The Numinous

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“Numinous /ˈnjuːmᵻnəs/ is an English adjective, derived from the Latin numen, meaning “arousing spiritual or religious emotion; mysterious or awe-inspiring”.”[1]

“Real love exists in the heart. The love that exists in the Heart cannot be spoken; it cannot be put in words. The heart is not the place for words. Words are in the intellect. The intellect can speak, but it is nothing more than a tape recorder. It records and spits out words and words and words – words that don’t have any feeling in them. The intellect cannot feel compassion; it cannot feel love or kindness.” Amma

As a spiritual aspirant, how can one even broach this abstract topic with mere words. I am capable of writing on many holistic topics, however it is the essence of spirituality and human transformation that captivate me, leaving me in deep water. Thus, I am at an impasse, trying to construct and galvanize something that in practicality, can not be caught and trapped by the finite demarcations of human language.

I will attempt to discuss the relationship of the devotee with their divine aspirations. Hence, the idea of the Numinous; the divine love that we all seek at some level, which is the unification with our own true sense of Self.

This experience is not something that one can even talk about. I rarely write or speak of my own deep personal connection to the Divine. However, I felt drawn to write this, due to a misconstrued sense of egoism I witnessed recently. The Numinous is not about hierarchy, popularity, power, or recognition for who we are, in the eyes of others.

“Lift the veil that obscures the heart, and there you will find what you are looking for.” Kabir

This relationship is so subtle, so personal and delicately intimate. The only similarity may be between lovers who are experiencing a higher expression of human love, not sensually based. The feeling of such a deep opening in your heart that you can not breath, you can not even speak of it, for it has possessed your soul. You are exhilarated, yet the subtle dance is only between you and your Beloved. There is no possible mechanism to translate this sublime love into any words that exist, for the feeling is one of being completely consumed. The dance of love, is so delicate and awe inspiring, it feels so deeply personal that to speak of such a precious thing would reduce its true essence to something of the worldly domain; losing all intrinsic value.

“What is the root of all these words? One thing: Love. But a love so deep and sweet it needed to express itself with scents, sounds, colours that never before existed.”  Hafiz

To engage at this level with the Divine; to taste the Numinous, is a delicate art that only very prolific poets may have half a hope of conveying, such as Rumi, Hafiz, and Kabir. The likes of, I used to literally have a stack of their books, which I would constantly be reading. Then life took me away from such things, down a different path, away from the essence of my heart.

“In your light I learn how to love. In your beauty, how to make poems. You dance inside my chest where no-one sees you, but sometimes I do, and that sight becomes this art.” Rumi

It has taken a long time to return to this sacred place, to find my way back to who I am and honour my own unique sense of expression in this world. Poetry is the essence of true expression for such an experience, as other such writing and words do not suffice.

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” Rumi

True love and contact with the Numinous is not something anyone would yell off the roof top. Instead,  one turns inward and can only be absorbed into the abstract experience.

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A Life to Be Lived

“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man’s-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again. ” Pema Chodron

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When you sincerely seek to live a spiritual life, be sure to make sure that you are strong enough to handle the extreme challenges that are sure to follow in your every wake and step. To truly be free of our inner negative tendencies, to be fully purified; we must be willing to confront everything within our consciousness, the layers upon layers of tendencies that we have accumulated throughout numerous lifetimes. We must be willing to go beyond this finite perception of ourselves, expand in awareness, only through extreme grace; to realize that we are not this illusion.

Of course, few of us are so close to perfection, instead we feel that we are filled to the max with an overabundance of ‘issues’ and other such aspects that we are becoming aware of. Once you start to dedicate a larger amount of time doing practice, it seems that the level of challenges increases exponentially. It is said that there are three ways of burning off karma; poverty, chronic illness, and sadhana. Most people have gone through at least one of the three in this life. However, the last one, sadhana, or spiritual practice is the key to finding a connection beyond the exterior of who we appear to be, to connect deep within, to the essence of existence. Even if this experience is very finite, it is still a profound point of stepping into the abyss of timelessness, into the infinite divine, to dissolve into a place that is beyond the reality that we find so believable.

