Tag Archives: life lessons

Identity

I realized something the other day. For a man on a spiritual path, it was a solid realization like running into a wall. The realization came about thru practical analysis of my will and desire as well as thru acknowledging my fears.

By mind and by impulse we want many things in life, but we only follow some of these mental promptings. We can know our true desires by the path we consistently follow. This is why people generally begin to know themselves better in middle age; we have some history to help guide us into the future. We begin many things only to have them fade away, other things that we do just seem to be a natural part of who we are. If we look close at the things that have faded from our lives, we can often relate them somehow to the more consistent path we are on.

Most of the time, most of us take action with hopes of some beneficial reaction. We give money, we get candy. We give our time and energy to work because we want money. We put our time and energy into meditation because we want peace. We want something in return for our expenditures of time, money and energy. But the truth is that most of us don’t know what we want and we wouldn’t know how to get it if we did. In the mean time our actions are often counter productive to attaining the higher goals of our life.

In our actions is everything: knowledge of ourselves, our abilities, our desires, and even our luck. But we have to look at our past actions without judgement or attachment to really recognize ourselves.

“Loose yourself and you will realize that there was no self to loose.”

This is a powerful spiritual statement. Loose yourself. Detach from your ego. Cease identifying with all your ideas of you. Imagine this scenario for a moment. Imagine yourself on some other path; perhaps the path of some rickshaw walla in India or some simple beggar in Canada. Some whole new you in some radically different situation with a radically new direction inn life. It’s quite an uncomfortable thought: disappearing from friends and family, not striving for name or fame or wealth or relations or anything at all.

I can honestly say that I’m not ready to give up on my ‘self.’ I have been cultivating myself and following this particular path of destiny for almost 38 years, I’m not particularly ready to throw it all away. This is the first wall I hit in my spiritual path. Or perhaps it’s more of a door that has opened in my spiritual life. I can never really tell. What I do know is that I’m happy with my life and direction. I don’t want to lose myself.

My sense of self is what it is. I’m not frightened or in conflict by what is inside me. It will all come to the surface when the time is right: the bliss, the pain, the fear and the courage. It will all dissipate too when the time is right.

The philosophical path I’m on started to become noticeable to me in my early twenties. Young and full of hope and optimism I began studying philosophy. Most people laugh at such idealism and remind one that there is no money in philosophy. Philosophers laugh at such people because there is no humanity in money. But they were right, I don’t think I’ve ever made a single penny with philosophy. But I have come much closer to humanity.

For a long while I turned my back on my own philosophical foundation and sought to identify myself as someone with more fiscal hope in life. Admittedly I didn’t raise the bar of fiscal hope very high. I changed my studies to writing and began identify as such. Later I dropped writing and dove into acrylics and canvas only to later switch to photography. I knew I’d never be an artist but I did have some small success in these areas.

The thing is, I never liked being identified as a construction worker; it was too base for my intellectual pride. I enjoyed the outside work, the hard labour, and the easy comradery with the crews, I just didn’t like the identification. The most humiliating question a person could ask was, “What do you do for a living?” Once the hours and the labour and the lifestyle started deteriorating my body, I knew I had to get out.

My luck took me to India eight years ago. I immersed myself in the various aspects of yoga: the asanas healed my body, the meditation helped me find calm, the lifestyle changed my own permanent behaviour so that many bad habits dropped away naturally and the philosophy and astrology have richly fed my mind. I began to see my own new lifestyle practices boom in the marketplace and I thought perhaps luck was leading me out of construction. Yoga and philosophy and holistics have simply become a part of my life; but the market place has not. It’s a dirty place this marketplace. Much dirtier than the shit smeared streets of Varanasi and the petty corruption that is part of my life here.

I’m not one to sell myself to the masses. To be honest, I don’t think I have much appeal for the masses. Perhaps it’s the years of construction that instilled such practicality in me. Working with people who were generally quick to accept but slow to judge makes me too honest and practical for the marketplace. In absence of office politics and mutual friendships honesty can flourish.

I don’t try to sell people their hopes and dreams. Everyone has to take care of that for themselves. I won’t hyperbolize my skills and knowledge and I won’t speak, practice or  teach beyond my own knowledge and experience just to impress. And I’ll do my best not to repeat in my own words something someone else has said with crystal clarity. This is why I have not written a commentary on the Bhagavad Gita despite several suggestions that I do so; all I can do is complicate and already clear and simple translation.

I was thinking about my own social identity when the ideas about the separations between internal and external came to me; the spiritual and the physical you could say. I often struggle with my social identity, and struggle with this struggle as well. I feel l like I know myself quite well, I’ve stretched myself beyond many limitation and recognise some of the ones that continue to hold me back (social identity being one of them). I’m comfortable with my contradictions and I know that my true self goes beyond words. I suspect it’s the social media aspect of identity that causes the most turmoil, but it’s the same when I’m asked by some new person what I do. What do I do?

