Identity, Purpose & Values
What is your identity? In a time when we are all supposed to be aware of identity politics I find myself wondering what, exactly, is my identity? I know I am supposed to be British, I am also a man, I am white, heterosexual and in my 50s. All of these facts are supposed to be key to my identity and yet I don’t find myself identifying very much with any of them. These all seems to be more an accident of birth as opposed to being able to identify who I am. Being British, to me, is just a statement of where I was born. Being labelled as British implies I am connected to the colonial and Empire days and I reject that on the basis of the crimes against humanity those days now represent. Similarly, being a man, especially a white man, connects me to the Patriarchy and I reject that too. When I consider the damage humanity has inflicted on Mother Earth I wonder if the damage would be so extensive if women had an equal say in the running of our society? Overall, my given identity does not fit me and I wonder if this could be a problem.
Your identity is the answer to the question: who are you? I am not convinced that my given name, Simon Nowell, is my answer to this question, although I do identify with it. The problem with my name is that it does not define who I am, it is more of a label. I am completely different now, compared to how I used to be, I have been shaped by my life’s experiences. Over the decades I have changed enormously so why would my name not change too, to represent this?
Many people define themselves by what they do. I have been an IT technician, a salesman, a teacher, a Union activist, an author and a healer. These are just job titles, more labels. I do identify with some of them (not all) but these labels in no way define who I am. Much of the most important stuff is missing. I am a father and a grandfather; I am a lover and philosopher and I also guide people in the “mysteries”.
If I were to ask you about your identity I suspect you would go through a similar journey and you are likely to find yourself similarly baffled. Does your sex, nationality, ethnic group and what you do adequately define your uniqueness; your contribution; your personality and what your gift is to the world? If not then I ask you the same question that I have struggled with for decades: who are you?
The questions: “Who are you?” and: “Why are you here?” are not new. I suspect that they have been asked by everyone ever born at some point in their lives. These big questions along with a few others (who created the world? And, where do we go when we die?) have been discussed so much in the past that we still quote those ancient philosophers: Confucius, Krishna, Socrates, Jesus, Mohammed, Guru Nanak and, frankly, hundreds, if not thousands, of others. Some of those remarkable men (and women – only a few documented of course but they do exist) have started religions and others are still referenced partly because of their fabulous wisdom but mainly because these were the people that wrote it down! It is the nature of wisdom for it to be passed down from generation to generation because it is, well, wise! There has been a lot of discussion about the question “who am I?” over the millennia. This knowledge has been filed under philosophy or theology or spirituality and, despite the work that has gone into this field, it has dropped in popularity, certainly in the mainstream media. My personal experience, however, is that this knowledge is still much sought after and these questions are still being asked.
The bulk of my spiritual training comes from the distilled wisdom of the dusty temples of the East. When it comes to identity these teachings are quite clear. They have made it a mantra:
I Am that I Am
I Am not the body
I Am not the emotions
I Am not the mind
The mind is just a subtle instrument of the Soul.
I Am the soul
I am a spiritual being of Divine Love,
Divine Intelligence and Divine Power
I Am that I Am.
(Grandmaster Choa Kok Sui)
This mantra tells me exactly what I am and clearly advises me what I am not. I am the Soul! It naturally leads me to the question: what is a soul and what does my soul identify with? Of course, I do not expect these teachings to resonate with you, dear reader. You may be looking at the above words in bafflement asking the question: what is the soul? For me the soul refers to me, but not just the outside, nor all those other things attached to my name but something older, deeper, more fundamental: my centre, my essence, my core, my inner self. If I could take away my body, my emotions, my thoughts, my mind and my ego then my soul would be what was left of me. Of course, others have different descriptions and references. Some may call it a conscience; others would link this to a Jungian Archetype maybe. There are many attempts at describing this idea, the name, what to call this idea is not really that important; it is whether you recognise that inner, central, sacred space within yourself that seems to hold all those fabulous, loving and noble parts of you. If you can recognize that place or part of yourself then this all makes sense. In fact, that particular part of yourself, that part that seems to hold all the best bits of you, tends to be very quiet and elusive. “Spirituality”, in many ways is the study of this part of you: your soul. It is a self-help set of instructions of how to identify your soul and what steps you need to take to put your soul in charge of your life.
Your soul, being the best part of yourself (and arguably divine in its own right), is the part of you that should be setting your values. The trouble is that your soul speaks so quietly that it is difficult to pick up what those values are; normally love is in the mix, peace too. All religious and spiritual practices wax lyrical about the standards you should hold yourself to but we all, quite rightly, feel that this should be our own choice. Indeed, choosing our own values is a job of work for us all to do.
Knowing who you are is important. Without knowing who you are, how can anyone work out the answer to the next question: why are you here? Knowledge of yourself, true knowledge that sees through all those deceptions we tell ourselves, leads naturally to your true purpose. That purpose is inevitably multifaceted. Part of your purpose is to improve yourself, to become the best human being you can be. Another part of your purpose is to identify your gift(s) and bring them to the world. Knowing who you are seeds the knowledge of your gift(s) and finding your gift(s) leads to your purpose. If these ideas resonate, then you may like to explore them further with the imaginalCompass.
Your identity leads to your purpose which informs your choices and allows you to evolve. Who you are is important! Do you think your soul is concerned with the colour of your skin, your gender or sexual identity, your nationality or your job title? Or does your soul resonate more with your values? Indeed, what are your deepest values? At the Imaginal Collective, we have found that people’s deepest values are remarkably consistent: love is nearly always there, so is peace. Becoming a member of the Imaginal Collective requires that you embrace our values.
One purpose that we all have as individuals is to evolve. We all have things about ourselves that we would like to improve and your life is designed to show you these things and also test you! Implied in the word evolution is that mistakes will be made. The choices you make are your answers to the question who are you? They are the focus of your evolution. At the moment of every choice you have the opportunity to bring who you are and why you are here to that infinitely small moment of time when you make the choice. If you make a choice based on love, peace, joy, beauty and unity, guided by your consciousness and being mindful of Mother Earth, your choice may not be easy but you will never regret it and positive evolution is almost always ensured.