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.

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15 11, 2007

Knowing Self and knowing others.

November 15th, 2007|non duality, relationships, spirituality|9 Comments

There is paradox in everything about the human experience. For instance, it is through giving we receive, and through receiving we give. It is the ‘unimportant’ in our lives, such as stopping to breath under an unfolding oak tree, that gives importance to other activities. It is the “meaningless’ connections in daily living, such as a hello at a checkout at the supermarket, that provides framework and meaning for the more intimate connections we have. These apparent paradoxes are not part of any cosmic game played on us, but rather a daily reminder of the wholeness and perfection of life. Each moment offers glimpses into this, often via these connections with others.

These connections with others are a foundational part of living. Without them, we would quite literally go insane or feel tormented, as those in solitary confinement in prison sometimes do. Exploring connections is hard wired into our bodies, and even when lives of relative isolation are lived, there will always be an element of this exploration.

Exploring longer term connections, the depth of them, is termed ‘a relationship‘. We all have different preconceptions of what a relationship is – as many preconceptions as the word ‘love’. It is in longer term relationships that we meet the dichotomy between these preconceptions and what is head on. Conflict can be the natural result. We also see how much the ideal of ‘relationship’ we have works within ourselves, for we can try to fit ourselves in a mold very easily in an attempt for intimacy. It is a dance with essentially the present moment, Now.

 

In this dance of intimacy, which can also be termed ‘knowing the Self’, I’ve identified two fundamental forces and motivations based in Love:

  • Knowing Love through interconnection. This is the desire to know one’s wholeness and completion through seeing how fundamentally interconnected we are with others. We connect with others via sharing ideas, emotions, and space, and feel the joy that comes from this experience of oneness in whatever form it takes. It is a desire to fully experience the knowledge that you are not separate from anything in the universe.
  • Knowing Love through autonomy. This is the desire to experience wholeness simply by being exactly who you are in this moment. In other words, it is the sure knowledge there is nothing lacking in you, and that nothing can be found in another that cannot be found in the Self. There is thus no empty need for connections with others. There is nothing you can ‘get’ you cannot find already there, and so there is no need for any pretense in order to gain anything externally. All of the universe is within you.

 

These two forces sound diametrically in opposition. Most people place more emphasis on one than the other; some are focused on new experiences and connections at all costs, and yet others are about maintaining and building identity. Yet the paradox involved in all this is that they are not separate at all. Wholeness is found both in the universe and in the Self, without conflict. ‘As within, so without’ was the maxim of the alchemists studying inner transformation. This has parallels to the psychological concept in Bowen family systems theory of differentiation. A healthy balance is obtained by a core self that is maintained in the midst of stress and deep connection. The oneness of the above concepts shows itself in the world through the fact that the depth of your connection with others is always equal to the depth of connection you have with your Self. Again, this is not theory, and it is not simply in the long term. It is a truism of every moment of your life. When you lose connection with Self, you may indeed feel ‘highs’ of connection with others, which can feel as intense as opiates. But this connection always feels around the corner, not Now. This law of connection is itself an expression of the oneness of the universe.

Relationships are the most visible manifestation of this oneness. If a man feels inner lack, or emptiness inside from not being connected to Self, then it is common to seek someone in a relationship to fill this apparent void. He might even obsessively seek more and more connections with others, seeking to know wholeness through the eyes of many others. But because of the utter unity of inner relationship with the Self and outer relationships with others, this soon manifests as co-dependency, conflict or other ‘problems’, even in short term relationships. I also see this in nightclubs and dance events; when others are in close proximity and there is no firm knowledge of Self (autonomy), then there is a natural diving into others that is in essence a giving away of the birthright of knowing wholeness. It often pleasurable, but it will always contain seeds of experiencing the separation the action comes out of. This is not a punishment, but a continual invitation to know Self.

The other side of it is common to those involved in spiritual quests, as I was:

When I was in my twenties, I was coming out of a very isolated and empty family. Because of the framework and pains I had accumulated through childhood, connections with others were painful, and I thought that heavy meditation was the answer. Eventually I would ‘get it’ and find enlightenment. I was determined to find the wholeness in myself, so I would retreat into long meditations and avoid connections with others until I obtained this. Of course, the denial of the interconnection with others led to even more disconnections within. Depression continued and I thought that I must not be meditating hard enough. It took a lengthy trip to India to see that I was literally trying to cut off part of myself in order to find ‘wholeness’. This in itself was violence to myself, and it took me some time to recognize this. On my return from India, I immediately dived into a tumultuous and emotionally heavy relationship, which was necessary on my path to balance and knowing Self.

The ultimate expression of Love in this world, is seeing another as Self. This is not a theoretical statement, but a simple expression of the non-duality that is underlying all of life. If you look at the two forces described above, in fact the only way of harmonizing them without conflict is through this perceptional transformation. This is in fact what the root of the Hindi word ‘Namaste’ is. I see that we are truly one, and I honor this unity.

You could think of a third force in addition to the two above, a neutral force. This is referred to as “the observer”, “the ether”, etc. It is a state of potential, of simply being and allowing. It provides the framework that lets harmonization occur, where “the observer becomes the observed”, as Krishnamurthi said.

 

So then, given this state of the universe, how do we experience this oneness? How do we know Self, and truly experience the joys of the interconnection with all aspects of life? According to Gandhi, ‘The ends are the means’. As superficial as it sounds, it is good to ask yourself how you would act if you knew the truths above in every aspect of your being. Would you still look for the same distractions? Would you not look in the eyes of those surrounding you in life? Would you still have the same short, shallow breath through much of your day that keeps you from experiencing what is actually going on in the present moment?

There is no substitute for experience, and the greatest lessons are always obtained by completely being present in life, without any escapes or attempts to be anywhere else but Here or Now. When disconnections have been built, it is of course natural that the first experiences would be painful, but this is nothing more than an awakening of awareness. And it is through awareness â???? being fully and utterly conscious of Self and others in their completeness â???? that Love is manifested on this Earth. Is this not what we all wish to bring?