I do so much, but yet I do so little and on the outside it seems to change so much month to month, year to years. Inside, these changes are small things, I know my path even though I can’t describe it. My path is an spiritual one until I come sit at my computer to use it as entrance into into the marketplace. What you’re reading is the only publicity I have. But in doing so I have to create an identity that I know only scratches the surface of what I’ve actually done while not even scratching the surface of who I really am. It causes me untold misery.

My desire to enter the market place of yoga and esoteric practice is not fed by a desire for money or fame, but merely to remain independent in my spiritual practice. My fierce independence and wandering ways have been both a spiritual blessing as well as a curse. If I could submit to an ashram or some such thing I could have an easy spiritual living, but this is not a long term solution for me. Neither, any longer, are my short bouts of construction work. The only next step I can envision in my physical as well as spiritual evolution is sharing some of my knowledge of yoga and healing and other esoteric subjects. The other problem I face is that many of the practices in these fields demand a kind of secrecy. They’re custom made for the time and place I find myself in and taking them out of that place and putting them into the marketplace or some blog post depreciates their value.

But as long as we go into society, we must identify as something. Our clothes and hair style and even the places we go are clues to our identity. In my case, I write and blog and have desire to bring my knowledge into the marketplace somehow. It’s perhaps this need to identify as something that is the dirtiest part of the marketplace. Or perhaps it’s just my own desire to be a part of it that I find so repugnant.

I have several identities actually. There my internal spiritual true identity. The one those I see in the course of the day experience; this one too arising quite naturally, and then there’s the one’s that are haphazardly crafted on line thru Facebook and WordPress and social media. I try to keep the online identity as close to reality as possible, but you know how it goes, you just can’t describe a full person in a sound bites. Internal identities are expansive while the external ones contract and limit.

And this is one of my greatest fears, that my online identity will not be authentic, but of course it won’t, it’s only a couple kilobytes.

Price of Defeat

What is it that causes so many people in their thirties to suddenly contract unhappiness. They look back on the whole of their life: their achievements, their relationships, their careers and their training and suddenly they decide that none of it is enough. Something vital is still missing. While they were building a life they somehow missed out on life, and at Some point in our thirties we decide that we must go looking for it.

This desire to go searching for that something more is often powerful enough for people to uproot their lives: careers that many only dream of get left behind, marriages come to an end, and many possessions get sold, given away or thrown in the trash-heaps they are for.

We usually don’t know what it is that is missing or to where we must go or what we must do to find it, but suddenly we discover that we must begin listening to our intuition. Or perhaps all the years of repressing our intuition causes it to begin asserting itself through life changes.

YOU ARE THAT! NOT THIS NOT THAT!

Knowledge has bounds, intuition does not. We are much more than the sum of our experiences. We are like a vessel which contains all manifest possibility; infinite potential; a mass of energy conscious of being a mass of energy.

Who we think we are is not who we are. We are beyond our own comprehension.

If this is the case than what is this popular idea of true self? Authentic self? The real?

I hear many stories about lovely successful people who I always thought had it together suddenly breaking down and realizing that they do not at all have it together. Their happiness was a sham, their smiles and laughter masks to cover all that they did not know. Their days, organized for completeness were days of mental chaos, felling success only when triumphing over others and being left forlorn when they must cede success to someone else. We’ve heard it in the movies countless times: “My whole life is a sham.”

But what is a person to do?

I’ve heard the same refrain over and over: “We can’t all just go off to travel India for half the year like you do.”

India has been my path, kindly find your own! I’m not saying that India is not also your path; it is the path of millions of western people (and over a billion Indians). But once here we all have our own paths. None of it would work if we all followed the same path, we’d get in each others way.

And this is much of the problem, we’re all trying to conform to the same path and we’re all getting in each other way. And all this getting in each others way is starting to cause tension and anger. And by the time we hit our thirties we’re completely pissed off, frustrated, and exhausted by life; and now we are ready to listen to our intuition.

An old man once told me that disappointment was a better starting point for the journey within than dreams.

So here we sit in our thirties feeling completely disappointed by life and wanting more. This can’t be it, can it?

A very close friend once confided to me that no matter how much she planned and prepared for the future, she could not feel secure; she always imagined the worst. Above every mutual fund, every dead-bolt, every alarm system and every insurance policy hung a black cloud of “what ifs?” that left her feeling as vulnerable to the future as though she’d done nothing. She knew that the fear was her own burden, but she didn’t know how to drop it.

And then one day it happened! She left her car door unlocked and she came back to find many of her possessions had been stolen. She dropped her guard for a moment and paid the price. But she also realized that she could not be vigilant 24 hours a day; she could not guard against everything. Her fears just dropped away. She didn’t even get angry over having her things stolen; instead she felt only the peace that comes with complete defeat.