Tag Archives: Spirituality

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.

Simple Man in a Book Store

The simple man walked in to a bookstore with an old friend he saw on the street. This old friend was friend of many problems (usually resulting from money or women). Today, his problem was women (the plural is intentional). As they walked into the shop, their conversation ceased as they both focused on finding their respective sections.

The simple man, after making sure no one was really paying attention, browsed his way to Spirituality. The old friend of many problems went straight to the best sellers.

While the simple man was looking for a good book on eastern philosophy, he didn’t notice the colourfully clad older women burst into the self help section with loose clothing and shawl material fluttering everywhere until it was too late.

She had no respect for the silence of a bookstore. The colourfully clad older woman immediately started talking to the simple man about auras and spirits and cosmic energies. She showed him the crystal she wore around her neck and warned him about theoretical religions and motioned to the Bibles and Korans and Upanishads that rested on the shelf in front of him.

Before the simple man could ask her what the hell she was talking about, the friend with many problems came over with a few books in his hand to ask the simple man if he’d read any of them. The simple man had not.

The colourfully clad older women, who already considered the simple man to be one of her dearest friends, warmly introduced herself to the friend with many problems.

As the three of them fell into conversation – the colourfully clad older woman spoke and the two men responded appropriately when necessary, — a man, not too old, but with an air of distinction about him, was standing on the other side of the book shelf looking at the history books.

When the colourfully clad older woman started talking about active knowledge and passive knowledge, the simple man and the not too old of man on the other side of the shelf started listening more closely. The friend with many problems was beginning to see this woman as a problem to be overcome. She was talking in a fast, loud, cheerful manner like a schoolgirl who had fallen in love and wanted to declare it to the world.

She said that all the books in the room represented passive knowledge. Most of what we learn in school is also passive knowledge; facts and theories and even ideas that read about or are told. Active knowledge is, of course, the knowledge we gain from actively doing something. We learn how to play hockey by playing it, fix a car by fixing one, we learn how to walk by doing so. We can, she said, be actively spiritual or passively spiritual, adding, as though obvious to all, that the masses who are following the dominant religions are passive spiritualists.

The not too old of man, who had been listening with interest, and had already been implicitly included in the conversation was becoming offended. He was a Christian who sometimes went to church on special occasions, but had a good friend in the theology department at the university. He routinely ready the bible with his family, and followed the catechisms – except, of course, where they were obviously outdated. And, he believed himself to be actively spiritual: he helped strangers in need and gave to several charities.

The friend with many problems, who didn’t want to be having the conversation, had grown up in the Catholic school system even though his parents never had anything to do with religion. One school he went to for a few years was particularly disciplinarian with emphasis on “fire and brimstone.” The friend with many problems didn’t care for any of it. He preferred Darwin.

The simple man admitted that he was, perhaps, “if I understand correctly,” passively spiritual with a preference for nature and his own thoughts about things that come to him from experience and the ideas of great minds. He didn’t necessarily believe in god, just in existence and the universe.

The colourfully clad older woman, was thinking about her time in India when she followed a ritual of setting out flowers and incense upon an alter before sitting to chanting in the temple with large groups. Her days were filled with meditation and messages of love from the guru.

The simple man listened quietly as the colourfully clad woman told her story, but the not too old of man had begun to smile like he’d just thought of a great joke. He asked the colourfully clad older woman about the incense and flowers and temple and alter –things he called “window dressing.” The colourfully clad older woman said that these things were to purify the area and call upon the power of specific gods or energies.

The not too old of man thought it was ridiculous that smoke or flowers or music or idols could make a person more spiritual. This stuff is all nice, creating a nice atmosphere will help you relax and think more clearly, but he, himself had the comforts of home and the warmth of his children to create a relaxing atmosphere. The simple man had his mountains and lakes; which, the not too old of man thought, was the ideal place for spirituality. Nothing surpasses nature for making a person feel awe and beauty and wonder, except, perhaps, his children’s smiles, but these too were so beautiful because they were so natural, so sincere. He thought these things while the colourfully clad woman plead her case.

The simple man hadn’t been listening, his friend with many problems had snuck off at some point, and the simple man was scanning the room for him without luck. The colourfully clad older woman was still talking but could see that no one was listening. Pausing in her speech she turned to the shelf, forgot what she’d been saying, snatched a book of the shelf, and, as if suddenly out of breath, bid the men farewell and hurried off to the counter to pay.

The simple man and the not too old of man watched her walk away in silence. She was gone from them so suddenly that they had no time to accustom themselves to each others company, and without saying anything just looked at each other and continued browsing the books.

Just then the friend with many problems walked up with a book he was going to buy: “Know your Horoscope.”