I have a friend, let’s call him The Mr Rat. Each night around 1.30 am The Mr Rat scratches and carries on in the walls behind my bed. Mr Rat, is busy busy eating his way through the wall. So you can imagine my horror when I went into my bedroom and noticed two heavy ornaments had been knocked to the ground. The Mr Rat had made his escape. All hell broke loose then. I wasn’t going to sleep in that bed, someone had to do something about it, near hysteria brewing. The Mr Rat was going to get me in the night and eat me alive. Well funny, after about an hour of fussing my daughter came in and told me she has put the ornaments on the floor while she was trying to get something. A case of mistaken identity.
Mistaken identity is referred to in yoga as Avidya. Vidya means wisdom or knowledge, A is the negative so we get the meaning without wisdom or knowledge of the situation. In short it is a basic ignorance of the facts of a situation. Avidya is a case of mistaken identity, we do not realise who we really are or we mistake something that is happening in our life as who we are.
Today was pretty gloomy in New Zealand. I woke up to the after effects of the worst storm in 37 years, it was depressing, cold, dark and bleak. I felt a little down when I woke. Minutes later after getting up I was definitely down, depressed and sad and every action or interaction that followed that morning confirmed this. I am down. Here is the case of mistaken identity. What we tend to do as humans is feel something, love, pain, fear, sadness etc., this feeling comes in the form of thoughts. We then confirm this with our actions. What we do is we identify ourselves with our thoughts and then later our actions. So I wake up feeling down and sooner or later we can announce to ourselves, I am down. This then flavours our actions or how we see others. This is the mistaken identity. We are not anything actually. We have just had a feeling, which will pass, but, our first response is to attach ourselves to the feeling by saying I am x.
Here are some others everyday examples.
You fail a test, I am a failure
You injure yourself, I am useless now I can’t play sport, do yoga
You feel angry, I am an angry person
Someone leaves you, I am unloveable
No one talks to you, I am not good in social situations
You have an argument and someone says you are X, you believe them.
The list goes on and on. Some of it is conditioning from our past. The only way out is to catch yourself labeling with the I word. Realising that you are not actually your thoughts, is the first step towards wisdom or knowledge of your true self.
Practice for today: We are not the car we drive, the job we go to, the labels we give ourselves or others give us or the thoughts we have. No, we are none of that. What we are is something a whole lot bigger than our labels. Today act accordingly with this new knowledge of yourself.