so strong, so dependent on connections with others of like mind that the disconnect then it is quite likely that those on the ‘other side’ are disconnected from to such a degree that their humanness is no longer seen. When taken to its natural extreme, this can cause violence and wars.

The problems do not come from any idea of what you are, but always from what you are not. If you deny connections, whether to others or within yourself, you are in fact wielding a scalpel, surgically cutting yourself off from the universe. This is violence. This is an attack, both at the world and at the Self. There is no outward form of violence that does not directly come from this core split.

To work with this, we suggest an exercise adapted from Thich Naht Hahn :

When you meet something, instead of a label which implies separation such as ‘tree’, ‘house’, or ‘road’, state instead that you are what you see. ‘I am this’ is a good phrase, or a statement of ‘I am a tree’ when you meet one. Rather than this be something enforced on your mind, expand outward to breath in the essence of what you are seeing.

Another way to do this is via the practice of mindful eating. Your absolute interconnection is not simply with what you see, but everything that is connected to what you see as well. An example would be the eating of brown rice. (preferably organic!). As you are eating, feeling the soft fibers in your tongue, invite the perception that you are the rice, and that you are enjoying changing form to help preserve life. You are the plants in the field that produced this output. You are the workers that cultivated the food. You are the sunlight that gave life to this plant. You are the water that irrigated the field. You are the rain and sky that brought the rivers. You are the people that package and brought the rice to you. You are even the animals that ate from the field before it was cultivated. You are all that.

Imagine then, that with every bite you are taking, you are affirming your connection to the earth, the plants on it, the sun, the animals, and every human being interconnected on it. This connection is in every bite of food, and indeed in every breath you take. Living with this connection at a conscious level is an ever present source of joy.

In this exercise, the ‘who you are’ is absolutely inclusive, and thus without violence. There is nothing you are not, and thus nothing you have to use force to separate yourself from. This is where true power comes from. If you have difficulty feeling this connection in this exercise, then we suggest trying it again in a natural setting, where animals can be viewed. Animals naturally feel this interconnection as part of their way of being, and can be great teachers in this. Children can be as well.

‘Letting go of identity’ is therefore not a true letting go. There is in fact no need to let go of who you are â???? only to let go of the perception of what you are not. You may in fact be a professional, reliable person who doesn’t want to impose on others, but you may also be a human being who has pain inside and deserves the chance to make mistakes, get angry, and be wrong.


If you decide to undergo on the path of expanding your identity, take caution, for the ripples this path creates can create much reaction in others. In fact, we advocate asking those close to you for permission first, even if in your own mind or in a dream state. Leaving behind past shelters of identity is usually a terrifying undertaking, and it is good to prepare and gain support beforehand. But it is good to remember that it is always in the unknown that true experience of Love resides, and this is why terror is often experienced before Love is. And it is in the expansion of Self â???? not the destruction of it â???? that Love is experienced. Your awareness of identity can expand to where your identity is your family, the community, the earth, and the universe. This is in fact what is true at this very moment, and we invite you to rejoin with your birthright.


2 08, 2007

navigating the trials of life

August 2nd, 2007|allowing, conflict, dealing with life, suffering|0 Comments

NipTuck? : How does one know if they are being irrational or acting logically when something that seems to be unfair towards them drives them to anger and voicing such w/out insults but vehemently?

First of all, acting within the confines of reason is simply a straightjacket. Living this way, you will never avail yourself of the immense resources you have at all times in terms of intuition, emotional support, passion, and a pure sense of play. Life leaves a lot to the imagination, as it was meant to. Allow that to blossom. If you feel like being “irrational”, do so! In ways, of course, that do not restrict others to also blossom.

It’s taken me a long time to see that everything within me is undeniably a blessing to the world. Yes, everything, without exception. The same goes with you and everyone on earth. And yet people can perform actions that are extremely hurtful and cause immense sufferings. There is a paradox in this, of course, and seeing through it is essential for finding self-love.

