What is ‘my’ identity made of?

What is your identity? Do you have identity or are you the identity?

Are you a human, a man, a mother, a hard worker, a good or respectful member of society? Are you the daughter or son of your father and mother?

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Have you ever really seen your mother or father? Have you ever got real interaction with them or have you just been interacting with ‘your’ story about them?

What are your parents? Do they really exist independently from ‘your’ interpretation? Or are they just thought stories appearing in the moment? Are the stories about ‘your parents’ part of ‘your’ identity?

What would you be without the stories of ‘your father’ and ‘your mother’?
Would you BE?

‘My father’ is just a story, a mental construct with associated attributes.
My mother is who I believed her to be.
My parents don’t exist without ‘my’ interpretation.
The bodies that are called my parents are real*, but all their attributes and characteristics are projected by ‘me’.

Every time I meet with my father (or just think of him), the whole story about ‘my father’ is projected onto him, and all my reactions and behaviours towards him are the result of reacting to this image of ‘my father’, and not to that body that is called ‘my father’.

And it is not only about my father. I react to everybody – who resembles ‘my father’ even just the slightest (my boss, my neighbour or the high school teacher) – as if they were ‘my father’. When this projection happens and the story is believed, and therefore resulting reactions arise – the sense of ‘me’ emerges.

‘I’ live through these stories. ‘I’ live through projections.

‘My father’ is part of ‘my’ identity.
My identity is nothing more than a collection of stories appearing as content of thoughts in the present moment.
Without these stories, ‘I’ don’t exist. ‘I’ live only in stories.
My parents are ‘my’ faces looking back from the mirror.
I am the story about my parents.
I am ‘my parents’.

Two individuals can never really meet. I cannot see you, I cannot hear you, because I can only see and react to ‘my’ story about you. The whole world is ‘my’ projection. Nothing exists without ‘me’.

There is no ‘you’; I can see only ‘myself’ in ‘you’.
‘You’ are just an image in the mirror reflecting back ‘myself’.
‘I’ am both the projector and the projected image.
‘You’ are ‘me’.

* (the body appears real in conventional reality, but not in direct experience)

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What is resisted is strengthened

One of the natural tendencies of the human ‘mind’ is to label and interpret whatever arises in this moment. This mental narrative is not problematic by itself, and it is not necessary (or even possible) to get rid of it. Wanting the ‘mind’ to stop labelling or thinking is completely futile. It won’t happen, at least not for long.

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There are millions of labels that can be attached to anything that appears in this moment, but in general, these tags are either about approaching or avoiding what has just arisen. It is either put into the category of desired (positive) or undesired (negative). Things are rarely interpreted as neutral, and even when it happens the ‘unimportant’ tag comes with it, so it is ignored and forgotten quickly.

Let’s say, I have an important appointment at 9am, but I have been stuck on the motorway for an hour now because the car has broken down, so it is certain that I cannot be there on time. This situation is definitely labelled as bad and undesirable. As time goes on, the body gets more and more tense and ‘I feel terrible’ due to a mental story that has emerged around the situation. The contraction in the body is uncomfortable, so I want to get rid of it. I try to relax and push my thoughts away, but in vain.

When something ‘unpleasant’ happens, there is a habitual tendency to avoid it. However, the avoidance itself strengthens what was intended to be eliminated. The more ‘I’ want to get rid of something, the better ‘I’ get attached to it.

The ‘reason’ behind this phenomenon is that when I want to get rid of something it means that its ‘reality’ is already approved. I would not want to eliminate something if I had not believed that thing is real and true. And when something is believed to be true, how could it be obliterated?

Thus, the body cannot relax while the labels about the situation is believed and taken seriously. It does not mean that ‘you’ have to love the situation and happily cover it up with a positive affirmation: “How good it is, I have just lost a thousand dollars because I could not get to the meeting. I am so happy”. Overriding resistance with ‘positive thinking’ won’t help either.

The liberation is hidden in the core belief (label) — ‘this is bad’. The current circumstances are completely neutral, only the conditioned thought-tags suggest otherwise. ‘I’ project meaning onto the situation.

The car has broken down. I am stuck on the motorway. I won’t be able to get to the meeting. So, I’ve just lost a thousand dollars. – These are ‘facts’. No matter what I do, no matter how hard I want to redo it or undo it, IT IS AS IT IS.

And even the labelling nature of the ‘mind’ is part of the flow. When the story is seen and not believed, the movie of ‘my’ life is watched without identifying with the main character, ‘I’.

Arguing with what IS, is totally futile.
Arguing with what IS, is a conditioned habit.

What is resisted is strengthened.
Resistance is a guaranty for suffering.

