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Being Identified

Question: Can you explain what it means to be identified, and how it keeps us from seeing the Truth?

Answer: When you think that who you are is connected to something you are not, you have identified with it. To make this clear, think about how you felt the last time you accidentally scuffed your brand-new shoes or tore your brand-new pants. It felt like it was you who got damaged! Remember? That's what it means to be identified with something or someone. It hurts! None of this is too difficult to understand when it comes to things outside of us; but when it comes to the word "I," suddenly the mental fog rolls in.

When you think of yourself, when you say the word "I," there is a great storehouse of accumulated memories and experiences that rush forth forming an almost solid wall of thoughts and feelings. In that moment of thinking about your "self," you feel real because as these waves of your accumulated past wash through you, it gives you the feeling of being you; but this feeling is only a temporary condition. No matter how many times or how strongly you may feel it, this sensation of "I" is not you. You are not your past. You have only become unconsciously identified with it at that moment. It is your identification with these sensations that provides you with a convincing but nevertheless temporary sense of self. This false identity/self is a borrowed life; it is derived from something that in itself is only temporary.

The Truth tells us that we must never borrow anything -- let alone our Identity. No wonder Real Life seems to have lost that vibrant quality of being new every moment. We only thought we were living a Real Life! Trying to find and own your True Self while living in and from this borrowed, counterfeit identity is like waiting for the sun to come out in a deep subterranean cave. There is lots of excited anticipation, but none of the light and warmth that comes with True Self-Realization.

Question: This week I attempted to help a severely injured deer who appeared in my garden... I have not been able to get the picture of that deer out of my head. Why does such awful stuff exist in this world? What am I supposed to learn from this?

Answer: Try to see the truth of the following: This pain that you are in over the pain you see in an animal is purely the product of negative identification. The animal itself may suffer a physical pain, but if you've ever watched such injured creatures, you know they do not suffer psychologically. Drop this identification and you will drop the despair it creates.

Question: Mother Theresa once said, "The more you have, the less you have to give." Would it be good for us to be poor? Why do physical possessions seem to have this "corruptive" nature that is so antithetical to the spiritual life?

Answer: In a word: identification. Now add to this idea what it means to be attached to things. We are never attached to the objects themselves; rather we are attached to the sense of self we derive from our ideas about these objects as to what they "make us." Goodness has nothing to do with either poverty or wealth relative to this world and its possible possessions. There is a poverty that true spiritual aspirants discover, but it has nothing to do with ownership or the lack of it. This poverty is the discovery that we had mistaken ourselves to be something we were not. This realization is the beginning of real riches.

Excerpted from Seeker's Guide to Self-Freedom

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