The Mind & Spiritual Identity

12th September 2012

fingerprintConsider this simple question – hear the question and then sit with it for a few minutes: “who are you?”……….. This is a deceptively simple question: when I was first asked this – by a life coach – I became very confused and upset! Having done this subsequently, I have seen how the answers move through the known and predictable (my name!) to the abstract (qualities, feelings) and then to the unknowable.  This is an important question because through our spiritual practice we become aware of a paradox – we are at once both a mortal personality that navigates this world, and part of something much bigger that moves through all of life.

Where do these ideas about our identity come from? They come from our families (the names we are given and the relationships we have with them), our friendships, our experiences of this world, the information we take in from books, television, the internet, music, and the rest of the media; and from any religious or spiritual practice that have had an influence on us. Why is this important? Because our spiritual practice – working with energy – challenges our sense of identity and who we are.

Spiritual practice – by its very nature – is disruptive and transformative, especially at this time in history. It brings energy and change into our lives and as a result challenges the parts of our psyche that no longer serve us, or that do not resonate with the practice. For example, a healing practice such as Reiki brings into our body a lot of energy and wakes up the dormant energy system. This rush of energy loosens up stuck energy, bringing buried emotional issues to the surface. As it does so, we can either go with the process and let go of the issue or hold onto it, resisting change. After all, if we let go of something that we have carried with us for a long time, we are allowing a part of our identity to change. This is sometimes difficult because it requires us to take more responsibility for our thoughts and feelings, for ourselves and others. As an example, buried anger is released and instead of projecting that anger onto other people, perhaps a sibling, colleague or partner, we can chose to adjust how we relate to that person. If we make that adjustment we also have to take responsibility for how we have treated that person. These three steps – allowing internal change; adjusting external relationships; seeing how we were and how we are now – represent one small cycle of personal transformation.

How else can spiritual practice affect our sense of identity? Well, if we start to sense and experience energy in and around us that can be quite a profound experience. For example, clairsentience is where we feel energy as a physical vibration in our hands or our body. This enables us to feel connected to other people or places or issues energetically. These experiences makes us feel very connected to the rest of life, which is at odds with the dominant idea of separation in Western philosophical thinking.

Clairvoyance is perhaps more unsettling because we start to see subtle energies around people, or see astral entities. What do these sorts of experiences mean for our idea of what reality is, who we are, and how we fit into life here? Seeing a ghost, or spirit, or other type of energy completely undermines the dominant ideas behind scientific materialism, unless of course you are happy to acknowledge that you are delusional as a result of a chemical imbalance in your brain!

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