Consider, then, two scenarios to help understand this dichotomy, which could arise from being close to a man who quite obviously is in a lot of pain. In the first case, he considers you the cause of his pain and frustration. He expresses this with rage and helplessness, making it clear that you’re the problem, and your denials cause him to react with more vehemence because he needs you to help get rid of all his inner problems. He keeps verbally attacking you until you either walk away or attack back. This quite obviously can cause suffering and distrust between you.

The second scenario is when the man is feeling great pain and frustration, some of which you triggered, but considers you the witness only. The rawness of the pain is shown directly to you, and helps you see that he too has a tender heart, can easily be hurt, and can believe in his own smallness. It could be shown indirectly, by screaming at pillows and launching attacks at them – which of course they’re less apt to believe than you! It could also be shown via prose, poetry, or even in song. But in the doing so, you are helped in seeing the innocence both of the other person and of yourself, for you too have these elements in you. The next time you encounter them in you it will flow easier, and this experience helps bring you closer together, even if you are not in a conventional relationship.

Now, there is no difference whatsoever in the pain and anger in the person between the two cases. The only difference is in the expression of it, the projection (or lack of it), and the vulnerability allowed. In the second case, there was no desire to avoid the intensity of the emotion whatsoever, and hence no projection. This is ultimately self-love, and helps bring love out to the world. It is not a rigid “I must face this and deal with it” attitude, which is an avoidance in itself, but a gentle allowing that has you as a witness.

So how to get there? Above all, be gentle with yourself. It’s good to have practice; if you have pain and hurt towards someone where there honestly isn’t enough trust to be vulnerable like this, take care of yourself and back away. Know that by not being a punching bag you are taking care of yourself, which is a part of self-love. Find a friend to be vulnerable about it first, or express it creatively by being vulnerable with yourself. Ultimately the more self-love you have to yourself about your own pain, the less tendency you will have to make it the fault of others.

NipTuck: More specifically, how does one handle the world in general?

Say, Insurance adjusters, office mates, peers, rude people who cut in front of you, try to cut you off in traffic… how does one react?

There is this paradigm it appears to me, where if one does exert some resistance (vocally) in others intrusions,they are considered trouble makers. Whereas if one does not say anything, one gets run over by the world at large.

? How does a person survive in this world? Allow others to run you over, or get angry. I speak up when people do this and then I feel guilty. It’s almost the survival of the fittest I feel. Everyone has become so narcissistic that I feel the continual need to avenge myself.

As someone vocal myself, I strongly notice when speaking up means I’m considered a “trouble maker”. So I take care of myself by stepping back if I feel if there is no openness whatsoever to anything opposed to preconceptions that exist. I have no problems speaking up, but there is no value in bashing needlessly against walls.

But really, the question is: what do you want? Do you want to be in the game of oneupmanship with others? Do you want to endlessly compete, in traffic and other things? Or do you simply want a feeling of peace and contentment in your life? If it’s the latter, then affirm that. Try to live that in traffic jams, in the office, with rude people. Different priorities bring different results.

There’s a saying in the Tao Te Ching that says “The sage does not compete with anyone, hence no one can compete with him.”. It applies here.

That said, even if you do desire well-being above everything else, of course there will be triggers. There will be people pissing you off. There will be people who require you to set firm boundaries. This is part of life, and expecting otherwise will lead to more upsets. But at the same time, there are ways to live in this world (and among such people) that are ultimately loving to yourself and others, even in trying circumstances.

Learning how isn’t a short term matter. If there are emotional minefields in your life, where you’re easily triggered, then it’s certain life won’t be peaceful immediately. However, it’s the direction of the next step that’s always most important, rather than the war zone you may find yourself in. Taking even one small step closer to peace may not feel like much at first, but it causes ripples both in yourself and those around you. Like I said above, everything inside ourselves is a gift. Allow it, value it, and try to find ways to let your honest self out – including honest emotions even if you think they are “negative” – in ways that do not make fault with other people . Blogging can be great, as you know! But above all, allow your feelings and reactions in such a way that doesn’t make anyone else wrong.

