Trusting The Loss Of Your Identity

2083_WHO_AM_I_WHO_ARE_YOU_WHO_ARE_WE-1427112184mA friend of mine lost her husband about a year ago.  She was his caretaker for many years, and before that, she cared for her ailing parents. She told me recently that she is so confused, doesn’t know who she is anymore, and is trying to figure out what she is supposed to be doing next. She feels like her identity has been taken away. I told her that I believe just the opposite is happening. Life has taken away the caretaker role so she can get to know who she really is.

I too have experienced what it is like to have the old identity ripped away. It feels like a butterfly whose wings are wet and cannot move. Often times our self-worth is tied to how much we accomplish or how much we can get done, especially in our jobs or careers. When something is taken away from us that we have identified with for a long time, it is painful and scary. And our poor little mind goes crazy because it has always found a sense of safety through the illusion that it is in control. The mind is a tool for maneuvering through reality, but it is not reality.  We have given the mind a false identity and one of the greatest illusions of this separate self is that it is in charge and it can and must figure it all out. Stephen Levine, author and poet, says that trying to figure it all out is the ultimate seduction.

I believe Life is preparing us for being birthed back into the vast spaciousness of who we truly are. But, it can be confusing and scary for the ego.  As the Tibetan Lama Chögyam Trungpa Rinoche says, “If there were no confusion, there would be no wisdom. Chaos should be regarded as really good news.” When we lose a part of our old identify, there can be so much confusion and grief that it feels like death. But, what is actually happening is that something new is being born. Remember that, although birth is wonderful, it is not neat and pretty. A human birth has pee and poop and blood, and it is painful. So it is important to do our Lamaze breathing, whether we are birthing a child or Life is birthing us! We can resist this process, or we can recognize that Life knows what it is doing as it takes this away and that away.

Experiencing the pain, confusion and grief of losing one’s identity brings to mind a beautiful poem called “I Trust You” by the Persian poet, Rumi.


The soul is a newly skinned hide, bloody
and gross.  Work on it with manual discipline,
You don’t have to make a decision, one way or another.

You’ll become lovely and strong.
If you can’t do this work yourself, don’t worry.
You don’t have to make a decision, one way or another.

The Friend, who knows a lot more than you do,
will bring difficulties and grief and sickness,
as medicine, as happiness, as the moment

when you’re beaten, when you hear Checkmate,
and can finally say with Hallaj’s voice,
I trust you to kill me.

I believe what Rumi is saying here is that if we can be with all the veils, including grief, sadness, pain, struggle, and confusion, Life will bring us home. Life, that which has brought us out of mystery and beats our hearts, is the Friend that knows more than we do. And when we feel defeated and Life says “Checkmate,” we can trust it is putting us in the right situations to see our separate identity, the ego. He is using poetic license here when using the word “kill” for there is nothing to kill. There is just Life putting us in these situations so we can see the veils that we have taken on. The way to recognize our home – the place of peace, ease and joy that we really are – is to see through the veils. Life is holding us every step of the way when we are losing what we have identified with for a long time, and out of this will come a different way of being with ourselves and with Life.

The next time you feel challenged, try asking Life for help by saying, “Help me through this passage, and show me how to see what you are showing me so I can be healed to my core.” How does this make you feel?

Image – Who Am I? Who Are You? Who Are We? – Artist Charles Cham

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