Identity

Its been 4 months since I left the center and I’ve successfully maintained my practice but to do so I’ve withdrawn from society. While I know this path is right, it’s still very different from everyone around me. To get established in this practice, I found that I needed to pull back and look inward, but now I believe I need to engage the world more. I’m intimidated and scared to put myself out there because I’m not exactly sure who I am now. Thriving in the social world requires confidence in my identity, so what is my identity?

Everyone likes to ask, “What do you do for a living?” That’s what determines our identity here in the states. I kind of fumble around this question because I’ve done so many different things and don’t really define myself by my occupation. Next time I’m asked this, I hope I have the courage to answer, “The most defining activity I have is my meditation practice. It challenges me to focus on the important things in life.” Right now, that’s my identity.

It’s scary to share myself because this answer doesn’t fit into the typical mold. People ask about your occupation because they’re sizing you up and evaluating you. By not responding with my occupation, I’m refusing to be evaluated or at least to fit into the typical mold. In some ways, I’m protesting this entire social construct of hierarchy. I believe that a healthy society needs to learn how to evaluate people beyond the superficial measuring sticks. We are all much more than the job we hold, the building we live in, and the clothes we wear. We should be measured by our ability to love and contribute to the world. Maybe soon I’ll have the confidence to live every day by this value. Time to go meditate.

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About Ryan Shelton

In March of 2010 I discovered a path to peace and happiness through a 10-day Vipassana meditation course in the tradition of S.N. Goenka. After establishing my personal practice, and witnessing how it changed my way of life, I'm now curious to explore how the growing community of meditators can help to support each other and make the world a better place.
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4 Responses to Identity

  1. “People ask about your occupation because they’re sizing you up and evaluating you.”

    That’s a pretty cynical assumption, I think. Are there no other motivations they might have?

  2. shalinisun says:

    thanks for this post. I could so relate right now in my own life. I read Dolber’s comment too and that also helped. Yes, I think its more of an opportunity for us to observe our perceptions of others ‘sizing us up’ and how inside we react to that. I also am in the same position of ‘oh i want to engage with the world more now, and oh how will i be accepted’. Yes, I also feel ‘how i wish people are able to respect me and size me up differently’. I can so much relate to that and i think i am going to acknowledge that as a very human feeling and look and observe it with the same anicca practice ( its a feeling, it will go ) and observe my beliefs and attachments to it. I think there is no point in expecting people to change. They will change when the time comes for it or maybe they already do. I must also observe my perception of how i want the society to be, to approve my own identity, whatever it is, even if it is just that ‘i am a meditator’,while the highest truth is that we are to be free from any such identity. Even identities keep taking different forms and they too change rapidly if we keenly observe ourselves i think. Can we reach a place where even if people size us up or not, even if people respect our ‘occupation’ or not, we can remain unperturbed authentically, well not as an ideal or a principle, but as an authentic space within us, by using our anicca practice? Can I keep doing what I feel authentically is true and right for me, whether that is meditation with temporary withdrawal or engaging with society? Is that possible? I wondered. These are the questions that came up for me and I am very thankful for it. Thank you again. I hope my daily sittings will help and eventually reach me up to that space.. :-).

  3. Pooja says:

    Meditation is a personal endeavour, and work life is the social one.

    Answer accordingly.

    I tell people am a writer, a person looking for such and such job, or studying. Very few people I work with actually know am so inclined towards meditation … if they see anything they just see the ethics I live by.

    However, I do interact with people on Internet who I think are predisposed and relate to meditation!

    Thinking of it, I am reserved even in the meditation centre and rarely give away my personal details.

    I think I do not mention sometimes because more than me, it puts others at unease …

    • ryanshelton7 says:

      Hi Pooja. Thanks for this comment. I need to think about it more. I think it solves my concern about perception, but it makes me uncomfortable to hide a part of myself that is so important. Before meditation entered my life, sharing myself with others is what brought meaning to life. So instead of sharing myself, I should choose to accept that my journey with meditation is personal and independent from the world around me? Of course, if people can’t relate to my experiences, am I just creating a discord between me and the people around me? I don’t like the feeling of being all alone on this universal journey but maybe that’s something I need to accept. Again, I need to think about this some more. Thanks!

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