“I actually don’t know who I am” – Identity and the realised Self

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Tat twam asiThat thou art, or, you are That.
Chandogya Upanishad

Who am I? Why am I here?

From the moment we are born, we are thrust into a world consumed with identity. You are given a name and described based on how you look, where you live, where you got your education, what you do, your possessions, where you’ve been, who you associate with, what you like to listen to, read, watch, eat, drink, wear etc. etc. etc. We can also fall into the false belief that we are our current circumstances, our present life situation. You just need to look at social media to see how much of our individual identity is based on how we like to fit in, how we would like others to perceive us. That our identity can be summed up in our own Facebook status update, or worse, in the update of a bullying troll. When we continue to identify with our “small self”, it only increases our sense of separation from others. This can lead to feelings of isolation and belief that that’s all there is.

Yoga teaches us that even in this lifetime a person can shift their identification with their small self – the jivan, to the enlightened, cosmic Self – the atman. There are many practices to help bring about this shift such as chanting, meditation, or studying uplifting texts – the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita and Autobiography of a Yogi all speak about clarity to see beyond “otherness”. You can go to Yoga class where you can be present in the moment and practice acting consciously, rather than unconsciously, which often causes regret, guilt or more attachment. If you’ve ever been to a Satsang, or a gathering of a group of people who are all interested in enlightenment, chances are you would have worn white clothing. Wearing white represents purification of the Self. Personally, I feel it is a profound feeling to attend Satsang; Wearing white removes all of the illusion we get caught up in, so all that is left is the true nature of those around you – everybody is truly beautiful!

My teacher, Sharon Gannon, talks of other easy ways to realise the eternal Self, practices we can do everyday. She explains “becoming comfortable in our own skin, with who we are as a person, with our relationships with others and the experiences of our life. No one can escape their destiny. A person must acknowledge the karmic seeds they have planted in the past and when they come to fruition do their best to work through the ripening process.” What this means is to acknowledge what you have done in the past but act in this moment to work through it and create the happiness you wish to see. Strive to become more “other-centred”. Practice compassion, kindness and forgiveness because taking care of others shifts the focus from yourself. When you have more concern for the joy and wellbeing of others you no longer seek blame or look to complain as your obsession with yourself decreases. Love surrounds you. It’s said then that you no longer see “otherness” but just the oneness of Divine Love, your true identity.

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