So yes, I do like questions that are on the flow of this blog. They’re very much welcome!  And if you like my writing, you’re welcome to share it in some way. Use the “email to a friend” link, send an email, put a link somewhere, anything is appreciated. Thank you for reading!

26 06, 2007

With an eye to what helps.

June 26th, 2007|conflict, politics, positivity, wholeness|0 Comments

To recur on the theme of power from before, one idea that has stuck with me for many years is:

Power resides in simplicity.? The more powerful you wish to be, the slower and simpler you must be.

Gandhi was a superb example of this; he affected hundreds of millions by his simply living.? However, I had an experience during a debate a few weeks ago with the Work Less Party that illustrated this as well.? The debate was about whether it was right for Canada to send troops to Afghanistan.? There were, of course, many arguments which could be said for and against it, most of which exist for any nation in NATO.? However, my response bypassed all of this:

“I would say that we’re answering the wrong question here.? The question isn’t it whether it’s right or not to send troops.? The question is 😕 what will help?

(I then went on to document examples of missions in the world that actually did help, which were generally in the area of non-profit activities.)

The interesting thing about this tact is the lack of arguments it created.? If I had stated that something is wrong with that action, it’s guaranteed to provoke conflict, because it is a divisive statement.? I would be saying that this behaviour and the people supporting it are wrong, and I’m right.? For example, those with loved ones in the military might feel personally attacked.? Others might contradict me as a matter of course without listening to me because they know that who they are isn’t wrong (which is true) and the argument makes them feel so.

On the other hand, focusing on only what will help, without any judgment on the current state of affairs, creates much more room for both clear seeing and open choices.? It is a stance of Love.? Love starts with what IS, without any reservations about what it “should be”.? It then focuses on what will help â???? even if it is only one small step on a path a continent away.? The next moment is responds in the same way, always with an open mind.? Sometimes what will help is different than before.

This a lot of parallels to other areas of activism and human conflict. Activism is filled with a lot of conflict driven behaviour.? So much of it comes from admirable motivations, such as environmental stewardship, a desire to end poverty and the inherent violence therein, an end to conflict, or a desire to have small voices heard.? However, if the focus is on what is wrong with the world, it will provoke defenses.? It may attract attention, but it rarely provokes listening.? By focusing on only what will help â???? not what will help me, or the environment, or them, but the entire situation without division â???? you remove so many barriers towards effective change. 

? Everyone wants to help.? Yes, even George Bush!? The problem isn’t that â???? it’s the myopic vision that cannot see the whole picture that creates the situation.? Bypassing right and wrong creates a shortcut into this big picture.

This applies to personal relationships as well; when one person says “you did this to me!” there is an inherent conflict in that statement.? It’s a desire to make the other person wrong.? Changing that to a desire to help the situation â???? for both parties to experience joy â???? will always change perspective.? Sometimes what will help is an apology.? Other times it is clear communication of your experience without blame.? Still other times it is appropriate distancing.? It’s all flexible and starts with clear seeing and listening.? That’s what Love is.

[oh yes, and I did get a nice applause for my speech with some strong listening from the audience!]

24 06, 2007

boundaries revisited!

June 24th, 2007|boundaries, conflict, counseling, Travel and Places|1 Comment

In honor of my mother’s visit (there’s a conference on commodity stocks in town she’s interested in) and in self-preparation here’s some thoughts on boundaries. I’m always learning about this when she’s in town!

To start off with, probably the best analogy is that of a cell in our own bodies.

(Note: does anyone else see a similarity to a brain in that?)

The membrane in a cell does an essential function. It controls, among other things, what goes out and what goes in. This is essential, because analogous to us, what is food to one cell can be poison to another. Without a good boundary, health decays as the composition becomes a cesspool, good for little in the long term. Boundaries allow for choice, which is always a good thing.

Boundaries are also essential for clear perception. Without them, it is impossible to tell causal factors, such “what brought up this feeling?” Emotions and psyches are so enmeshed that eruptions occur without rhyme or reason. In a relationship, this most often shows up as drama. Strong emotion occurs, and because of the lack of clear boundaries, it is impossible to determine where it comes from. Thus there is a huge tendency for projection and condemnation.

