Who Am I Really: Discussion on Identity + Yoga Nidra

This podcast is divided into 2 parts—the first 15 minutes are devoted to a discussion on identity. Starting at about the 15 minute mark, I transition into a 30-minute Yoga Nidra —a long, guided meditation through the Koshas—the “sheaths” or “layers” of the body.

I wanted to do this episode today, outside of my normal rhythm, as something I can do to help during the Coronavirus and stay-at-home, social distancing measures we’re implementing and following. As hard as this period of time is for so many, it can actually be a good time to explore some answers to the Big Questions: Who am I, and Why am I Here?Identity



Hello and welcome to a special episode of Awaken Your Power. This one is going to land in between my usual rotation of every other Tuesday. It is in response to the corona virus and the social distancing that we’re all practicing right now. And it’s going to be divided into two sections. The first section is going to be a discussion on identity and purpose and meaning and who are we, and we’re gonna take a deep dive into what it means to wear an identity. I often use the term skins as a metaphor for identity. And the second half of the episode I will be guiding you through a Yoga Nidra, which is yoga sleep, essentially a deep relaxation that you can expect to last anywhere from 20 minutes to 30 minutes.

And we’re going to go through the Koshas or the coverings or she’s of the body. This is going to go hand in hand with our discussion of identity because the idea of this particular meditation practice or Yoga Nidra is to, one by one, remove the coverings that hide our soul in this world.

So I would invite you now as we start to talk about identity and move into this first section of the podcast, to also take this time to set up a space where you will be able to lie down in silence and preferably in darkness as well with as little disruption from any of the senses as possible. So for this particular meditation practice, we don’t want any sense or any lights on.

We want to kind of remove all of the input, so that we can go deep into our own body, mind, and then we’ll go even deeper and deeper into that. So again, maybe make a space with some blankets and pillows, make sure that you’ll be warm and comfortable and undisturbed.

I will put in the show notes on my website, the minute that that starts so that you know, if you want to jump directly to that later, or do that multiple times, I would definitely recommend that.

But first, I want to talk about this opportunity that we have right now to explore the questions Who am I? And Why Am I Here? for with a little bit more depth. This is a topic that is always near and dear to my heart. It was definitely a major theme of my book Embodying Soul: A Return to Wholeness.

I see skins or really identities and labels and personality, characteristics and our titles I call them all skins as coverings of our soul as ways that can depending on how we use them, either bring us a little bit closer to ourselves and our soul or keep us from that. That kind of relationship.

I want to start with this quote by Emily McDowell. It says, “Finding yourself is not really how it works. You aren’t a $10 bill in last winter’s coat pocket. You are also not lost. Your true self is right there, buried underneath cultural conditioning, other people’s opinions, and inaccurate conclusions you drew as a kid that became your beliefs about who you are. Finding yourself is actually returning to yourself an unlearning an excavation of remembering who you were before the world got its hands on you.”

When I think about being a kid when I go back there. And again, when I wrote about this period of time in my life, I remember a sense of freedom and play. I think the human journey is really about coming into this human body, and then taking on labels playing roles playing the game. And as children a little bit closer to our soul, we remember that so we would play games, we would play roles. And then when that was over, we would take that off, and we would go back into just our natural self.

Then as we get older, though, we start to take on roles and titles and what other people tell us we are, and we begin to identify with these traits or characteristics or labels. And over time, they become stickier and stickier, and eventually, we really don’t distinguish ourselves from these skins any longer they become who we are.

For some of us, maybe that is a helpful way of moving about in the world as that role. But I think for most of us, eventually, every role, every characteristic is going to get too sticky, it’s going to get too tight. And we’re not going to be able to move on and continue to learn the things that we came here to learn.

I personally believe that the soul came down into this human body to experience many roles, and many labels and identities. That this Western idea we have of finding out what our purpose is, and then sticking to it with a fierceness. This idea that it’s supposed to last our entire lives and make us happy, I think is naive. I think that we are much more curious than that. We are as souls much more creative than that. And there’s a lot that can be learned from
moving in and out of roles and identities and seeing our lives as an adventure or game that we’re taking on temporarily for our own growth.

So who are we without our labels? That’s really the question.

Once we get identified, it’s harder and harder to remember that playful child that was once inside us that part of ourselves that looked upon the world with wonder and bright eyes, and every day is a new beginning. Every day is a new adventure to reinvent, to explore, and to create.

I like this idea, or this analogy of riding a train. You know, we are getting on the train, and we are expecting to go somewhere, but we know that eventually we’re going to get off this train. But what happens as the journey goes on, we begin to forget about where we were going to get off, we begin to be pulled into the drama on the train, or the sounds out the window and the sights out the window.

And this now becomes our new reality. And slowly and over time, the destination once it does arrive, we’ve forgotten about it. We forgot that there was a bigger world we forgot that there were somewhere else we were going to go and instead now we’re just riding this train.

