When we first meet someone, our gender, race, and age range are usually obvious. To that we add 2 pieces of information – our name and our occupation.
For many people, these bits of information are key parts of their identity. What I Am and What I Do. Our sense of purpose, our role in society, and our relationships with many revolve around this. We often add what we think others think of us, like handsome, not good enough, rich, and so forth. And yet, all of this is nothing but a story. Markers to categorize people like objects.
For example, if someone tells you they’re an accountant, that will trigger lots of associations that astronaut wouldn’t. But are all accountants the same?
Why do we take this stuff so seriously? It gives us a sense of control, a sense we know, a sense the world is safe.
As the spiritual awakening process has a tendency to amend such conceptions, it can lead to curious experiences and social conundrums.
What do I say when I am not this person?
What do I say when I have ceased to engage in action, simply observing the world?
What do I call myself when there is no person to name?
What do I say when life is my occupation or “job” is meaningless?
And so on.
These are transitory states we may go through. Others as well. For some, little of the outside changes with inner changes. For others, the outside changes with the inside.
Of course, the usual is to come up with a simple story so we have something to say socially. Saying “I am That” may just confuse people. (laughs) Nor is it usually useful to be rude about others identity. Namaste? Sure, but telling a stranger their identity is a delusion? That’s not meeting them.
As Maharishi Mahesh Yogi once said, “See the job, do the job, stay out of the misery.”
Strangely, our stories about who we are can interfere with who this person actually is. Our stories and laws of nature don’t always align. We can spend decades “searching for purpose” when we can’t not be living it. But when it’s not conscious, we can get in the way of it or move away from it because we don’t have the details right.
For example, we see we’re good at helping people understand and become a teacher. But that role is a struggle. We’re good at one-on-one but not with classroom management. Turns out we’re a counselor, not a teacher.
Life can be a funny dance of self-discovery.