This occurs even when positive intention is set. Our psyche and energy systems have their “waste products”, much like the cells in our bodies mentioned above. Hence the term “shit”! But this isn’t a bad thing either; as above, what is excrement to one can be food to another, even on an energetic level. However, in a close relationship it is likely the people are similar enough that this wouldn’t be the case; hence the need for boundaries and awareness of actions.

Looking at two people are in a relationship and healthy boundaries aren’t there (which is fairly common, as we as a society are learning about boundaries), I see two general patterns as coping mechanism.

i. Distance/withdrawal. In this case, at least one person withdraws to keep the relationship peaceful and not too rocky. There is a spectrum of this, from conscious choice, to unconscious internal actions. An example of the latter is the overfunctioning/underfunctioning dynamic, where one person relinquishes self in a dance of withdrawal or inability to cope to the other person, who acts like they’re the one who “has it all together”. The former might include two people being “together” but living very separate lives; some societies have very rigid splits between men and women that help keep this distance to avoid drama and having issues come up.

ii. Conflict and drama. Instead of distance keeping the peace, two people jump even closer together. This can be for a variety of reasons, from wanting to “figure out the relationship”, to “resolving issues”, to wanting the other person to “just get it”, to a passionate pronouncement of love without awareness of self. Sometimes this results in conflict between the two parties, but it can also involve triangulation, where two people get close, but see all the froth of the chaos as being “caused” by a third party, which could be a person or even a political/social ill. This coping mechanism is more about constantly “diving in”, because if new issues constantly arise you never have to see more fundamental, pervasive choices.

It’s important to note that there may be underlying issues in all these behaviors, but a major factor is proper boundaries. Or to put it in other terms : knowledge of self. To have proper boundaries goes hand in hand with self-knowledge, and the perception of how complete you are as an individual.

Now, that’s all background. So the question is, how are good, healthy boundaries achieved? Many people get the idea that establishing good boundaries is a constant war zone, where an uneasy truce is arrived at after warning shots. While that can be a boundary, it is not a healthy one, as it can all too easily escalate into an entrenched war zone.

Boundaries are a form of Love.

Although most people wouldn’t see it as this, they do what they are meant to do: provide safety and protection, which is in itself a form of love.

Nothing is lost by setting a boundary. Rather, it is a declaration of the person, yourself, that you are creating in the moment.

Because boundaries are a form of Love, they already exist naturally. You don’t have to do anything. All you have to do is allow them. Boundaries are not cultivated from mammoth efforts. Rather, they are cultivated by allowing the complete expression of your full being, including self-protective elements. This may include elements unacceptable to the culture you live in, but so what? Your self is truly far too large to be contained in any culture.

Take a look at a cat being stroked. At some point, it will have had enough. If restrained or irritated by touch it doesn’t like, it will set boundaries. For those of you not close to cats, this isn’t done with any malice, nor attack. It is the allowing of a message from within that says : what I need in this moment has changed from previous moments. Please listen.

Apart from simply allowing the process, another essential factor is play. It’s very hard to learn anything without playing! You try something out of a sense of discovery and fun, and watch the results. You then try something differently. There’s no right or wrong, only a continual process of learning about Self. This is how children learn for so many years, until we educate it out of them. It’s no accident that most learning in life occurs while this sense of play is unrestrained. Even though playing with boundaries can provoke irritation and ire, that’s no reason to be too serious about it!

People may ask “but people often use setting boundaries as a form of control.” That’s true. If someone is triggered easily, they can be invasive on what’s not alright with them. This IS based in protection and self-love, trying to take care of one’s self – but if a large amount of pain exists then the area of protection desired may be so large it crosses into other people’s lives. This is what control is. In which case, these people need help. And the best help is ALWAYS a good example – a living example of what a loving boundary looks like. It’s by living examples we change the world; merely speaking words doesn’t actually do that much, comparably. And yes, that gives me some humility!