"Ask the Guide"
(In Our Practice, Spring 1996)
By Cheri Huber
Question: I hear people talking about being identified, and I don't know what that means. How can I tell when I'm identified?
Answer: When I'm operating out of urgency, out of deprivation, a fear that there is something wrong, I'm identified. I leave the all-right-ness of the moment believing that I need to solve a problem or make something happen or gain control over a situation. There is nothing I can do from that identified place that is going to get for me what I have already given up in order to be anxious, worried, and concerned. The feeling of urgency pushes me to do something out of a fear of loss and deprivation, but what I get from that place of deprivation never makes up for not having been here. The only thing that will ever be satisfying is being present in the moment.
Everything I do-work, family, success, wealth, fame, possessions-is with the hope that I will feel exactly the way I feel when I drop everything and am fully here. Peace. Well-being. Satisfaction. Everything I hope for is what I have when I stop hoping and get fully into the moment. Hope is by definition off-center: "to want and expect." If I am living in this moment, what I would hope the future would be, I have. I have also increased the odds that the future will be the way I would wish it to be, because if I am experiencing the satisfaction of being present now, I can experience the satisfaction of being here when then is now. I will probably lose interest in the future because, from well-being in this moment, I will be unlikely to project a lack of well-being in some future moment.
Fear, deprivation, urgency, and the belief that something is wrong can only exist when I am identified with a someone who lives outside the moment that is. Being outside the moment, being identified with a separate-from-the-moment-self, I live in the world of illusion. That delusion of being separate from all that is is dissatisfaction. ("I" is dissatisfaction trying to be satisfied.) I live my life waiting for dissatisfaction to be satisfied. When 1 am identified, I believe that dissatisfaction is an authority on satisfaction and I look to it for direction. It's like trying to be satiated by eating imaginary food. I believe that if I address all the things dissatisfaction is dissatisfied with, then it will be satisfied. If only I were...If only I had... If only he...If only she...If only they...endlessly hoping that enough focus on dissatisfaction will lead to satisfaction.
Identification, personality, conditioning is an assumption, a habit. It takes us a while to realize identification is not a given, it is simply the playing of part after part in an imaginary world.
While practicing awareness, I have seen how being identified works within me. Now I know that I have habits, tendencies, and predispositions toward identifying with certain aspects of personality. As soon as I realize that I don't have to do or be what conditioning tells me, what is the next trap I fall into? I blame myself for being conditioned. I hate myself and punish myself for being a conditioned human being. Even though I have barely realized I am conditioned, even though I can't really tell when I'm operating out of conditioning, can't remember that I have other options, don't know why I am the way I am, I decide it is all my fault and begin to punish myself.
What has happened here? How did I go from having a degree of clarity about how I identify with conditioning to punishing myself for being conditioned? The answer is: this is conditioning, too. This is one of the ways conditioning protects itself. It is one of the endless ways identity is maintained.
Here's the next trap: I will protect the conditioning instead of disidentifying from it and coming back to the moment. I have to realize I am not the conditioning so I can stop protecting it. An example the voices in my head are telling me I'm no good and I hope that denying they exist will make them go away. Instead, I wind up acting in reaction to them. I fool myself but no one else is fooled. Another example: I'm a student of Zen. When I'm in the presence of the teacher, I act as I think the teacher would like me to be rather than revealing what conditioning is really doing in my life. If I reveal it to the teacher she will reflect it back to me, and I will be in danger of having to let it go.
Trying to hide these forces, trying to pretend they are not there, trying to deny to myself and others that the conditioning is operating is as successful as an alcoholic hiding out to drink. Ultimately no one will be fooled. The only hope for the alcoholic is to call someone and say, "Help! The voices are trying to talk me into drinking." The alcoholic learns to get support. Each one of us is addicted to the conditioning, to the survival systems, to the delusions, and we must seek support just like the alcoholic. We've got to blow the whistle on the conditioning or it will control us. The abuser who swears the victim to silence does so not to protect the victim but to perpetuate the abuse.