If someone were to ask you, “Who are you” how would you answer? Would your self-description consist of hair color, eye color, job, family status, race, religion, gender? In yoga, there’s a sutra called Avidya, which roughly translated from sanskrit, means ignorance. Buddhist and yogis interpret avidya as a spiritual ignorance, or lack of truly knowing one’s Self as divinity. For most of us, we’ve largely defined who we are based on precepts society has set forth as acceptable. We’ve worked hard to identify with personas that were literally conceived outside of ourselves. No wonder there’s so much suffering. In fact, the whole concept of “identity” is an illusion.
Look at a baby, for example. How would you ‘define’ the baby? Maybe you’d identify it as a boy baby with brown hair. But, innately, we know that these are mere surface descriptions that we pull from because we aren’t able to articulate that this baby is perfect consciousness before us. In fact, I think it’s our inability to NOT articulate that gets us into trouble.
What do I mean? I mean that because we live almost entirely in our unconscious minds, we lack the ability to just accept what is, and so we try to put words, thoughts, and conversation around everything. That includes acceptance of ourselves.
Consciousness identified with a body starts as early as infancy. We begin to feel and identify physical comforts and discomforts with who we are. When we’re old enough to talk, we begin to voice those discomforts at the “I am.” “I am cold.” No, you’re not. Your body feels cold, but you are not. You are the one watching the body experiencing cold. As we get older, we further extend the privilege of defining who we are outside of ourselves. We are not the sum of the total of things that have happened to us. We are the consciousness that witnesses all of these experiences.
There’s a tidal shift happening in the desire to understand ourselves, understand consciousness. So many people take medications to treat symptoms of anxiety and depression (I used to myself.) I used to think I must be spiritually inept or crazy; my mind was always racing; I experienced dis-ease regularly. But what I came to observe in myself an others is that my discomfort was authenticity trying to break free. I was becoming aware of my unconsciousness. I was becoming aware that who I’d convinced myself I was, was an illusion. One day I literally decided NOT to get involved in my own mind’s nonsense so I could heal.
So how do we truly get to understand who we are? For me, it’s meditation. Through meditation, we shed layer upon layer of our experience-driven identity and open ourselves up to seeing who we are down to the very core of our being.
– Your Charmed Yogi
Related self-acceptance posts on A Charmed Yogi: