Everyone has multiple identities: You are a son or daughter, perhaps a mother or father, an employee or a boss, or unemployed or self-employed. Identities are traded throughout your life, depending on your circumstances. All that an identity is, is a self-mage, an idea about yourself. Whenever you describe yourself as something—short, smart, absent-minded, creative, playful, foolish—you take on an identity, even for just that moment.
Some identities are held throughout your lifetime. These are usually the ones established in early childhood. They can be the most limiting of all identities because they are the most believed and have the least flexibility around them. They are also the ones you are most attached to and, therefore, the most problematic. The funny (or not so funny) thing is that people are often most attached to the identities that cause them the most suffering. The identities that are most believed are often painful ones.
These and all your other identities need to be examined so that they don’t continue to affect your life unconsciously. One of the difficulties with identities is that there are so many that it is difficult to see them all and examine them all. They pop up like weeds, and you have to keep pulling them, or seeing the falseness of them.
Identities, like all thoughts, are only a problem when they are believed and to the extent that they are believed. If you examine your identities, just as with other thoughts, you can discover their falseness. Once you do that, you are no longer at their mercy. Once you see that an idea is false, it loses its power over you.
However, you may have to see its falseness many times—not just once—before an identity loses its momentum. Like all thoughts, all conditioning, identities have a certain momentum to them. So, even when you have seen through them, they will still arise for a while and still have some power to catch you up. But eventually, if you keep recognizing their falseness, they will stop arising.
What I mean by falseness is that none of your identities is the whole truth. For instance, you may be a father, but that isn’t all you are. You have many more identities, and ultimately you aren’t even those other identities. Or, there may be some truth in saying that you are fearful or unsure of yourself or however else you might describe yourself, but you are never this way in every moment. Such identities must be maintained by continually thinking of yourself that way. If you stop doing that for even a moment, you “become” something else, either another identity or you drop into your true self.
Your identity as a false self is very fluid, very unstable, because the false self depends on giving certain thoughts your attention and belief, and no one can maintain such attention indefinitely. Because your thoughts cannot be sustained, no identity can be sustained. Your thoughts and identities come and go, like masks you put on and take off, although some come and go more often. The false self is an illusion, based on nothing lasting or true.
What is lasting and true and what does not come and go is your true self, your true identity, you could say. Who you are is not based on thought and not known through thought. You are what is beyond all thoughts about yourself, beyond all identities. Your true self has no definition, no face, no self-image, although your mind might imagine one. That’s how it pretends to know something it can never know.
The reason for talking about identities is to point you beyond them. It isn’t enough to replace the negative images of yourself with positive ones. That is helpful—a step in the right direction—but that only gets you so far. Any and every identity is a source of suffering. You can suffer over a positive identity just as much as a negative one. Even the positive identities need to be seen through. Let me explain.
All identities are high-maintenance, especially positive ones. They are difficult to maintain for reasons just mentioned: Ideas about yourself are constantly changing, depending on what is going on, and you have no control over this. If you have a positive identity, then you will be uncomfortable anytime that identity changes into its opposite, which it will. For instance, if you see yourself as doing everything well, then you have to work very hard to maintain that identity. In the end, you won’t be able to, and then you suffer.
It hurts to not live up to a positive identity. This feels like a failure. So, those with positive identities are always struggling with perfection, when such perfection is quite impossible. No one can maintain a positive identity for long, before doubts and experiences challenge that. Then what are you? A failure? Identities swing between positive and negative, and there is no peace in that. There is no peace in the duality of the ego’s world.
There is only peace in moving beyond duality, where you know yourself as neither good nor bad, positive nor negative. The only way to move beyond duality is to realize your true nature, which is at peace with however you are in any moment and holds no evaluation whatsoever, no labels, no expectations, and no blame. No one—no God—is expecting you to be perfect or to be any particular way. However you are is exactly the way you are meant to be—for now.
And, in truth, you can be no other way than the way you are right now, and then that will change. How you are is not really in your hands! The false self pretends that this is, that it can make you be a certain way, but the false self is not what determines anything. The you that thinks it can control how you are is made of mere imaginations.
And yet, you do evolve and learn and grow, and you do become wiser, but that is in spite of the false self. You are much more of a mystery than the thoughts you hold about yourself! You are an ever-changing and ever-unfolding mystery. And you aren’t doing any of it. But something is, and it is doing everything that has ever been done. Just relax in that knowing for a moment.
Acceptance underlies all of existence. Everything about you is accepted by that which is behind life, because you are not separate from life itself—and why would that not accept itself? What good would that do? What purpose would that serve? You are here to learn that same acceptance, as you play at being the false self.
Nonacceptance belongs to the realm of duality. You could say that acceptance belongs to duality as well, since acceptance and nonacceptance are two sides of the same coin. But since all we have to describe the Truth is language, which is inherently dualistic, we have to settle on some words, and one of the words that most closely describes the Truth is acceptance—with no opposite.
Another word for acceptance is love, of course. Acceptance is a quality of love. When you love, you naturally accept, and that is what God, if you will, or the force behind life is. It naturally loves creation, as it lives through creation. It enjoys it all, loves it all, embraces it all, without conditions. When you move beyond all identities, that is the territory you land in, and peace lies there, beyond duality.
Within duality, there is no peace. Therefore, any identity, which always has an opposite, cannot bring peace. When you are in the realm of duality, you are in the ego’s realm, and the ego’s realm is a place of always striving and never arriving. That could be a definition of Hell, don’t you think?
In Greek mythology, as punishment, Sisyphus was tasked with eternally rolling a huge boulder up a mountain, only to have it roll back down just as it got to the top. That is a good metaphor for the egoic state of consciousness: You are never done, you can never rest, you never get there. You are destined to struggle, small and powerless in the face of it all.
It is a good thing this mythological story doesn’t accurately reflect life, although life can feel like that to the ego—and it does. But that is not how life has to feel. Life is more like a game you choose to play for the fun of it, one you can never lose, only enjoy—endless enjoyment and interest instead of endless difficulty and failure. Yes, life is difficult, but your soul loves the challenge and has the resources to overcome those difficulties. In the end—at the end of your lifetimes on earth and often throughout life—you are victorious and your efforts are rewarded.
To love life, you have to learn to take the failures with the successes, the struggles with the victories, the hate with the love, the sour with the sweet. Duality has it all, and God is loving it all through you. Can you feel God’s love for it all? Can you? It is there amidst the complaints and disappointments and desires and dreams. How sweet that you have these as a human, and how much sweeter these are when you know yourself as divine.
Can you feel how lovingly and gently your divine self holds your human self? It so loves being human. Being human is such a brief experience in the scheme of things and all the more precious for that. Let yourself feel how deeply precious this human life is, how much your so-called failings are loved and compassionately held by the Divine within you and the Divine in everything. Love this life! Love it all. You are deeply cherished. Thank you for being here. We are with you always.