who are we now?who have we been? what remains constant? what changes?
what is identity? how is it that i experience my self as me? what bit of me is that experiencer?
often, as we age, we comment “i don’t feel 70. inside if feel like i’m 20”...or some such thing. only when we hurt do we complain about our age. in good health, feeling well, i experience myself as some constant, something that doesn’t change in spite of the increasing number of wrinkles and the decreasing number of stairs i can climb.
in yoga philosophy there is an aspect of mind called ahamkara, “I-maker”. this is our ability to make things “me” or “mine, the ability to take on identities. it is the ahamkara that labels and colours the input of our senses with a tag of “i like” or “i don’t like”, attraction and aversion. this tells us who we are...a woman or a man or not, a person of colour or not, LGBT or not... ahamkara builds the identity of each of us as an apparent individual, a being separate from all else that is “me”. all those labels and colours together make up what i experience as me.
and what happens to “me” when “i” change? if i come out or go straight, am i still me? if i move house, am i still me? if i break my leg, have a heart attack, live with dementia, grow a tumour, paint my toe nails, am i still me? if i bleach my hair, am i still me?
is there a constant that doesn’t change regardless of the outer or inner fluctuations of mind and body? is there something deeper, more profound than my reactions to sensory input, something that remains the same? and where is that something? is it in my heart? my brain? no one has ever found this ‘thing’ and yet we know there is something that goes beyond the daily, beyond the ordinary doings of life.
for some, this ‘thing’ is called God, or Allah, or Divine Mother, or Spirit, or Mother Earth. there are thousands of names for this aspect of ourselves. some find it outside the experience of self...something separate to whom they pray or speak. others find it deep within, in an indefinable place inside. these are, of course, two sides of the same coin...inside/outside.
and this thing, this connection, doesn’t change. it is the constant. it goes beyond ahamkara, beyond the aspect of ourselves that is ever changing and shifting. in yogic philosophy this ultimate, unchanging reality is called brahman. somehow an abstract name alone doesn’t do much. so the yogis also identified the subjective experience of this reality. it is called satchitananda.
this word is actually three words combined. ‘sat’ is what we call existence. it can also signify truth. ‘chit’ signifies consciousness and ‘ananda’ means bliss. so altogether, our experience of this unchanging reality is an awareness of truth and bliss. how could that be bad?
as the years pass we have the opportunity to come closer to the realisation of this blissful, fully awake consciousness. as daily life simplifies, becomes more truthful, we can focus on this aspect of existence. we have the time and space to devote to the deepening of our awakening. we have the time and space to choose this work.
as i wrote those words, i realised that i am speaking to those of us who actually have the time and space. many olders are homeless, destitute, struggling with ill health, caring for grandchildren in impoverished circumstances. are my words are only meaningful to those who live privileged lives?
if there is something that is truly unchanging, it is there for all, regardless of the seeming differences.
may all beings become aware.
may all beings live in this truth.