I am not an advanced practitioner, I am a beginner; constantly returning to this place of newness, without anything to grasp onto. It seems that I am always at the beginning in life, even if I have reached points of height. One example is where I was advanced at Yoga asana for most of my life, however an arm injury brought me permanently back to being a beginner. I know the steep, jagged, and extremely painful road towards developing humility, where my ego has been grated along the most painful of terrain. The deeper my inner commitment towards searching for the Truth, the farther I seem to fall; endlessly into an abyss of timelessness, finding a sense of detachment, and expanding my awareness where I can fully understand the mechanisms that are so easily triggered. Its profound and beyond any linguistic explanation, to reach so high that you fall so far down. Yet, in that fall I have experienced an explosion of most, if not all of my negative tendencies.

“At some point, we need to stop identifying with our weaknesses and shift our allegiances to our basic goodness.” Pema Chodron

The path to purity and purification is a deep endless abyss where the most grotesque versions of ‘ourselves’ must be released from their bondage to our attachment, before the beauty of our inner Selves can be revealed. We are the one’s who inevitably imprison ourselves with our attachment to our fallible, inconclusive, problematic and erroneously static ‘identity’. Through this clinging, we close the door to true personal transformation and growth, for we have already created the variable narratives that we all use to structure the fabric of our social identity and life. We are social architects, constantly attempting to maintain the construction of who we envision ourselves to be or how we perceive ourselves to become. The real truth is that we are none of these projections or tendencies, yet since we rarely go within to a deeper and much quieter place; where we slowly start to see the facade and the underlying energy beneath it which is in contrast, very different, without qualities.

“Whatever is happening is the path to enlightenment.” Pema Chodron

It has been through such challenges that I have stepped through in my life, that have been the purifying gift that has allowed me to move closer to a sense of renewal. Even though, I am at the beginning once again, each step is a powerful walk towards a sense of awakening to who we truly are.

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Stepping Out From The Shadow

“Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others; to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can.” The Dalai Lama

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I was fortunate to be part of the audience for a live interview with my spiritual teacher, Sri Mata Amritananda Mayi Devi, widely known as ‘Amma’ meaning ‘Mother’. The interview was held at Stanford University by Dr. Doty on Conversations on Compassion that took place the beginning of last July 2014. Dr. Doty has interview other great spiritual leaders, such as The Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, Desmond Tutu, and many others. Amma, said that it does not matter how long you spend with the Master; it depends on how great your desire is to be free and make the effort, like the baby chicken who pecks their way out of the egg. She said the true Guru is your experiences in life, these teach you the most, if you are willing to learn.

Most of us, myself included live life, or have lived life based on numerous preconceived notions about our identity: social and family positionally; our monetary social status; how well we are liked in our friend and cohort groups; and our acquisition of material gain. Thus, all of us are constantly attempting to live a life that has some meaning, contentment, and joy. Inevitably, we are prisoners of our self imposing conceptions that we use to negotiate our identity and identify ourselves in reference to our external social landscape. We live with a sense of reality that is predominantly covered by shadows, all of which are our own creation and perception. We live our lives in such a way, where we choose to stay trapped in a self created cage within our minds, often closing our heart and emotions to the large scope of reality. In this way, we find the path of limitation a safe and secure place to walk; rather than finding the courage within to confront the wilderness of the unknown. However, through our desperation to find and live a life of authenticity and security, we find ourselves beneath a sky of grey clouds, for we can never evolve into our highest potential or into our true identity by living a life constantly measured by infinite self imposed limitations.

I am sure most people can relate, to some degree with what I am discussing, as we have all experienced some component of this phenomena within our lives. Where we felt very frustrated and confined; unable to break free, even though we are aware enough to isolate the real issue that is constricting us. The truth is that the freedom and answers that we seek can only be found within ourselves, for we always know which direction we need to pursue. Regardless of when we arrive at this consciousness, of being trapped by something, we can then find a means of moving beyond whatever it may be. I strongly believe and have experienced that once we are aware of all the places within ourselves, where we allow ourselves to be small and limited, with enough determination and effort we can break free eventually of even the most painful feelings of limitation. With enough focus, dedication, and practice everything in our lives will change, our bodies, our minds, and even the negative tendencies that we are so attached to.

