I’ve always had a fairly clear view of who I am. By fairly clear I mean a hazy bullet point list and by view I mean a seemingly outside perspective. As outside a perspective as one can obtain whilst living inside one’s own Self.
I’ve always seen myself a certain way. A curious interest laced with the inherent familiarity of actually being me. I’ve been consistently quick to attribute quirks, favorites, flaws and fears to myself. An ever growing or shrinking, depending on the season and mood, bullet point list. I’m not just using this analogy off-handedly, I have a serious affinity for bullet point lists.
The funny thing – and by funny I mean peculiar not har har – is that, of late, I’ve felt this “image” grow hazier and hazier. The picture of myself, bullet point list and all, have begun to feel a bit like the voice on the other end of a warbly phone call. The warped sound reminiscent of coherent words but unintelligible. While my view of myself has become more like a funhouse mirror, the way it feels to be me has become more solid and steady than ever. Despite the disconnect between my head and heart, the asymmetrical formation they’ve assumed, I know exactly what it feels like to be me.
This rather dooms my bullet point list from before. Because the “before” list was written in pen. One thing I detest doing is scratching out what has been written so neatly, its permanence lending it validity. Or so I thought.
I’m a page of contradictions, it seems, pen or no pen. My qualities and characteristics are an eclectic group, something I’ve always rather enjoyed and which comprised a colorful space on my list of self-descriptions. Some of these qualities and characteristics are ingrained, deep-rooted in the sinews of my being, the caverns of my soul. Others are fleeting, I know this from experience and from sensation. I know that, while the vision I hold of my “identity” continues to blur and contort, I feel in my very marrow who I truly am. And it has nothing to do with any bullet points or any list.
That’s not to say the list holds no merit, that the bullet points aren’t achingly real and worthwhile in and of themselves. It’s just the [rather relieving] realization, like the sun slowly creeping up over the horizon to light the dark morning, that these are the least important facets of my connection to myself. That my “identity” is just that, just eight characters enclosed by quotation marks. Who invented quotation marks? Who decided that all these little characters would form words which would have meanings which, when grouped together, would imply grandiose theoretical concepts and philosophical musings?
People did. Human beings. Mere mortals. But we are not characters, we are not words, we are not yoked permanently in specific order to convey weighty meaning. We are more than that. We are indefinable. We are not our hair color, our pants size, our career title, our marital status. We are not a title or a status at all, in any regard, as a matter of fact. That would imply we are merely letters, whose role is to construct meaning of a larger picture. That might sound quite romantic or perhaps nauseatingly philosophical, but the truth is that we are so much more than that. We are the larger picture. Each one of us comprises our own large picture whilst also being a glittering rainbow fragment of the whole Divine piece.
Am I speaking to you?
Let me also clarify that this sweeping statement is not to say that our hair color, pants size, career title, marital status, what-have-you have to be meaningless to us. That’s just like asking the darkness to take a night off, let’s be honest. Sure, there are many sacred beings who are capable of complete vairagya, non-attachment, because they have practiced diligently. But for the average person, yogi or not, there will still be a tugging desire to attribute worth to these things. To answer the question “Who am I?” with these minute details. And that’s okay. That’s part of the practice.
Identifying with those details is one thing, knowing you are not those small titles and yet still acknowledging the ego’s desire to identify with them…that’s something else altogether. I believe it takes strength of spirit and of mind to draw the line between the two and then dance it.
It’s become rather comical to me how parallel my thoughts are to the frequency of the Universe these days, as I wrote about in depth in my last essay. So naturally I wasn’t surprised when I flipped open my latest issue of Yoga Journal for some morning reading and opened straight to an article on ego. There was a blurb illustrating an exercise on how to meditate on the question “Who am I?” I just laughed out loud (I’ve been working on the roots of this piece for a couple of weeks now and wrote half of it last night, before ever seeing this piece). Ah the Divine parallels, they are really everywhere.
Anyways, the point is that this question immediately triggers all sorts of “meaningless” answers. By meaningless I mean temporary and by answers I mean choices. Truly. It’s all a matter of perspective. Every crossroads in you rife, every heartbreak, everything that has led you to right here in this very moment has been a decision. Think about it. In some form or another, it’s been a choice (even if the choice were made subconsciously years prior, there is a ripple effect involved in the ultimate outcome, directing the course of your path). I read a Carl Jung quote yesterday that slips in here perfectly…
“Until you make the unconscious conscious , it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
Is that not totally perfect? We are Divinely guided. We are a thread of awareness, a thread that has continued from the moment of birth until now, one which will continue until we leave these bodies. That is who we are. That sensation. Not the details, titles, roles, descriptions, stats. True identity is that one singular bit of ourselves that is unchanging. Think about that. Everything else about us has changed. Since infancy we’ve grown, gained weight, learned how to speak and write, gained further education, sustained injuries, lost teeth, grown new ones…I could go on and on. Our minds and bodies have been changing since the moment we first breathed air. This will continue until we take our last breath. The one unchanging force is the simple, invisible vibration of being.
We have worked hard to become who we are. Who knows how many lives have led us to this point. How many heartaches, achievements, lessons, moments of confusion, moments of bliss have led us to where we are now? It’s been a journey, I tell you, to be the 25 year old girl sitting here typing this; sitting here in this very skin, thinking these very thoughts, seeing life through the filter I’ve cultivated, acknowledging my fears and doubts in a way that before would have left me facedown on the bedroom carpet.
I have worked hard to become the young woman I am today. And I’m nowhere near done.
Neither are you. Neither is your partner. Or the mailman. Or your boss. We’re all perpetually half-baked (unless, perhaps, you’re a Swami and rapidly approaching enlightenment, but for the purposes of this essay let’s assume you’re not…).
I fought to become who I am. I’ve clawed out of the clammy darkness of despair, I’ve balanced the weight of triumph in the blinding sun, I’ve tolerated the confusion of bobbing in-between the two. I’ve learned to be my own fiercest champion rather than my own harshest critic (a continual lesson learned, a behavior executed better on some days than others…). I’ve seen how swiftly I can tear myself to shreds if I’m not on my side. I’ve seen how indomitable my fortress can be when I’m a stalwart supporter of my own cause…my existence. My survival. My growth. My inquiry.
So when next you ask yourself Who am I? I invite – no, I challenge – you to pause. Resist the urge to pepper the silence with waitress, girlfriend, photographer, woman, man, brother, healer…I challenge you to stand firm in the silence. Let it echo in your eardrums. Let the vibration of the question resonate. Reply only with your awareness. Reply by feeling. Become a living, breathing receptor. A mass of cells, pulsating, poised to transmit the energy of the cosmos. A beautiful expression of Divinity. Feel the frequency you emit. Quite literally, the heart is an electrical system; more subtle is the energetic system woven into your spiritual DNA. Both are firing rapidly on a momentary basis. Tap into this. Let the lightning bolt sensations be your answer. Who am I? Let’s go to the space that listens and find out…