What is Self-Identification?
Know that all that you do today and that frustrates you are only roles that you are playing. You can turn it around anytime you wish
Our lives revolve around the identity we build for ourselves. This self-identification process starts when we are mere infants. It is based on how we perceive ourselves and the world. And our emotional, mental and physical responses to all that surrounds us.
Yoga psychology holds that a process of “re-identification” is necessary if we want true and lasting wellbeing. It is because we are so entrenched in the identity we hold about our body, mind, job, career, relationships, etc. that we fall slave to an imaginary non-existent persona we ourselves have created. Much of our unhappiness lies in the fact that we hold onto the elusive, transitory facets of our existence hoping to wish them into eternity. We want the good to last forever and what we dislike to disappear for good too.
But, yoga tells us, there is another facet to our being, which is unchanging, calm and permanent. This is our true nature, the very core of our being. When we are able to perceive our mind and body as mere indications of a far greater inner reality, which is the very core of our existence. Once we are able to touch this aspect of ourselves, then meditation becomes spontaneous and ongoing.
The ability to step back from our idea of ourselves and to be able to witness, however briefly, our own mind and body as though from the outside will help us gain foresight into our true nature. Gradually, this practice calms us on all levels of our being and meditation arises from within.
When we are asked who we are, a common answer is to reply with regard to our profession or educational training. For e.g., we say we are engineers, doctors, plumbers, sportsperson, housewives… But these are things we do, they are not what we are.
This kind of ‘I’ refers merely to a temporary phenomenon. Like an ageing actor’s attachment to good looks and fame or a mother to her children. We are none of these things. Being mere temporary roles, we attach ourselves to them emotionally and cause strife to ourselves. This is exactly the same as when we say that we are hungry. It’s a false statement as the body is hungry not we ourselves. When we are able to understand this, we’ll have taken a great step towards our inner core.
We do the same with our emotions. We consider ourselves tired, sleepy or depressed, when its only our outer personality, a fleeting moment in time, that feels that way. If we are able to, we can choose to look within and see how the unchanging Self at our core is not under the influence of any of these emotions, but instead a silent, tranquil witness to the world around us.
These emotional states arise and disappear almost instantly, like waves on the seashore. One moment we feel attraction and friendship for someone and in a trice that’s converted to hatred and enmity. This state of constant change is confusing and weakens our ability to see clearly and our capacity to make good decisions. Here again the witness stands apart, observing this state of flux, with the idea that, my mind feels angry, elated or friendly. Our true self is never subject to any of these permutations.
We are able to watch our bodies and our minds from a detached perspective. Otherwise, how do we say things like, “I am feeling great or tired”, or “I have gained weight” or “lost some”. There is a faculty within us that can watch the body and the mind as external objects that are in flux. The real ‘I’ within, is our awareness. The awareness that illuminates all that happens within and around us.
When we are able to develop this awareness through attention, we would be able to be involved with life in a truly holistic manner. And also to engage our body and mind to their greatest abilities. Our actions and thought processes would also stop sabotaging our own functioning and we would be healthier, thus happier.
The aim of spirituality
The entire aim is to shift the focus from where we are to the centre of consciousness, the real ‘I’. This path may take years, even lifetimes to perfect, but there are numerous, astonishing rewards along the way. Long before we reach our goal, we find ourselves change completely. The things that triggered us have no hold on us anymore, we can retain our calm and strength in situations that earlier made us feel anxious and stressful.
As these experiences become more frequent, they take the focus away from the little ‘I’, towards a more enriching life experience. Even though it is a long path, the rewards along the way – even with the slightest effort – are countless.
Know that all that you do today and that frustrates you are only roles that you are playing. You can turn it around anytime you wish and decide to find joy and happiness in whatever you’ve decided to take on. This creates a stronger, more determined will and a resplendent character, which others in our life will notice and will make them want to come closer to us, even if unconsciously.
Knowing that these actions and roles do not belong to your core self, but the ones you choose to do make you happy, relaxes the mind and body profoundly, giving it more power and grace than ever before. As these increase, there will be more force available to remain longer ‘in the witness’ or in the role of an actor or passer-by.
At first we may only understand these ideas intellectually without having a true experience of them. That we are not this body, nor mind, nor emotions, nor intellect. All these are instruments, gifts to our true Self so as to be able to express ourselves with love, dignity, friendship and nobility in this fleeting samsara – world. Gradually the understanding dawns that we are a part of that whole, which we call God.