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” Rumi

Once we open the doors to our limitation and leap out of the self imposing cage, who do we then become. The answer is that the more we let go of everything that once burdened or limited us, we realize that we are a unique expression of the universe, similar to everyone else. Yet, each of us are as diverse and unique as the pattern of each snowflake, we are all falling together in our own authenticity, beauty, and interconnected senses of being. There is a realization that life will most likely bring us numerous challenges that we must face, yet we have the strength and resilience to go through all of them. It was said by a saint, that each and every challenge and difficulty that we must confront in our lives, is meant only for us, as we have the innate capacity and inner strength to transcend whatever it may be. Thus, we should never compare ourselves to anyone else, especially when it comes to the various challenges that all of us have to inevitable face in our lives, at some point or another.

In essence, regardless of where we find ourselves in this moment, we always have the choice to find contentment and be grateful for what we have. Even in the darkest moments of life, there are still shards of beautiful light that are all around us, it is within our own consciousness to choose to perceive the beauty and delicate frailty of life. To inevitable be free of our own limitations, we must know that we always have a choice; a choice to perceive ourselves, our lives, and our social landscape in a language that brings us to a higher level of our own innate potential, that we all embody.

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The Subversive Nature of Being

“You were born with wings, why prefer to crawl through life?” Rumi

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We live in a predominantly homogenized society, despite the fact that a large percentage of the younger generations are acting as a unified force to counter this form of social conformity. Although, throughout history the majority of brilliant scholars, artists, musicians, philosophers, and mystics were all focused on living non-conventional lives due to their awareness of the confining aspects of homogeneity. The most brilliant minds of even today, use the faculty of discrimination, critical thinking, and even intuition to assess and weigh what is accurate and what is not.

Even Einstein was a great advocate of using one’s intuitive faculties,“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift. We will not solve the problems of the world from the same level of thinking we were at when we created them. More than anything else, this new century demands new thinking: We must change our materially based analyses of the world around us to include broader, more multidimensional perspectives.” Albert Einstein

In essence, through the intellectual and intuitive faculties which we all have a certain degree of access to, we should be able to discern what is of relevance and what is not. Yet, how many of us actually question the relevance of certain social patterns that most people blindly follow. 

The act of being subversive is a tactic that is used everyday by numerous people who have the awareness that becoming fully homogenized within society is not a true representation of imbibing their highest potential, nor a clear representation of what they would like their lives to emulate. The act of living a life that is based on subversive actions; to have the awareness to contest even basic issues lacking in transparency, reveal our basic need to know the truth of what is going on in society and the larger global world.

Through all of our actions and words, when we choose to questions certain patters in society and go against them, there can be repercussions. I recently experienced this phenomena, in which a certain individual launched an attack against the conceptual discourse and content of the discussion related to the social, political, and ecological importance of choosing organic food, over the other choices available. I realized instantly, that when people are highly homogenized, or when they are faced with concepts that they view as subversive, or even intellectual discussions that question the pattern of their ‘normal’ social conditioning; they become highly defensive. 

I first experienced this when I became a vegetarian 23 years ago, during a time when it was not mainstream or even remotely cool to practice this form of dietary choice. I was actually a vegan vegetarian, due to reading John Robins “Diet For A New America”, and several other related books. Given the information I was able to assimilate on this topic, I made a very clear choice to eat a diet that did not cause harm to animals, supported a holistic principle to health, and was more viable within the parameter of being more ecologically sound. Even though the choice was mine to make, I found myself constantly running into people who would become immediately confrontational and defensive against the choices that were inevitably affecting me, not them. I found this phenomena rather interesting as I realized that people’s deep seated fear of others doing something that is considered subversive triggers massive fear, defensive mechanisms, and can make people very confrontational.

