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Posts Tagged ‘self’

Atma Vision

And the thing we have in common is awareness of the vision above, not merely as it applies to me, but as it applies to you and, too, all around us. Thank You for being receptive to the beauty within me and translating it by exercising your own.

Love

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Life is a stream. It is wind. Life is a bonfire and the slow erosion of mountains over time. Nature, and life itself, is characterized by seasons; the ever-present flow of change. I have heard a quote that states: change is the only constant in life. Thus, what seems a simple and straightforward question about personal identity is a bit more complex than one may prefer to believe for simplicity’s sake. Who am I? And just as important, how do I know that? What elements of identity are significant to me? What defines my “self”?

Five years ago I would have had no problem identifying myself to others via specific characteristics, values, and traits. I would have told them I was female, and that I lived in Mount Airy, Maryland. I attended Linganore High School as a student interested in theater arts and the French language. I would have pointed to my age as a self-descriptor and said that I had a younger brother and two heterosexual parents who remained married. I had lived in the same house all my life, a house on two acres surrounded by gardens and flanked by forest. I certainly would have referred to myself as a social butterfly. A good student in school. An organized, driven, and thoughtful person with a strong sense of individuality. I kept journals, I made art, and I had an adventurous spirit, lively humor, and a whole lot of talent. I was a successful actress, singer, dancer, leader, and I loved to be the center of attention.

As I write this, I am reminded that throughout school I have completed many different assignments that asked me questions similar to those this assignment is inquiring about. Even in elementary school, I was encouraged to know and name my favorite color, my favorite food, the type of things I liked to do. It is only recently that I have begun to question the meaning and purpose of this. I can remember sitting in a circle in kindergarten and having everyone proclaim what their favorite color was. And in doing so, both the divisive and uniting potential of such an exercise were revealed. I remember feeling sometimes a sense of apprehension before saying my favorite color. What if nobody else liked the color I liked? Some children were too shy to say anything at all. Others simply repeated the names of the color their best friend embraced. Some believed they were best friends with a person solely because they shared affection for the color pink, while others recognized that if some people enjoyed the same color that they did, they had something in common despite some other differences. And there were expectations regarding what color we chose. A kindergarten-aged boy never said ‘pink’ unless he was joking. If I had said ‘brown’ was my favorite, no one would have taken me seriously. That was a weird color to like. Why like brown when there were better colors like green and blue and purple to choose from? Proclaiming a favorite color in kindergarten was, essentially, declaring something about your identity. Talking about your own perception of who you were.

I’ve been asked this question, about my favorite color, so many times throughout my life. And sometimes my favorite color would change, along with my choice of favorite food and even the activities I most liked to do. What did this mean, if my favorite color changed? Did my identity change along with that? Did something change about who I am? No longer could I identify as someone who loved red. No, now the color I loved was a very specific and soothing lilac-like shade of purple. And that love for purple became a definitive part of my sense of identity. I remember when I was in middle school, overhearing someone say, “anyone who likes purple is a fruit. Did you know that? Purple’s a gay color.” At the time, I wondered about the truth of that. I wondered if, perhaps, I were unknowingly gay. And what did that mean about my identity, if I were indeed gay? Hearing that statement made me question the color I was using to define myself. Indeed, it went deeper than that: it made me question my very self.

Today if one is to ask me, as this assignment does, about what makes me me, I am much more careful about my answer, because ‘identity’ is so often confused with ‘self.’ I am no longer convinced that living in a certain region or town or house or apartment makes me who I am as a person. I am not convinced that my race defines who I am, nor my job, nor the type of food that I eat. Yes, I am a white female from upper-middle class semi-rural America. I often work as a waitress and perform community service. I maintain a vegetarian/vegan diet. However, these are not things that make me who I am. These things speak not to my self – they are merely experiences that inform my material life. This is an incredibly important distinction that far too often gets completely overlooked. When we get caught up in drawing from our experience to denote our identity, not only is it often socially divisive (or even falsely socially uniting), I would argue that it becomes harder to access your true self. In other words, clinging to certain aspects and characteristics we so often use to talk about who we are actually prevents us from seeing and understanding who we essentially are. Defining our identity, which describes our physical/intellectual/material self may be a threat to our true self, the force that happily wishes to guide our life according to the synergies of the universe.

I realize that this assignment is not necessarily meant to be used to delve into such discussion. But in attempting to write about my identity, I only come up with a list of events and aspects and characteristics of things that seem quite far removed from my self. How can I identify as a white girl, or a hippie, or a coffee shop haunter when all of those random attributes work to reduce the vastness of who I actually am? Perhaps I am to write that I identify as a woman, or a student, or a traveler. It is important that I am a woman, because feminine energy is surely a part of my self. And it is important that I am a student and traveler, but not a student of Warren Wilson College, and not merely a traveler between states or continents. I am rather a student and traveler of life: ever-learning, ever-growing, ever-changing with the flow of the stream, and in all good hope – ascending to higher planes of self, never to be restricted by some arbitrary traits or definitions of what that is.

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