Amidst layers of illusions, how do you discover your spiritual identity?
You might be inclined to embark upon the search for your true identity by exploring your ancestry. You may have some defining characteristics that have come through your lineage. You came from their bloodline, so you assume that you might uncover your true identity through the family tree…
But then, the deeper spiritual truth emerges in your mind, as a bright light dissolves the shadows in a darkened room — you realize that your soul is just borrowing your family lineage for this one lifetime. Your identity does not originate in your family tree, and so you will have to look beyond the family tree for your true identity.
Then your attention moves to your past lives, for perhaps they could be considered as pathways to your true identity. Naturally, you are influenced by all your past experiences, and so that seems to be the next likely place to search. But which lifetime shall define your identity? Is it possible that any one of your lifetimes holds the key to your true identity?
Of course, you have had many thousands of experiences through your lifetimes. If you pick one lifetime to define you, why would you pick that one? If it was a preferred lifetime, does that mean that the other lifetimes that were not quite so interesting had no value? Not likely — every lifetime has learning opportunities that have made you what you are today — they contributed to your identity.
Why is it that some people are so thoroughly assured that they were a famous person in their past life? But even supposing that they are correct in their belief, just because you were, for example, Cleopatra, or Napoleon, that is only one lifetime out of thousands. And so, even for the would-be incarnated descendant of Joan of Arc, why focus on that one lifetime as an identity defining lifetime? Are not all your lifetimes defining you, from your soul’s perspective?
Those who are preoccupied with getting their true identity from one particularly notable past life are doing so as a way of compensating for their lack of a clear identity in this current lifetime. But would there even be a need for compensating if you recognized your true essential nature? After all, if you are made of the essence of the infinite divine creator, why would that splendid cosmic substance need to be compensated for?
If you need to compensate for something, and if it is not your spiritual essence that you are compensating for, then what is happening here? Could it be that your spiritual essence is something you know about as an idea, rather than a reality? This is a typical situation, because you are generally given ideas about spiritual reality, rather than methods for attaining states of direct knowing.
Ideas can inspire, but they are rather like a painting — you can look at a painting and get grand ideas as you let it inspire you, but you recognize that you are not living in the painting. A beautiful painting is merely suggesting noble possibilities for you. And this is likely what has happened with your sense of self. You have a grand idea — a painting, so to speak — that you are a divine being, but then your attention is brought back to the realities of your daily life.
Your reality includes your body and its challenges, your many feelings and thoughts that you experience moment to moment, and your life circumstances, in all their imperfections. Well, if that is what you are referring to when you consider your true identity, then it is no wonder that some people are driven to see their true identity as a famous past-life notable. Or the new age counterpart to that, in which you are actually a fabulously wise, beautiful, or powerful divine being in another dimension, or on an amazing space ship.
Of course, for some reason, the people who are actually amazing beings in another dimension seem to have regrettably little access to their other-dimensional splendor, which must greatly perturb them when they look at the endless petty annoyances of their life. And this suggests that this other-dimensional secret identity is yet another way to compensate for a deeper sense of true identity that has gone missing.
Now it may be that there is a limitation in language when you explore the topic of identity, and that is always an issue with making sense of metaphysical matters. After all, if identity suggests something that can be shown in a picture, or described in words, then that could be a source of your confusion. For example…
If you are not defined by your family or ancestors,
If you are not defined by your past lives,
And if you are not defined by your existence in any other dimension,
Well then, perhaps you could you be defined by a specific uniquely personal characteristic. But which characteristic will you pick? And why? Once you are so defined, will you be trapped within a narrow definition? You are much more than a word in the dictionary, and you deserve more than a simple verbal definition.
Would you choose a particular trait to describe your true identity that seems to define your main focus or interest? This might be a worthwhile exploration, at least in defining your values in life, and such things can be useful to know. However, even when you have a list of your highest values, your true identity still remains hidden. This is because traits, values, beliefs, preferences, and any other qualities that may seem to describe you only refer to you, but even with an extensive list, you still haven’t touched your true spiritual identity.
What if you knew that your soul had a special mystical name? You could get a psychic reading revealing your spiritual name, or you could get an aura painting of your soul. These types of readings may well show you something about how a psychic perceives your energy, and these interpretations may help you tune into your essence more easily…
Or not, because if you take them too literally, you are just getting stuck in the same trap that comes from thinking that you are only one trait, one family, one lifetime, or one anything. It seems, then, that psychic interpretations of your soul, though perhaps helping to reveal aspects of your inner nature, are not really showing you your true identity.
So why bother to name the ways that won’t help you uncover your true identity? When you look at what doesn’t lead you there, you can examine how you have unconsciously defined yourself in false and limiting ways. Throughout your whole life, you have been defining yourself through the these influences: your family, your peers, society in general, the mass media, and all the situations in your life.
You have been building your own internal identity file, with thousands of decisions about your identity, year after year. You have been accumulating decisions about your identity every day, and many of these early decisions were made when you were young. Your internal file also includes assessments that other people have made about you and your unique inner values. You never had a chance to question whether you wished to be included in their definitions of reality. For example:
Television commercials that define happy people as those who use particular products,
Movies that define successful people as living or behaving in a particular way,
Friends and family who can’t help questioning you when your thoughts or beliefs go outside the limits of their understanding,
Co-workers, employers, and employees who have their own culture, and who see you in a particular way, compared to their understanding of reality.