In todays world, most of us are homogenized to some degree within the cultural norm of our social milieu. Therefore, the use of subversive action can be a mechanism to create small circles of change through discussions, or it can occur on a much large scale, such as being highly aware of the social economy of what we inevitably support with our time, money, and actions. To this day, I have lived my entire life attempting to liver more subversively than allowing myself to fall into the homogenization of becoming en-mass, like a drone in a vacuous society devoid of any depth of meaning. To live a life bound by social conformity, accepting everything at face value, and without questioning the larger social and political paradigm is to be completely asleep. “Some people live as though they are already dead. There are people moving around us who are consumed by their past, terrified of their future, and stuck in their anger and jealousy. They are not alive; they are just walking corpses.” Thich Nhat Hanh

Today when I meet people who become defensive and confrontational over the choices that I make, I clearly state that if they don’t like what I write or how I live my life, its absolutely fine, as the actions I make only affect me, no one else. Thus, “my only true belongings in life are my actions.” Thich Nhat Hanh

To choose to live a non-conventional life one must be very strong, strong enough to confront others ignorance in a non-confrontational, grounded, and calm way. Ironically, many things that were seen as subversive at one point in time, soon become mainstream. Several of todays trends were once limited to much smaller subcultures and seen as highly subversive. A few of these are: organic food, vegetarianism, other heath based dietary regimes, yoga, meditation, consuming herbs or health supplements, etc. Yet, today it seems most people have some awareness of all of the above topics.

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The Ubiquitous Nature of Gossip

“You must not hate those who do wrong or harmful things; but with compassion, you must do what you can to stop them for they are harming themselves, as well as those who suffer from their actions.” His Holiness The Dalai Lama

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The pernicious nature of gossip is so widespread throughout all societies that there is no doubt this aspect of human social behavior is ubiquitous to all cultural and social perimeters, seen on a global level. A fascinating aspect of this phenomena is how most people are so homogenized that they literally will believe even untrue gossip if it comes from a source they trust, rather than drawing upon their own direct experience with the individual in question. I have seen even some of the most discriminating people affected by such situations, which leaves me to inquire why people are so weak minded that they can not at least try to see if the information disclosed has any relevance before acting in a rash or harsh way towards the individual being discussed.

I have witnessed this phenomena in all aspects of life, including in institutions like ashrams where you would think that people are trying to rise above such petty ways of behaving. However, in my time in India I have witnessed that this behavior is as pernicious or more pernicious than I have ever before witnessed in my entire life. Of course, not everyone gossips as out of a population of several thousand people there are many very serious spiritual seeker who understand the destructive nature of this limiting and harmful behaviour. There was a scholar who went to numerous ashrams in India and the one quality that he noticed was this aspect of pernicious gossip and fault finding. He attributed this wide spread behavior to the reality that in such institutions the individuals basic needs are taken care of. Therefore, they have far less mental stress in life than most people living in the world having to worry about their jobs, families, and social responsibilities. He believed that this behavior was magnified due to the close proximity that all of the residence found themselves living within, combined with a general lack of interest in discussing other topics of conversation.

As an individual, I am sure I have partaken in such negative tendencies as gossip, yet for the majority of my life I have deeply felt that this action carries a deep harm associated with it. I have always felt a deep feeling of remorse when I have participated in such activities. Thus, for most of my life I have not associated with or attracted many people with such tendencies. Even though gossip is found at a pernicious level within all human societies, in the right company there can be more interesting topics to discuss than the negativities of others.

Therefore, I personally avoid and find the nature of pernicious gossip to be a very despicable, violent, and extremely harmful tendency that some people engage therein. A few reasons why certain people may feel the need to gossip can be associated with the feeling that; if we see someone as better than us or more talented, we see them as competition and what often occurs is fault finding and spreading negative gossip to eliminate the person from the competition. In addition, if we see someone possessing a particular object that we desire, there will often be jealousy towards that person. Many of us carry deep wounds from the past, thus in the present a particular use of word or action from a person may feel as an attack towards these unhealed inner wounds, even though that person may not have intend to inflict such pain. All of us have inner tendencies that we need to prove we are better than others. The ego is always trying to prove itself through our sense of self importance, thus we find faults within others.

