How do I identify myself?

One of the things we humans are really good at is identifying difference. Our eyes can see millions of colours and shades, our ears can hear a pin drop and this helps us to define our environment and has undoubtedly increased our survival rate.

Linguistically we have produced 1000’s of ways of communicating the differences we see and reaching agreement about what is happening in our world. The languages we speak range from simplistic clicking sounds to more complex tongues such as Sanskrit.

We see things, we name things and we agree, or not on the words we use, that is how language develops.

There is another factor in the way we identify the world, a dividing line if you like, that gives me a tool to navigate the world in which I find myself. That tool is the line between what is inside of me and what is outside. My interior and my exterior realities. This line is a meditative tool and not always an easy one to use. I need to be aware of myself and the world simultaneously. A dual perspective if you like.

Only I know who I am!?

Something Jesus said rings true for me in response to this question. I’m not asking you to believe in Jesus here just quoting my sources. He said “I am in this world but I am not of this world” I believe this is identifying a part of our being, one we all share. The “Interior individual” as It appears on a four quadrant map. This is the unique part of me, the part of me which knows it is me.

Meditation is useful for getting to know this part, vital in any attempt to get to know myself. Meditation teaches me I am not my thoughts as my thoughts come and go. It also teaches me I am not my emotions as they come and go too. Who I am changes over time and paradoxically there is an unchanging part, a core self if you will.

Other questions to consider might be: ”When did I begin?”, “When do I end?” And “Where do I go when my body dies?”

Do I always get to choose my identity?

Free will in us humans is a contested point and most psychologists agree, we are not as free as we like to think we are. We know this because our choices are pretty predictable. Many factors go into the choices we make including the prevailing culture. Somebody remarked to me once “Men could choose to wear skirts if they wanted too” I replied of course they can but the choice is made harder by the fact that all the skirts are in the women section! What does this have to do with personal identity? Confusion between WHO I am and WHAT I am.

Who I am is inside, what I am is outside. I have a body but I am not a body. I have a job but I am not my job. I have an ego but I am not an ego. Meditation is like a drill, down through the myriad layers of being, I think I’m this then boom another layer, deeper and deeper I go. Who I am is eternal as far as I can tell, I have no beginning or end.

Not to be rude but what does a 7 or even 14 or 18 year old know about their true nature? Poets and artists have put lifetimes into communicating human identity and have never fully nailed it. And perhaps we aren’t meant to know?

Being a male isn’t my choice, it’s my biology, everything else is up to me.