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.