According to the ancient Indian scriptures it is clearly stated that when we try to damage a person’s reputation through character defamation through the use of lies or rumors, its considered an act of violence. This subtle form of violence can manifest when we are unaware of our actions and we may become like sadists, feeling good at others hurt and finding justifications for imposting this form of violence onto another person. This completely defeats the purpose of a spiritual life, as such behavior completely blocks any positive energy from entering into our lives, thus causing some serious harm to eventually return to us.

I have personally experienced situations where people have known me personally for a duration of time, yet the malicious nature of someone’s issues perpetuated untrue gossip about me. In this case, because of the credibility of the person disclosing the gossip, others readily believed what was said, like sheep without any ability to discriminate or intuition to verify if this was indeed true. Ironically, when we have people who are unaware of their deep seated anger, jealousy, hatred, and inner violence in addition to feeling very powerless in themselves, malicious gossip often results as this is their only form of retaliation.

This leads to the experiential knowledge of people seeing who you are as an individual and enjoying your company; then once the gossip has been spread suddenly the perception of who you are takes on a diametrically opposing negative quality. Even to engage in an innocent conversation, if discussing the actions of another, especially if we feel they are doing something inappropriate its wise to be extremely discriminating with whom one discloses such information. Its far too easy for someone to take what you say and create some reconstituted version of the story as gossip. If caught in the grip of others constant negative fault finding, the best thing to do is to not participate and try to find people to associate with who are more interested in discussing topics that are positive or provide something that can allow us to grow in life, rather than to spend time with people who are constantly pulling themselves and everyone around them down. 

In life we all find ourselves entangled within a myriad of various behaviors that are perhaps less appealing then we would prefer to be as human beings. I also understand what it can feel like to go through very challenging, often dark night of the soul experiences in life. I personally have undergone such transitions in life that felt very heavy, dark, and painful. Even when I was not the best version of myself, I still tried to keep some spiritual practice going or something that brought inspiration to my life. Therefore, we all get caught up in certain negative tendencies from time to time, yet the one reality that we must always keep in mind is that the harmful thoughts, words and actions that we inflict onto others, will most definitely only harm us in the long run. 

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The Disillusioned

“Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.” Rumi

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The romantic notion of transformation is so prevalent in the current homogenous cultural context, as a joyous and exuberantly positive mystical experience. However, the reality and truth of this process resembles the opposite, appearing more reminiscent of some type of suffering; painfully letting go of our outdated notions of who we have been and a feeling of extreme disillusionment and dispassion with the nature of our surrounding reality.

Historically, throughout the world, within  indigenous cultures there have been numerous rituals of passage into various spheres of life. These rites of passage had many functions, yet the main purpose was to shed the previous ‘self’, which is necessary to embody a deeper sense of empowerment and shift positionally within the cultural framework appropriate to the individual. Since, we no longer have such rituals or acknowledgment of personal transformation into a more wise, empowered, and mature version of ourselves, we are on our own in terms of going through the liminality of transformation.

It has been my personal experience of going through a liminal period of deep and painful transformation that the process began when I came to the end of a cycle that I had been going for a long time of  continuous education and working at a job that did not utilize my skills or creativity. All of the education was necessary, yet I was not on the path that I needed to be on in life. Therefore, as transformation occurs numerous things radically changed in my life without me having to do anything. Everything that did not support my growth suddenly fell away, creating a large space for me to begin the work that I am now doing. However, through the duration of this process, I felt severely disillusioned, to such a degree that the only word that comes to my mind is severe ‘dispassion’. 

Throughout my life I have been an optimist, so when I say that I have reached this point of perception, there is a massive transitional movement occurring within my inner world. I am painfully letting go of the person I used to be, with all the ideals, dreams, fear, uncertainty, sensitivity, and vulnerabilities that were so wide open and unprotected.