Whatever IS, I don’t want it

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Humans are almost always not satisfied with what IS. This dissatisfaction can fluctuate on a spectrum from mild discomfort to full blown suffering, and can be artificially divided into two categories.

Probably the most unbearable sufferings can come from self-referencing beliefs, which are the building blocks of ‘our’ seeming self-image or identity with a core belief in ‘my’ incompleteness, unworthiness, unlovingness, guiltiness or whatever it might be – because deep down most of us ‘feel’ we are somehow not good enough, not complete; something is missing. But is this really the case? Is it really true? Where is this apparently deficient self? Where?

The other type of suffering is much more subtle; it is a constant arguing with what IS. No matter what is in this moment, but one thing is sure: ‘I do not want it’. Either I want the previous moment back or the next moment, but definitely not THIS. But actually, the statement ‘this moment is not good enough’ – is just a thought, nothing more.

256In the morning at breakfast, there is a fantasy about how good biking will be later in the afternoon. However, when biking happens, the mind wanders imagining eating the cooled watermelon from the fridge when I will be at home. Later, while eating the watermelon, thoughts come up demanding to check the emails. When reading the emails happen, it is labelled by the mind with a thought as boring, with an accompanying fantasy about how much better biking around the lake in the afternoon was.

Meanwhile, the sense of ‘me’ is sustained by being lost in the story of ‘my’ life. And the whole story revolves around only one character, called ‘me’. The ‘I’ is the centre of the universe, centre of its own projection. Everything is interpreted through the filter of a huge web of beliefs that constitutes the self.

The sensations in the legs while pushing the bike, the pumping of the heart in the chest, the warmth of the sun and the stroke of the breeze on the skin, the sight of the glimmering lake and the sounds of the twittering birds, the coolness of the watermelon in the mouth – are all lost and replaced by a dream

There is a constant dissatisfaction with what IS.
Because in this moment ‘I’ do NOT exist.
In this moment, without a mental commentary, there is no self to be found.
The ‘me’ lives only in thoughts.

But the thoughts or the stories by themselves are not problematic, only believing them creates the illusion of their realness. In direct experience, there are just thoughts and images passing by – empty, meaningless. Their meanings emerge only when they are believed and not seen for what they are – simply just thoughts.

Suffering comes from resisting what IS.
Without resistance there is no suffering.
Without arguing with what IS, there is peace.

I cannot make you feel happy… it’s impossible…

137Can I make you feel happy or sad? Do I have the power to have an effect on your mood or feelings?

Assume that I am on the verge of telling you that I want to end our relationship, but I am not brave enough to bring the topic up because I am afraid of hurting your feelings. But do I really have the power to hurt anybody’s feelings?

If I leave you, you may feel sad, abandoned, angry or unloved. But is it true that I am the cause of your suffering? Can I make you suffer?

If I believe that I can do all of these to you, it means I am believing a story about my omnipotence. In the current version of the story of my life, I am playing god.

I have no power whatsoever on anybody’s feelings. It is literally impossible.

If you think that I am responsible for you feeling unloved and abandoned, it means that you project your own self-image onto me and blame me for your misery.

While the belief in the deficient, unloving self is intact, each person and situation reflect back, in one way or another, some version of this core belief. You cannot see me, you cannot hear me, because you perceive me and the whole world through this lens. No matter whether I treat you lovingly or not, you will see and interpret my actions as unloving.

When I decide to leave you, you find this as a proof of your unlovingness, which in turn, fortifies the core belief of the incomplete, unloving self that is the basis of your identity. Thus, it is projected outward again and again and making others responsible for your own creation.

You cannot see me; you only see your story about me, which is your story about ‘your’ self.

Reality is neutral. In the action of leaving you there is no inherent attributes of pain, abandonment or lack of love. Only your story about ‘me leaving you’ hurts you. Your thoughts are hurting you, not me. I cannot do that.

But if I believe that I can hurt you then I create my own suffering by feeling guilty or responsible for your feelings. I do this to myself by projecting the belief of my incomplete self onto you, which will be reflected back to me, and thus the story of the deficient self keeps going.

‘You’ and ‘me’, we are not that special.
‘I’ have no power to do anything with ‘you’.
Only ‘you’ can hurt yourself by believing ‘your’ story.
By believing that there is a ‘you’ that could be hurt.

What would you be without ‘your’ story?
Would ‘you’ be?

Why do we have a need to enhance our self-image?

It is commonplace in our culture that we try to improve our self-image in many different ways. Many people attempt to enhance their self-esteem by positive thinking, different types of therapies, or being nice and follow social norms to fit in, in order to get approval by others.

