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Suffering and Identity Formation

spiritual identity formation
Episode No. 170

With all this talk of identities, you might think having a few is a good idea. Well, sure, but that’s not what spiritual practice is about. A podcast from Satsang with Shambhavi

Podcast First Words

One of the main ways of talking about where we’re going with all this spiritual stuff is that we’re trying to relax very, very deeply. This is so that we can be just resting in what’s called the natural, unconditioned state.

Whether we’re doing mantra or meditation, coming to satsang, hanging out with the teacher, or whatever we’re doing—the goal is naturalness. But this doesn’t mean naturalness in an ordinary sense.

People in our culture are always trying to figure out what’s the perfect thing for me to be doing? How should I be expressing myself? All of that is completely the opposite of what we mean by the natural state.

So we go through our trauma, our angst—How should I be? How should I express myself? When we do that, we’re actually trying to find a container that we can inhabit. It’s sort of like turning ourselves into a refrigerator with a bunch of magnet labels stuck on it: I am an accountant. I am a parent. I am whatever sexual orientation I am. My goal in life is this.

You know, they actually have people who make their whole living trying to help you forge this static identity. They’re called career coaches or life coaches. They have all kinds of methods to actually box you in. So when we say—be in the natural state—we don’t mean be yourself in the sense of be a collection of identities that you’ve established, and that you’re going to move into and try to inhabit. And we don’t mean have that be your costume that you’re walking around in.

The sense of naturalness in the tradition really relates to this idea of spontaneity, immediacy, and the unconditioned. We are really just being here with none of that apparatus of labeling who we are or having various identities. We’re just kind of naked, feeling stuff, responding, and hopefully having some clarity about what’s happening and a sense of playfulness. We’re really having a much more fluid experience where we’re not making any effort to maintain certain kinds of what we call identity formations.