All these influences affect your ability to tune into your true identity, because your true identity is more subtle than anything that can be described in words — by you, or by anyone else. And that gives you a clue about why you have been seeking your identity along the wrong paths. You were looking for something that fit into a word, a concept, or something tangible. When you can name it, and see it, such as a family influence, or such as a trait, or a particular lifetime, it is not your true identity.
All these influences are simply that — influences, but not identities. And while you shouldn’t entirely discount influences, they are not your identity. This is because your true spiritual identity cannot be named, and so any attempts to define it, as if your identity were a word in the dictionary, puts you on a path that doesn’t lead to your identity.
And this is the problem with metaphysical studies that use ideas to instruct you. When you are told that you are a soul, and that your soul is divine, then you think that you have information about your true self. Unfortunately, as valid as these spiritual concepts may be — as ideas — they are only referring to truths that can really be known when you access them as inwardly felt states.
This is because without an inwardly felt state of awareness, you are only referring to dictionary definitions of reality. And just as the painting is different from the landscape that it depicts, so too are the spiritual definitions and concepts different from the inwardly-known reality they attempt to describe.
And that means that any attempt to find your identity by describing it leads you into a kind of spiritual confusion. And it creates real problems, too. When you are defined as a soul, and you know that your soul is made from divine substance by the divine creator, then how do you interpret your real life, with your real body, your real thoughts, and your real situations? To make sense of that, you would have to compartmentalize yourself, creating fragments where one fragment is the spiritual one, and other fragments are dealing with the bothersome realities of daily life.
And where are you going to find your true identity amidst these fragments, groping for understanding through words and concepts?
So your true identity is accessed through a felt state. But what is that? Wouldn’t it be easier to just define it, in words, so that you can have the definition, and know, finally, just what your identity is? Well, it doesn’t work that way, because any such definition doesn’t refer to the real you. And if such definitions don’t really refer to your real self, in your real life, what do you do?
You will have to bring your attention to something that will give you a hint of your true identity — a felt sense within you that can not be defined in words, or depicted in a picture.
Now of course, your felt state changes from moment to moment, and that may seem to be a problem when you are looking to define your true spiritual identity. Actually, if you are shifting from moment to moment, then your identity must be shifting too. And there is nothing wrong with that. And yet, it seems rather troublesome, at least for some people, when they recognize that they are shifting, because they suppose that they are going to melt away. But they won’t…
When you recognize that you are shifting from moment to moment, you start to play with that, and you realize, to your delight, that there is something consistent throughout your shifting experiences. And that means that you are not melting away, and it means that you are not wildly fluctuating. These subtle shifts are rather like the gentle changes that take place from moment to moment within a natural setting, such as a forest.
The wind blowing through the trees causes the trees to gently sway, but the trees are not being uprooted by the breeze. And the pine needles are swaying in the breeze, and all the pine needles are swaying at their own pace. And yet, though the thousands of pine needles are each moving in their own way, there is a deeper harmony in their movement. And this deeper order gives you a hint about your own identity.
You are more like the forest, and less like the pine needle. Of course, at times, you may feel like a pine needle drifting amidst the forest of the universe, and at those times you can bring your attention to the forest that you are. And no, this is not to say that your true identity is a forest, so don’t get stuck there. Remember, you aren’t a simple definition. You are an experience, comprising many aspects, all referenced to, and expressing, a deep universal order.
Ah, that is important — you are an experience. Even better — you are the the one who experiences each moment. Let yourself follow the path of that realization. But what are you experiencing? You are experiencing this moment as it evolves into the next moment. And that movement, as it evolves, tells you something about your identity. But when you try to label it, or fix it in amber, or put it in words, it all becomes nonsense.
That is because you can’t define your true identity. That’s the trap, because any attempt to define it pulls you ever farther from your spiritual identity. And so if you can’t define it, how can you ever know your true identity?
How does the forest know that it is the forest? It experiences its forest-like qualities from moment to moment. And that means that it is present, having its forest experience as it ever evolves. It has all the experiences that comprise being a forest, without having to name any particular one as defining the true forest identity.
And of course, you aren’t a forest, but you can learn from a forest. You are having experiences from moment to moment. But can you let the words describing these experiences release from your consciousness? Probably not, at least not entirely. So the words and concepts will be there, but they aren’t your true identity.
And the ideas about what you are will be there too, but the ideas aren’t your true identity. Not that your ideas are invalid, because they are likely interesting and perhaps even useful ideas that you could use in a number of ways. So you note the ideas, but you do not become immersed in them as sources for discovering your spiritual identity.
This leaves you with your non-verbal experience, in its ever-evolving flow from moment to moment. And what you experience there, leaving out the words, the ideas, and the definitions, reveals your true identity. I can’t tell you what that really is, because it isn’t really anything specific that can be defined. And I can’t tell you how you should interpret your experience, because once I do so, it becomes something that isn’t your true identity.
So you can be present with your true identity, from moment to moment, but there is nothing much else that you can say about it. And if you try, you may well create some wonderful poetry or beautiful paintings, and you may inspire people with your insights and visions, and this would be wonderful. But it wouldn’t reveal your true spiritual identity.
If you want to experience your true identity, you’ll just have to be present and notice what is happening within you. And once you think you have it, it evolves again. And yet again. That is all your true identity knows how to do.
So be present with it. And breathe it into your body and heart and mind — because this moment will never come again. And now, the moment is slipping away. But look, here is another one…
Joel Bruce Wallach
Founder, Cosmic Living for spiritual empowerment – tele-classes and home-study mp3’s