230The ‘I’ is constantly seeking appreciation in some way or another and feels it has to make an impression on others to make them like ‘me’. It is trying to push an image to imprint into others’ minds, how it wants them to see ‘me’ and think about ‘me’.

We relentlessly try to improve our self-image, because deep down most of us feel we are not OK, we are not complete; something is missing. We push our desired self-image forward to win others over. ‘This is how I want you to see me’. The irony is that this image that depicts how I want you to see me is the exact opposite of how I see myself.

So, who do I want to convince that I am better than I think I am?
You or me? Is there any division between ‘you’ and ‘me’?

Without believing that there are two solid, separate selves, ‘you’ and ‘me’, the ‘I’ could not feel better or worse than ‘you’. Without comparison there is no division.

The ‘I’ wants to improve its self-image because there is a belief in an incomplete, deficient self. This belief can take many forms: ‘unlovable me’, ‘unworthy me’, ‘ugly me’, ‘I am not good enough’, ‘I am not successful enough’, ‘something is wrong with me’, ‘I am not strong enough’, and so on. The list is endless.

The illusion of the self is constructed from millions of beliefs, but the belief in the incomplete, deficient self has the strongest and most enchanting effect of all. This core belief is the basis of ‘our’ so called self-esteem and identity. All relationships reflect back this central belief, because the mind cannot help but project all its content ‘out there’. And since the world mirrors back the incomplete self, the reflection seems as a proof for validating its deficiency. As a result, the core belief is fortified and kept in place.

No matter how hard we try to override the belief in the separate, deficient self by positive thinking, or spending hundreds of hours in meditation or in different practises, the suffering is guaranteed.

But the existence of a deficient self is just a belief.

When this core belief is seen for what it is – just an unexamined thought taken seriously – it naturally falls away. But for the ‘I’ this can be frightening, since this belief is the basis of its ‘existence’.

Without believing in the incomplete self, there is no self, there is no ‘I’ to be found.

There is no need to enhance ‘my’ self-image and imprint onto ‘your’ mind to make a desired impression. Self-image and self-esteem become empty words, not referring to anything real.

Beliefs – the building blocks of ‘our’ identities

026There is a freedom not believing any thoughts. Attachment to beliefs is the origin of suffering. Some people are even ready to die for their beliefs. But why are beliefs so precious for us? What are beliefs anyway?

Assume that you have just arrived home after a day of work. Your mind is full of the story of the happenings of the day, how your boss treated you unfairly and how bad the traffic was on the way home. The only thing you want is to lie down on the couch and tell ‘your’ story to your husband. You want him to listen to you and comfort you. As you start outpouring the intricate details of the happenings of your day, your husband suddenly interrupts you and instead of standing on your side he defends your boss. Immediately, you feel angry and frustrated due to the thought that has just popped-up ‘in your head’, ‘my husband never listens to me’. This single thought triggers a loop of other ‘disturbing’ thoughts; a very familiar and conditioned story that you thought thousand times before. ‘He doesn’t care about me, because if he cared about me he would have listened to me and stood by my side instead of making me wrong.’

‘He never listens to me’ or ‘He doesn’t care about me’ are just conditioned beliefs. Beliefs are nothing more than unexamined thoughts which are believed to be true, to be the accurate description of what IS.

Beliefs are very important for the ‘I’, because beliefs are the building blocks of ‘me’.

The ‘I’ never sees what is, because it always tries to interpret what IS according to what it learned previously, what this or that means to ‘me’. Everything is filtered through a huge web of beliefs before the interpretations and assumptions about what IS arise.

When we are talking and I believe the thought that ‘you never listen to me’, then I stop listening to you. I stop hearing what you are saying, because the thought in ‘my’ head overrides what you are saying. I cannot hear you, I cannot see you, I can only hear ‘my’ thoughts I believe about you, and see the constructed image in ‘my’ head of you. So the belief that ‘you never listen to me’ overrides what is presently here, in the now.

When you say something that contradicts ‘my’ belief systems, the ‘I’ hears them as a criticism not as a help, because it feels threatened. In defence of ‘my’ beliefs – which are the building blocks of ‘my’ identity – the mind wants to gather ‘proofs’ to support its existing belief systems, and not to take part in uncovering or destroying them.

And when you interrupt and override me is not just simply a conditioned habit, but a defence. You try to defend your point of view what you believe is ‘your’ self. You are not simply interrupting me; you are literally fighting for your life in that moment, fighting for ‘your’ identity.

Observing, examining and questioning beliefs cut through the attachment to them.

The self is ‘made of’ beliefs.
Without believing the content of beliefs, there is no self to be found.
This is freedom. This is freedom from suffering.