I is for Identity

Identity is a central theme in Eckhart Tolle‘s The Flowering of the Human Consciousness and Oprah Winfrey’s Soul Series interview of Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor.  Both Dr. Taylor and Eckhart Tolle emerged as internationally recognised new age gurus after their lives were transformed as a result of a radical change in their perception of their personal identity.

Stillness by Eckhart Tolle, on a Park bench pl...
Image via Wikipedia

Although they had very different experiences leading to their change in perception – Taylor survived a stroke and Tolle, long term, chronic depression – and they use quite different language to talk about their experiences, they say essentially the same thing.  In a nutshell, the peanut-sized language centre in our left brain, drives our ego, which in turn drives our identity. When we selectively program that peanut (like choosing a tv channel), let go of our ego-fed identity, and tune into the super consciousness via our right brain, we can experience what Dr. Taylor calls Nirvana, and what Eckhart Tolle calls the Stillness of Now.

While contemplating identity in the context of these teachings, I was reminded of a poem written one morning in that waking dream-like state – not fully awake, yet no longer sleeping.   Shortly after writing the poem, I gave a poetry performance and talk.   Although not totally satisfied with the poem, I felt compelled to include it among those I presented.  Afterwards, an African woman came to me, openly sobbing, saying: “That poem is the story of my life.  That happened to me.  I had to hide my identity to escape and was smuggled across borders.”   She was swept away by another woman before I had a chance to ask about her story.

Identity is a complex thing indeed, we cling to it and seek to increase our sense of personal identity; yet there are times when concealing one’s identity becomes a life and death matter – as with the woman who approached me after the poetry reading, and the Jews escaping Hitler’s ethnic purging during the second world war.

In our increasingly digitalized world, civil liberties groups are concerned about data protection and the loss of personal privacy resulting from too much identifiable personal information being stored by government as well as internet service providers, mobile phone companies, indeed any organisation that collects data.   Yet the ego seeks to amass data and objects to increase its identity.

We guard against identity theft, yet to achieve that heightened state of consciousness called Nirvana or Inner Peace or the Stillness of Now, we must let go of our earthly, personal identity and float with the oneness.

It seems identity is ultimately a problem, yet who among us is willing to give up the trappings that make up our identity to live a freer life?

Now, here’s the poem that the African woman identified with:

the silence of faith by alison boston


wraps around me

like a grey flannel blanket

i snuggle my head into its folds

i dreamt i was a rebel

in a war-torn country

caught by the enemy

saved by prayer

disguised in a beautiful dress

taken to safety across borders

at each border

guards checked my id

while my smuggler friends

did all the talking

i smiled, prayed silently

looked directly at each guard

at each border crossing

i looked different

my clothes were always changed

at each border crossing

they took my picture

at each border crossing

i prayed

not a lesson easily learned

the power of prayer

i kicked and screamed and rebelled

didn’t want to surrender

didn’t want to give up control

faith makes a life of difference

a different life is made with faith

lives lived with faith are lives fully lived

silence wraps around me

like a grey flannel blanket

i snuggle my head into the folds

surrender to faith


Super consciousness, Faith, and Prayer.

DNA testing in Bristol.

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