Identity Shedding: You can be free right now

a meditation you can practice

Ashwini Sriram
4 min readJul 11, 2023
Photo by Ashley Bean on Unsplash

America tells you to build your brand.

To plan.

To control everything. Your finances, your body, your life.

Even your morning coffee has to be at the precise temperature, and have the right dairy content.

Hollywood movies glorify this type of hyper-control. Hyper-individualism. There are people who charge thousands of dollars to help you build a personal brand. As though you are a detergent.

You are an absolute failure if you don’t exactly know or state your preferences. People in corporate offices in America brag about what car they like, whether they are a beach-person or a mountain-person, what kind of beverages they drink.

“I need my coffee to be precisely 92 degrees.”, I have heard before.

“I am going to retire at 40.”, another says.

Uniquely crafting one’s personality and life thus, is the ultimate sign of human success in the West (apart from being rich, that is).

This is probably why so many people are depressed in this country: you take on the responsibility of life itself. You think you control everything.

You don’t. You don’t even control your body. It runs on its own. Nature controls it. Try running your body for a day: it will collapse in less than 5 minutes. You didn’t choose to be born, you cannot control how and when you die. You don’t control most things.

Give up this illusion of control, and this illusion of a “personality”.
People say, “I am a wife, and engineer, a painter, blah blah”. What happens if you are no longer a wife, no longer an engineer, or can’t paint? Do you cease to be you?

Of course not. You still exist. You are still you, without those labels. Why attach yourself to these temporary qualities and made them your whole identity?

Give it up. Lose it. Lose these labels that you carry, and be free.

You are the bare awareness. The thing that is experiencing being a mother, a wife, a painter, an engineer. Even if you no longer have these experiences, you will still be that awareness. You will simply be aware of other things.

When B.K.S. Iyengar, the famous yogi, first came to the United States, he is supposed to have remarked: “people hardly breathe here..they are so tense”. This is what holding fast to temporary identities does to you.

Every great teacher, mystic in history tells us to let go; to give up, to surrender. Have you ever floated in the ocean on your back? The harder you try to hold on to your sense of balance, the less likely you are to float. You need to give up control in order to float on your back.

Life’s the same. Just relax into this ocean. Trust it to take care of you. Let go. Nature is what brought you here, gave you this body, fed and clothed you, and instilled love for you in your parents’ hearts. It will continue to take care of you.

“Burn down your house”, Kabir, the 15th century mystic poet says, “and walk with me”. We have built these “houses” of labels and are trying to find safety within these temporary personality.

“You cannot really lose anything because you don’t own anything in the first place. Not the stuff you have, nor your spouse, nor your property. They are given to you to keep temporarily. So never say, “I have lost something.” You just returned it.” Epictetus said.

“If you realise that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to. If you are not afraid of dying, there is nothing you cannot achieve,” says Tzu.

Shedding these shifting identities is more freeing, and more true, than donning them. They are just veils that obscure who we really are. Holding on tightly to these veils cause suffering. When we lose our jobs, we grieve the “death” of our personality, when in reality, it was never a part of us.

“This is love: to fly toward a secret sky, to cause a hundred veils to fall each moment. First to let go of life. Finally, to take a step without feet.”, Rumi says. He also says

“When you let go of who you are, you become who you might be.”

A meditation

Not attaching yourself to a “persona” is the most freeing way to live.

Close your eyes and practice the following exercise to “shed” your labels, and to rest in your true nature.

Remember:

You are not your body, you are not your mind, you are not your diseases, you are not brown, black, or white. You are not the problems in your mind, your past, or your future.

You are not a wife, a mom, or a daughter. These are roles you play. You are that which is aware of all these roles, people, thoughts, and your body.

Just as in a dream, in waking too, you play many roles, move through many experiences, but none of them touch you. You are eternal. Let go, and shed these labels.

You are the bare awareness that is aware of all your physical and mental attributes. You are that which is aware of your roles, the people in your life, and the experiences you have. You are that bare awareness.

Experience the lightness of shedding the baggage that you have been desperately clinging on to. You have no preferences. You are floating on your back in this ocean of life. Free. Light. Nature is nourishing and taking care of you, and it will continue to do so.

Notice that you are free and real without any of these identities too. You don’t control anything. You don’t need to. You are like a flower that’s blooming upon this earth. You are love itself.

Peace. Peace. Peace.

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Ashwini Sriram

Technology leader from Chennai living and writing in San Francisco.