Posted On 19 Aug 2021
With what do you identify? Have you ever wondered what happens when those identifications break down?
What is loss? What’s its value? What can it teach us about living well?
Nearly everyone identifies with forms.
What’s a form? A “form” is anything that we’re able to single out for our attention. Forms (objects, beings, things) are always limited. Mountains, clouds, thoughts, rivers, trees, emotions, and tigers are all forms.
The forms we identify with are always entities, real forms (or, at least, forms that we take to be real). An entity is a form that is multiply “singleoutable.” For example, if the tree that I’m looking at is the same one as the tree that you’re looking at, it’s an entity. (I’ve discussed identity judgments in a number of posts including “Persons and Sages.”)
Every entity gives off at least a minute vibrational frequency. They are all, ultimately, energy.
What-is is divisible into temporal Becoming, which is the domain of all forms, and eternal Being, which is formless and contains no forms. Being may be directly apprehended, but, since it’s formless, it cannot be singled out.
There are three kinds of entities that we most typically identify with.
Bodies are one kind. We identify with our own bodies: I broke my right wrist, I‘m six feet tall, I’m strong, or my cold is severe.
We also identify with our possessions: that’s my house, my car is old, or my library is in the other room.
We also identify with our relationships with others: she’s my sister, my cousin wrote a book, my husband is handsome, or I’m am American.
We also identify with our physical doings: I drive six miles to my job, I’m a teacher, I’m someone who enjoys vacationing alone, or I invest in real estate.
Thoughts are a second kind. We identify with our thoughts: I’m a Democrat, I’m an elder in the church like my father was, or I hate the Yankees. All evaluations are thoughts and we frequently think about and discuss our likes and dislikes. Many thoughts are beliefs, which are thoughts to which we cling.
Emotions are the third kind. We identify with our emotions: I’m angry at what the President did, I have a headache, I believe that democracy is the best form of government, or I’m happy that the Habs won the game.
Bodies, thoughts, and emotions are all entities with which we identify. There may be other kinds that we also identify with, but those three are by far the most common kinds.
In fact, what would be left of you if you removed all entities from your life?
Abstract from all the bodies, thoughts, and emotions with which you identify and ask, “What’s left?” I encourage you to wonder about that.
Most people think of themselves as being a set of (i) bodies and physical actions, (ii) thoughts and beliefs, and (iii) emotions, which connect minds and bodies. According to research by Dr. David R. Hawkins, about 99 ½% of humans identify with entities. [See his Power Vs. Force, The Eye of the I, and I.]
Here’s the problem with doing what most people do. All entities are impermanent (temporal, temporary). None abide eternally.
Therefore, any entity that you or I identify with can cease to exist (dissolve, become a nonentity). In Becoming, entities are constantly beginning to exist and ceasing to exist.
Therefore, any entity that you or I identify with can be lost. Loss occurs when such entities become nonentities.
You’ve undoubtedly suffered losses. If you haven’t suffered major losses, you can watch the news every day and observe others who have.
You can lose a leg in a motorcycle accident. Your brother can be killed in a war. Your house can burn down. You can lose your job. A beloved child can die. Such physical losses are easy to observe and sometimes difficult to overcome.
Your thoughts and beliefs can change, which means that old ones are replaced by new ones. As you notice physical changes in the world, you naturally update your thoughts. You can lose your religious faith. You can change your political beliefs. You can change your evaluations about people. Your lover can dump you. Your drug-addicted relative can steal money from you.
Since the heart of every emotion is a belief, this automatically means that your emotions can change. (See, e.g., my Emotional Facelift or Emotional Empowerment.)
Of course, some entities are more stable and enduring than others. No matter: none are permanent. All can be lost.
Here’s how life works: it teaches us lessons.
When it gives us a lesson to learn, there are two possible outcomes. Either we fail to learn the lesson or we learn it. If we fail to learn it, we’ll get to keep taking it (until we die); if we learn it, life will give us another lesson.
Important losses hurt a lot. Guess what? You never have to suffer from one again! That’s right, you can live a long and happy life without suffering any (more) major losses.
As always, one must be willing to pay the price. What’s the price?
Although it’s not easy, it’s actually simple. It’s to adopt a life of nonattachment, which is a life of much more love, joy, and freedom than any life of attachment.
Become a sage. That means dropping all your present egocentric attachments to entities.
That includes dropping all your attachments to your egoic self, to your personhood, to your personality, and to what you think are your personal character traits.
Notice that forms and entities are all objects of consciousness (awareness, attentiveness). Every form and every entity is an object of consciousness. Each is an item in Becoming. Each is impermanent.
Therefore, identifying with them risks being undermined by their ceasing to exist.
When an entity that is important to us ceases to exist, we suffer. That yields a choice: We can repeat that same mistake or we can learn the lesson that sages have been trying to teach us for thousands of years.
We are not self; we are Self. In other words, the Kingdom of God is within. It is that realization that brings divine peace.
That realization comes from nonattachment. In fact, we don’t have to gain anything to transition from Becoming to Being. Why?
We already are Being. It’s our essence (core, true nature). The reason that we suffer is that we’re fundamentally alienated from our essence. Until we detach from all the thoughts and beliefs that are obscuring that insight, we’ll continue to suffer.
This is why suffering is optional. When you get sufficiently sick of suffering, why not end it by surrendering to what-is? All it takes is letting go.
Spiritual work is the work of dissolving all attachments to ego.
Eckhart Tolle: “The ego creates separation, and separation creates suffering. The ego is therefore clearly pathological.” [From A New Earth.]
What’s this got to do with loss? “Whatever you identify with turns into ego.” The work (practice, training) of awakening is to move from being totally identified with entities such as bodies, thoughts, and emotions to being totally identified with Being.
Being is consciousness (Mind, Self). “Consciousness itself is timeless.” When we drop pathological identifications and open to our true nature as consciousness, we automatically end loss.
Yes, entities and consciousness interpenetrate, but nothing is forcing you to identify with Becoming. It’s just a bad habit, an addiction. If you are willing to pay the price, you may identify totally with Being – and join the less than ½ of 1% of humans who are able to enjoy life without suffering.
The value of loss is that it may prompt us to fulfill our true nature.