I realize I am much stronger than I can even fathom, even though I  have felt this energy throughout my life, now I know it’s there for me to use whenever I need it. I am coming into my sense of deeper self empowerment and self understanding of who I am at a much deeper level; than the person I used to be who lived mostly on the outside of my ‘being’, rather than deep inside.

One of the main characteristics of undergoing deep transformation, is an extreme difficulty that acts as a catalyst. Its when your entire life starts falling apart, everything starts to change, things and people are pulled away. Through such a disconcerting experience, our inner feeling of ‘self’ begins to dramatically changed. In my experience, even thought this process can be very disorienting to our sense of security with who we have associated ourselves to be, thus often leaving us feeling less than we used to be in some ways. However, the end result most often leaves us feeling so much deeper, wiser, and richer in so many other ways. I personally feel much stronger to be who I am fully and completely. 

For me, this transformation was necessary for me to fully embody who I really am in this life, to allow myself to emanate as myself, and to feel fully self empowered in my unique and reflexive approach to life. I feel committed to this journey where I can fully embrace who I am, I can fully live my life to the greatest potential that I have wanted to pursue for the entirety of my life. I am allowed to be me, the person that I am right now, without any compromise, without any excuses, without any explanation. 

To feel this extreme emancipation of freedom to be the person you really are and live it with ease and joy, there is no greater power, expansiveness, or liberation that I have thus far felt in my life, that can even come close. Its a very small form of awakening, to be who you are in this one moment, to be free to exist as this very person with all the glaring beauty of life. To have the grace to be free enough to contribute to the world in the way that I wish to contribute, is also a great gift.

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The Perception of Deception – Letting Go

“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the life that is waiting for us.” Joseph Campbell

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Life is about silently letting go of everything that no longer serves our greatest potential of being. This is one of the most profound and difficult lessons in life, knowing when to let go of all that is holding us back, keeping us stagnant, or bringing us down to a level less than who we truly are. It takes a certain level of strength, negotiation, and discrimination to know exactly what we need to sever out of our lives, when the situation or relationship has served its purpose, no longer benefiting us. This has been a re-occurrent theme throughout my life; letting go of all that I no longer need, as metaphorically the lighter your baggage, the farther you will be able to travel in life. 

The perception of deception is how we deceive ourselves in life, through perceiving situations and people erroneously. However, once we are able to alter our perception through awareness, we ‘wake up’ to the present reality. Recently, this metamorphosis occurred in my own life, as if I had been asleep navigating my way through life, to suddenly ‘wake up’. It seems, through invoking a much greater discriminative power than I previously had access to, I woke up to a very clear and utterly transparent realization of the life I was living. I was starkly confronted with the reality that one cycle of life had been completed, while a very different cycle had begun.

I realized that the liminality of my previous life had come to a closure, leaving me with the assertion that the person I had become was no longer interested in continuing certain patterns that I had previous enacted. These areas encompassed dynamics with certain friends and family. Although, most of the acute realizations had been within my barometer of awareness for a very long time. Such as, how my family had bestowed certain ascribed attributes upon me as an indicator of who I was suppose to be, which is one of the most common familial practices. However, within the jurisdiction of my family allotting a sense of identity upon me – was akin to becoming a deterministic prisoner to a persona – completely irrelevant to who I am. Like many familial practice, the identity ascribed to me represented the abject of a complete stranger; someone I had never been, nor will ever be. 

Moreover, I refuse to allows others to dictate who I am supposed to be. This is primarily due to the very fact that I see my life as my own, not trapped by the limitations imposed on me by family or anyone else. It takes a certain degree of critical thinking and discrimination to understand the mechanisms of entrapment, which exist in everyone’s lives, in various forms. In my own life, I have never easily submitted to others attempts of trying to control, manipulate, or limit me through their own issues. Even though, I have always been aware that such patterns were taking place with certain individuals. However, at this juncture in my life I fully realize that I would rather not engage with such individuals, regardless of who they are. Thus, it is in my best interest to save my energy for more productive pursuits.

