What is Your Identity Attachment?

When your attachments are to externals, you open yourself to great suffering!

"If you purify your soul of attachment to and desire for things, you will understand them spiritually. If you deny your appetite for them, you will enjoy their truth, understanding what is certain in them."

~ St. John of the Cross (Christian mystic and poet, 1542-1591)

Recently I encountered a situation in my holistic health practice where one of my clients told me he felt like he was losing his identity. What he believed himself to be was suddenly taken away from him when he injured his knee and had to deal with the resultant knee pain.

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He had always considered himself to be an athlete of sorts, a very physical person who achieved health through his great physical accomplishments. Even though he was an engineer, his attachment to his identity as an athlete, I believe, was first and foremost in his mind.

In your path to healing your whole self, your body-mind-soul, you are often confronted with who it is that you actually are. Do you define yourself as a banker, or a lawyer, a nurse, an artist or an athlete?

Our Attachments Define Us

We all define ourselves not by who we are, but by what we "do." For instance, we hike mountains, we run marathons, we are a dentist, we sell software, we are beauticians, truck drivers and gardeners. Does this sound familiar? Is this what you believe? Do you identify yourself with what you do?

Closely related to what we do, we also define ourselves by how we look. We work hard to create our authentic selves by dressing "sophisticated," "sporty," "classic," "business-like," or perhaps "spiritual."

And finally, we identify ourselves by what we achieve or what we are able to attain. This may be in material goods and possessions, or a promotion or high-profile job.

What is your identity attached to? If you were asked who you are, would you be able to describe yourself without describing what it is you do or what you have attained in life? I highly doubt it, because most of you haven't even given this question any thought.

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Attachment Equals Suffering

So who are you, really? If you cannot define yourself by what you do or how you look, what then will replace this?

Many spiritual teachers tell us that it is attachment to things in the external world that brings us suffering. When we attach our identities to material things, achievements or what it is we do, when we lose it, we suffer. Nothing in life is 100% secure forever. We can be sure that change is the only constant in our lives.

When things don't go "our" way, we suffer. Period.

When we identify with external things, we are speaking out of our egos. It is only our pride that makes us cling to that which can vanish in an instant.

Our Inner, True Selves

So who are you, really? If you cannot define yourself by what you do or how you look, what then will replace this?

One of my favorite spiritual teachers is Caroline Myss. If you haven't read any of her books or taken any of her courses, I would highly recommend them. In her book, Entering the Castle: An Inner Path to God and Your Soul, she defines, rather succinctly, that each of us has an inner and an outer self.

The inner self is timeless, eternally here and now. The great mystery of the inner self is pure unknowingness and emptiness. The inner self is Divine, connecting with all things in unity with the Supreme Spirit or God. This Divine Self being one with all is given through Grace.

This describes the nature of our true selves. So when we are able to release our identification with our outer, external selves to discover our true nature, we suffer less. Indeed, we can find heaven on earth.

I am not saying that my life is easy and I can release my identity attachments. It is very difficult and an ongoing effort on the journey. But the Unity I do feel at times, through the Grace that is there for me, brings me moments of Peace and Acceptance and yes, real Joy.

Your Body Helps in Your Self-Discovery

Discovering your inner self through your body and its message of pain and/or dis-ease, is one way to release your attachments. My client is slowly learning to release his identity as a particular athlete. Notice that in his healing, he does not need to give up his physical accomplishments, rather he is learning to hear his knee and the message from his body that he needs to find a different physical path.

By opening up to the many physical possibilities, he is able to remain physically active within his abilities.

When nothing is sure, the possibilities are infinite! This is not giving up something, but realizing that when we empty ourselves of our specific identities, the infinite possibilities have a chance to emerge!

This is empowering! When you are able to release that which you think is essential to yourself, the infinite opens up to you. Things that you would never have even been able to conjure up in your own mind! Things that Wisdom may now present to you through synchronicity and openings.

So it may be your body that is bringing you the message that something in your life needs to change. Or it may be the loss of something dear to you, a person, a possession or a job.

Whatever your case may be, open your heart to the many possibilities by learning that your external self and its identity is never permanent. Regardless of what comes and goes in your life, your true self, your soul remains eternally Divine.

When your attachment to your external self is released, you are able to breathe deeply, breathing in the Essence of your True Self, and your connection to all things, of God and Nature itself.

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