Inner  Frontier
Cultivating Spiritual Presence

 

Inner Work


For the weeks of January 28 & February 4, 2019

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Identity

(Spiritual Dynamics: 6)

Our true identity is not what we think. What we think we are includes our patterns of thought and emotion, as well as a set of labels we apply to ourselves. We classify ourselves in a variety of ways: by gender, age, race, religion, by our relationships, by the city, state, or country we inhabit, by our political beliefs, by our financial or societal status, by our tastes in music, art, entertainment, fashion, food and drink, by the level of our education, by our job, our hobbies, and so on. Most of our self-classifications are relatively benign. However, if they cause us to consider ourselves members of a group and to devalue or stigmatize those who are not in that group, then those classifications and group identities are insidious and destructive, not only to society but to ourselves.

Less obviously, all these ways of describing ourselves only concern superficial factors, the very factors that create a self-image of who we are, a false but believable image. This image convinces us that we are all that, that we are this image we have of ourselves. But who we really are transcends all descriptions, classifications and images, in the same way that space itself has no obvious features.

This superficial self-image narrows our view of who we are, shrinks our being, and builds a wall between us and the Sacred, between us and our fellow humans, between us and Great Nature. We can see these self-classification and group-identification dynamics at work in us, drawing us away from our essential unity into a constricted world view.

Notice what your inner voice says, especially when it says "I," "me," or "my." Be assured that anything your inner voice says, associated with those words, is its way of pretending to be who you are, its way of standing in for and usurping the real you. This is how our self-centered, or group-centered, ego gets built and how we come to believe in it. You are not a thought, not even the thought "I."

All the self-applied labels and our inner patterns may well be true, but only as surface-level descriptors of ourselves. So if we are not all that, then who are we? This is not a mystery. When we really look, it becomes more and more obvious.

We are the one who is looking, the one who chooses where to look, where to direct our attention. Look for the root, the source of your attention and your looking will take you to yourself, to where you can be your attention, to where you can be the chooser, to where you can be your will.

We are not our consciousness, not our awareness. We are the one who sees what we see and does what we do. We are the one to whom our consciousness brings all these inner and outer sensory impressions. We are the one to whom our consciousness brings the impressions of our thoughts and emotions. If consciousness is like a video screen, then we are the one looking at the screen and choosing where to point the camera.

Nevertheless, we spend the bulk of our time on autopilot, allowing our patterns, labels, and ego the autonomy to act and experience on our behalf. Thus we tend to ride along, passively non-experiencing, non-choosing our way through life, even though outwardly we may appear very active.

This dynamic between being ourselves and being lost in our patterns and ego determines the quality of our life. The choice available to us in every moment is between living our life or having our life lived for us.

For this week, please look at your own identity.


        

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