In essence, perhaps this ‘wake up’ was really a coming home to myself through the deeper sense of self-empowerment that I feel. Even though, it has taken until now to reach this destination of strength and discrimination; to clearly, rationally, and calmly see what is beneficial to me and what is not. Hence, as we grow through the experiential reality of life, there will always be revelations of small ‘truths’ along the way. Inevitably, life forces us to learn detachment through infinite lessons in letting go of all that no longer serves us any longer, thus providing a lighter journey forward.

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The Ambiguity of Identity

“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself. When you are born a lotus flower, be a beautiful lotus flower, don’t try to be a magnolia flower. If you crave acceptance and recognition and try to change yourself to fit what other people want you to be, you will suffer all your life. True happiness and true power lie in understanding yourself, accepting yourself, having confidence in yourself.” – Thich Nhat Hanh, The Art of Power

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Throughout my life the concept of identity has always been a very abstract, malleable, and highly thought provoking topic. This phenomena recently became more of an experiential reality, as opposed to just an object of contemplation in the simple act of beginning to use my spiritual name, rather than my birth name. This process became an interesting experience which allowed me to learn a tremendous amount about what identity means to me within the process of embodying my own perception of ‘self’, in the transition of switching my name. Through this experience the question arose around what constitutes one’s ‘true identity’, within the context of ones main identifying agent, which is our first name.

As I began attempting to understand the concept of what ‘identity’ really means in relation to using a different name. I happen to come across several comments made by others in their reclamation of ‘self’ by attempting to cut away the outer layers of ambiguity around their identity, by going back to their original birth names and family identities, as their true identity. From my own personal experience, the truth of the matter is that our familial ascribed identity given to us at birth lacks reliable reference to our current sense of ‘self’. As we navigate and experience life through our own experiential reality via gaining certain knowledge and expertise, we are confronted with a far more precise and real sense of our own authentic identity; the person we have become and are currently embodying. 

The process of life allows us to reconstitute, contextualize, and negotiate our own sense of ‘self’ and how we truly perceive ourselves to be, rather than how others may view us externally. I have personally experienced the ebb and flow of life’s movement through the various experiences that shape and mold us into more complex versions of our selves. Our sense of self is a malleable and highly adaptable entity that must be able to grow and change as our life moves forward. In essence, as our external world is unpredictable, changing, and flowing within its own patterns; so is our inner world as it is constantly encountering and interacting with the external reality. In many ways, through doing a daily spiritual practice we learn to harness greater awareness towards this subtle process of how our sense of ‘self’ is shaped by the outer world and how our inner ‘Self’ is really a point of stillness, truth and true identity. However, since very few of us are enlightened or even close to being enlightened we are left to maintain the constant work of negotiating our sense of identity, as we feel ourselves constantly changing beyond our own understanding or ability to control the process.

The choice I made to use my spiritual name was a very effortless one, for I had lived my entire life using a name given to me by my parents. Yet, when I received my spiritual name it became more of a real identity for me than my previous name. Perhaps, the experience of this realization and epiphany is not fully captured by words, yet it was a profound certainty that I felt a very strong association with my new name, as opposed to my birth name which I actually felt never suited who I understood myself to be as a person.

In my perception of life, there is a greater potential for free-will than we may perceive, this includes how we choose to perceive ourselves as individuals. Thus, if we are open to the infinite lessons that inevitably come through living life; then we shall reap the rewards of inner growth and the inevitable transformation that comes along with such experiential knowledge. The decision to use my spiritual name made me realize that I was allowed to be who I have always felt myself to be as an individual. I felt transformed into being a sense of ‘self’ that was much deeper than the exterior ‘me’.

This entire process brought with it the realization that by having the conscious awareness to realize that we do not live in a purely deterministic world where the ascribed identity given to us by our families is our only option for identifying who we are. Perhaps, our families can lead us backward into the historic trajectory of our family history, however in this lifetime its best to live your own authentic life as your own genuine sense of ‘self’. 

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