It is undeniably true that our sense of identity affects our view of the world we see around us. As a particular nationality, there are other nationalities which we have a particular attraction or aversion to. As a certain skin colour, our view of the world is shaped by the prejudices, both past and present, of the people around us.
Understanding ourselves is therefore of paramount importance. Our whole experience of the world and of life can be transformed by gaining a deeper understanding of who we are. So what is our identity composed of, and how does this affect how the world is seen?
To begin with, we can imagine our sense of self like an onion, layered from the surface to the core with different sorts of identification. On the surface level are all of our conscious beliefs about who we are, the sorts of things which cross our mind each day. These can be simple things, like ‘I am a builder’ or ‘I am woman’. The identifications will be obvious, and are often associated with the body.
As we move through to deeper layers, identification becomes more subtle and more subconscious. The extent of this subtlety ranges vastly. The thought ‘I am a failure’ may emerge occasionally, or at a much deeper level, perhaps never even questioned by most humans, the thought ‘I am my body’ exists.
These layers of identity are formed by thought. The outer conscious levels are more easy to relate to for most people. As we explore ourselves, we look deeper and deeper into these layers, and make more of these subconscious thoughts conscious. When they become conscious, we are able to approach them and see through their illusory nature.
It is essential to emphasise that the entire structure of thought and identity is false. The whole system is based upon the premise that our beliefs about ourselves are correct, and that our view of reality is correct. When we explore these layers, the illusion begins to fall away, and the core of the structure becomes more apparent. At the centre of identity lies beingness, or what is sometimes referred to as the ‘I-AM Presence’. The entire structure of the ego identity is based upon the fusion of this feeling with thought, thereby giving apparent ‘life’ to those thoughts. What is crucial to realise is that there is no truth to this identity, as it is entirely based upon our assumptions and beliefs about the world, which are unique to ourselves.
When we focus attention on the beingness at the centre, relaxing into the feeling without the need of thought, the Presence begins to detach from the thought structure around it. Over time, the identity collapses, as all of its energy was reliant on the sense of beingness at the centre. This is when our True Self is revealed. The True Self is not radically different from who we were before. Our personalities, which we had believed were linked to our beliefs and identity, remain and are enriched by the sense of peace and immortality which our True Self provides. To others, it appears as if we have never changed, save for being more happy and loving our lives more. The transformation from ego to True Self is therefore subtle, so much so that it is unlikely that anyone else will notice.
The illusory structure of the ego must collapse, because it contains one fatal flaw. Desire, of any form and for anything, is in fact the natural need to realise our True Self once again. It is a force which wants to pull us inwards, but is often falsely redirected towards objects in the external world, which we believe will bring us happiness.
Eventually, when it is seen that the world can never provide us with the happiness we crave, attention returns inwards, and to the source of our very being. Resting in our own Self, we burn away the false veil of the ego, and realise our True Self once again. This is the beautiful ‘journey’ which every human being is undertaking in every moment of their life, and although many will never come to understand the ‘Truth’, desire makes it certain that one day they will see through this primal illusion.