You probably start out with things like, gender, relationship, educational status, work definitions. Most people do.
Some, who think themselves a bit smarter, say the very New Age-y thing: “Why I’m a spiritual being having a human experience.” They always smile proudly when they say it. I used to, I know that.
Who is this I?
It is true that it is not the physical body I inhabit, or at least use for now.
There is a very zen sort of meme that goes something like, “if you can observe it, it ain’t you.” I see the tree, I’m therefore not the tree.
This sort of thing is most useful when trying to separate ourselves from our thoughts. I perceive the thought, therefore it is not me. I can perceive the “sadness” therefore I’m not sad, the thought is sad. Step away, observe, rise above.
Yet this gets us no closer to the core of “me” it seems.
What I am not is useful, but not particularly enlightening. Some suggest that when you rip away all that you are not, you get to non-self which is our true state of being. Others say, we cannot exist as non-self.
Who to believe?
Oh heck, how should I know?
Whoever I am as can be described is not me. Not by my choice that is. Not freely chosen at least.
Okay. Let’s start at the beginning.
You were born.
Whatever circumstances existed you reacted to. You cried, you nuzzled, you slept, you smiled, frowned, you made sucking noises.
People responded to that reaction in some fashion, either in ways that you liked or disliked. They responded to your response. And so on and so forth.
And through it all, you formed a “personality” which was the result of what they “liked” and therefore rewarded, or didn’t like and therefore punished. You had a certain configuration of genetic material that predisposed you to like some things a bit more than somebody else might, and to dislike other things a bit more than someone else might. You took a certain amount of punishment to maintain X, and retreated quickly and gave in on Y.
You lived in some circumstances wherein conformity was or wasn’t important, where being independent was or wasn’t important, where sharing was more or less necessary, where taking turns was or wasn’t essential. All this shit, countless examples and how strongly you needed or didn’t need to adapt based on how willing you were to “face the music” of disapproval shaped your personality.
It became the YOU you think of as you.
It became the YOU others think of as you.
Thousands of people and events impacted you and still do, and you react in slightly different ways than the person next to you.
By the way, the YOU you think of as you, and the YOU others think of as you, are rarely much alike. You know that. Nobody understands you. Your parents didn’t, your spouse doesn’t, your children don’t, nor does your best friend. They all do to a degree, and some more than others, but we, at some unhappy point, realized that nobody could get “inside our skin” and feel what we really feel.
Along the way of course we got to believe that we were the person so constructed. We began to believe our own “story” and sadly we believed all too often the story others developed of us. That’s why teens are so hell-bent on being “accepted” and fall into peer pressure as surely as rain falls down and not up.
The first hard part is not giving a shit what others think of “you”.
A man, whom I barely know, who is a staunch conservative is illustrative. We went to the mat on a host of public issues like climate change, minimum wage, health care. He took to being quite personal in his attacks, calling me stupid, and he told me that my style of arguing (he called it aggressive) was why people didn’t like me.
Now, such talk from a teen-aged boy I would understand, but from a 60+ aged man, I found amusing. He was shocked to learn I didn’t care whether people liked me, and quite frankly, given those he referred to as the one’s who didn’t were like him, I’d have been mighty upset if they had. I wouldn’t want “friends” like him.
Part of this, “who cares what you think” comes with age. Aging people should have much less time to waste on people whose opinions they don’t value anyhow.
But part is applicable to any age. Since nobody really knows us, why should their opinion (which is mostly wrong) matter at all?
That’s the first obstacle to overcome it seems to me.
The second is the hardest–letting go of this false facade of who we think of as our self and discovering who we really are.
That involves the hard work of as I said near the beginning of divorcing ME from all that baggage of thoughts and feelings that are wrapped around that created personality. They almost always involve past events and future worries. I am the one who directs traffic, or at least I should be doing that.
I am the watcher. I am the one who is silent witness to all these goings on.
I am the one who is eternal and connected to all things.
I am the one who seeks the patterns and flows with them with ease.
I seek the right choice at the right time in the right circumstances.
I am free, unconstrained by fear.
Sit with that for a while.