Something about this coronavirus and this social distancing and all being at home, as challenging as it is, it is also an opportunity to maybe get off the train and begin to look around and remind ourselves of where it was that we were going, or where else we might like to go or what else we might like to try on.

I just wanted to share a couple of my favorite quotes about identity with you today.

This one is from Oscar Wilde” “Most people are other people. their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives, their memory, their passions, a quotation.”

And I think this is a little bit true for all of us. And how do we know you know, how is it possible for us to know what is truly us and truly our passion? And what is something that we have decided to wear or we got approval for at one point in time or we got love for at one point in time. And so then we continued to wear that scanner that label hoping that it would continue to bring us the approval and love.

Here’s another one from Chuck Palahniuk in from Invisible Monsters. I don’t know if I pronounce that last name, right. “Nothing of me is original. I am the combined effort of everyone I’ve ever known.”

I mean you think about that for just a minute. And you think about all of the things that you’ve been called or named, or associated with, or all the titles and roles and the way that people have labeled us and you think about that as a coat that we’re wearing, and that everybody has taken part and made a stitch in this coat that we’re wearing.

And we call it ours, we think that it’s ours, and maybe we take pride in it, or maybe there’s some shame in it. But we believe that it’s ours, when in reality, it was knitted together by old bosses and old boyfriends and girlfriends, and maybe even just strangers on the street who said something and made a comment that, that stuck.

An exercise that I would recommend that you try, is to take a big piece of tagboard and believe me, you want to get a big piece. Start to write down all of the things that you have ever been called by other people or by yourself.
Start with the easy ones, like daughter or son or parent or those kinds of relationship roles, and then move on to titles and maybe jobs and positions that you’ve held, and move into personality characteristics, you were called funny you were called boring, whatever you were called label it, or write it all down.

And just keep going. I mean, everything, the good things, the bad things, all of it. And it is nearly impossible that you could look at this when you’re done. And think that this hasn’t had some effect on who you are today and how you view yourself and that it doesn’t constrict you in some way, that it doesn’t tamp down your freedom, in some respect, that there’s a part of you that is still playing these roles or riding the train, and we don’t realize it and we think that this is reality, when in essence, it’s, it’s not at all.

It’s just this combination of skins that we have taken on for ourselves. We have all chosen this life, to grow and to learn and to explore. And the most important thing that we need then is freedom, freedom to move, freedom to try freedom to fail, freedom to have a new beginning, and to not feel that everything every road must be completed, every path must come to an end.

One of the things I learned through writing my book was that a lot of the life paths I took that I felt didn’t have the right ending or didn’t come to a natural conclusion was because these paths were no longer mine. The skin was getting too tight. My curiosity was leading me in a new direction.

And that is okay. It’s not always an in line with what we think of as in our culture, our culture teaches us from the very time we are little, what are you going to be when you grow up, like there’s going to be this one thing, and that through that one thing, all of our purpose and meaning will be realized.

And I just don’t think that that is possible. And I don’t think that that’s how we can grow. So in order to know who we are at the core, in order to return to that more child like space of freedom, then we need to start removing, even if it’s temporary, all of the skins and the layers that cover our soul. This is what we’re going to be doing in a moment with our Yoga nidra practice is removing these things. Only by taking everything off. Can we then decide if we would still like to go forward.

It’s not that these skins are bad, it’s how we use them. If we understand that there are tools to give us a different perspective and ways of viewing our lives, then that is a completely natural and soulful way to use these skins. It’s only when we get so attached to them, or in some cases, completely averse to them, that they begin to create tension and friction and stress in our lives. So we’re going to do this through the physical practice. This is also something that you can just do in your life on a regular basis with the mantra, who am I really, who am I really, I am this I am an executive. I’m an employee, I’m a teacher, yes, but who are you really keep going deeper and deeper and deeper.

This also is an excellent exercise, to just start writing it down, you will start with the basic things. I’m a teacher, I’m a mother, I’m a friend. But it’ll start going deeper. If you give yourself that freedom, and you will go deeper and deeper underneath those skins and what we’re trying to access is our soul. We’re trying to access that part of ourselves that is infinite, and beyond the part of ourselves that knows why we came here the part of ourselves that is unafraid to live this life with freedom and curiosity. Then, from that space of Seoul, we can move back out into our world and we can wear skins and we can play with skins and it’s like putting on a play.

I’m going to go now and put on my, this particular skin, this particular skin or you can see them as hats that we’re wearing different, different hats, but we know that when we come home to ourselves, that we take those hats off. That’s the first thing we do when we come home from work is we take off our jacket. We take off our shoes. We don’t always do that with our identities. And pretty soon, we don’t see ourselves apart from them any longer.



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