Expanding Identity

As I was lying in bed a few nights ago, a vision formed in my mind that my body was composed of thousands of tiny pieces, like parts of a jig-saw puzzle, and each was moving in it's own direction. Along with this vision came an understanding that everything about me, not only my physical body, but also my thoughts, desires, beliefs, emotions, everything, is constantly changing. So, that what I call "myself" is a moving target, it's never the same, not even from moment to moment.

This vision shed light on something that I've been wrestling with for a long time. One of the keys to making progress in yoga is to develop vairagya, which is a Sanskrit word usually translated into English as "detatchment" or "dispassion". Vairagya means being able to let go, and I've always thought of vairagya as releasing emotional attachment to physical things. Now this vision introduced a deeper meaning: That on a more subtle and important level, vairagya means to let go of clinging to a fixed identity.

Realizing this, it dawned on me that I've been spending an inordinate amount of time and energy trying to hold together a static idea of who and what I am, that "I am like this, and not like that". But I am not static. One moment I'm this way and the next moment another way, and so expecting myself to be unchanging is unrealistic.

Why would I want to define myself like a character in a novel anyway? Fictional characters are not real. They are abstractions of full human-beings created to make a point. I'm a complete human-being with infinite possibilities.

Insisting on making myself into a fixed persona has been a constant source of conflict, stress and emotional pain for me. Pain is a natural result when we are very attached to a certain concept and reality is different from the concept, and it is simply not possible to hold myself, or anything still. Life is in constant motion, adapting, changing, moving, vibrating.

So, for me, it's time to give up striving to be inert, and, instead, to practice subtle vairagya so that my identity can continue expanding to include all that I am.

I'm still telling people that "my name is Randall", and I'm not changing my wardrobe in an attempt to change identities. Rather, the change is internal, and amounts to giving up on trying to keep myself within an imaginary identity-box. Doing this is an immense relief, and at the same time, doing so takes constant vigilance because my habit of a lifetime is to keep creating the box.

Fortunately, I have another habit, trained by years of meditating, of witnessing my mental/emotional process. So, I often notice when the self-defining process kicks into gear. When I do, I take a few moments to relax, breathe smoothly and deeply, and re-visualize my body as composed of those jigsaw puzzle pieces moving in their own directions while saying to myself, "let go, let them move" and I do my best to physically let go and let change occur. I'm very much in process with this. So far, doing so has resulted in a sense of being able to accept constant change in myself and in life with less anxiety.

Do you also try to hold together a fixed image of who and what you are (I'm not talking about a business or professional image)? Have you noticed how trying to do so affects your enjoyment of life? I hope you'll share your experiences and thoughts in comments.


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19 Dec 2021;
07:00PM - 08:00PM
Full Moon Meditation 2020

Pathways to Self-Awareness Book

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