Read an Excerpt
HOW TO PREVENT IDENTITY THEFT
Something happened inside of me
I stepped into my true identity
I stopped and the Spirit got a hold of me
Something turned me 'round!
Recently, my name and address were stolen from the ether of the internet and postal forms were submitted that rerouted my mail to Kenya. To my relief, everything was resolved without dire repercussions. An upside to the whole thing: it reminded me that there's nothing like direct, personal experience to open the heart to compassion.
We unquestionably consider identity to be our sole property. We alone have proprietorship to being a singular some-one. Thieves are not welcome in what is legally and personally private domain -- especially the intimate territory of identity. Unfortunately, with technology's helping hand, identity theft can happen even when applying the most advanced precautions available.
Frank Abagnale, the world's most daring identity thief whose life story was the subject of the movie Catch Me if You Can, shares in the classes he teaches at the FBI Academy that all an identity thief needs today is a computer and within less than thirty minutes, all the information required to assume the identity of someone living or deceased is conveniently available.
My view is that whatever happens in my life is part of my spiritual practice. I suspect this is what caused me to make the leap from exploring the meaning of identity in general to contemplating these questions: What is the deeper meaning of identity -- is it a solid or fluid thing? How do we identify ourselves with physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual accuracy? Who is the monolithic "me" that we describe in résumés, job interviews, online dating questionnaires, application forms, tax returns, and ultimately a death certificate? Does any of it come anywhere close to describing the reality that each of us is?
After I answered these questions for myself, I concluded that the most dangerous identify thief to be on the lookout for is oneself. If this surprises you, consider how your answers to the following questions apply to your relationship with your identity: How quickly do you give away your identity as an irreplaceably unique being and enter the game of social politics to fit in and be accepted by parents, a spouse, lovers, peers, clients, employers, a religious leader, organization, or social club? In what ways do the media and advertising influence you to compromise your life's vision, your appearance, your choice of friends, where you live, the car you drive, where you shop, what you eat? Does intimidation or fear of the opinions of others cause you to go against your own inner guidance? Does your religious affiliation teach that questioning its doctrines is sinful and against God's will?
This penetrating tidbit from Osho cuts through the whole issue: "The greatest fear is of losing one's identity, the image, the ego, the nameplate." Is that why we purchase custom license plates and put bumper stickers on our cars that make public service announcements to other drivers about where we stand on subjects ranging from politics, abortion, spirituality, our favorite radio station, that our child was student of the month, to where we went on vacation? Most of us invest tremendous energy in the identity we create, but to what degree is this investment, conscious or unconscious, grounded in wisdom or ignorance?
Society exerts a powerful influence to create an identity that the outside world defines as successful, beautiful, hip, and so on. Most societal institutions are designed to assure that we are "properly socialized" from cradle to grave. We are so occupied measuring up to its standards, we hardly notice how we have been conditioned to give away our power, how we have been programmed to operate at a standard of mediocrity that doesn't support taking a stand for the changes we wish to see in the world.
IDENTITY THEFT CHECKLIST
Countless times a day, individuals hold themselves hostage to the false beliefs they have about themselves, all the while demanding ransom from a world that is powerless to give what they are unwilling to give themselves: self-love, self-respect, and self-appreciation for their own spirit, beauty, wisdom, and creativity. When you surrender your identity to the outer world, you become trapped in the dilemma of authentic self-expression versus superficial social expectation. Do this long enough and an existential identity crisis occurs because you have stolen your identity and replaced it with a mask you wear to present yourself to the world. You may put a stop to this masquerade when you empower yourself to take self-responsibility for your life.
You are gracing the planet now. How do you want to live this precious human incarnation that has been given to you? As you explore your responses to the following identity theft checklist, practice honest self-observation without judging your findings:
How often do you withhold your authentic feelings or opinions to keep the peace, to not rock the boat?
When you interact with others, do you play small so that others may feel better about themselves? Or do you exaggerate your virtues to appear superior to others?
Do you try on different personas to determine which would be the most impressive and convincing under certain circumstances and in specific environments?
Do you continue to live under a belief system that no longer serves you so that other family members or friends won't get upset?
Do you automatically accept others' assessments of your identity without examining whether or not they vibe with your own inner sense of who you are?
TWO CASES OF MISTAKEN IDENTITY
There are three ways of being in the world that offer clues about your relationship with your identity. First, there is task-oriented living wherein the fulfillment of life's responsibilities, obligations, and duties defines who you are. This offers safety and survival in a seemingly uncertain, unsafe world. At this stage, you also believe that what you do to earn a living is the central component of your being. Your profession is such an overriding aspect of your identity that when meeting a person you say your name followed by your job title. Likewise, when someone is introduced to you, you ask, "So, Miriam, what do you do?" Such individuals live in what I call the realm of "business-card consciousness."
Perhaps you believe that it is your duty to have the same profession as one of your parents, or to become a parent, or to make sure that your parents' desire to be grandparents is fulfilled, so you see your identity as being a dutiful son, daughter, and parent. Stepping out of the box is reckless, irresponsible, and scary to you, so the only safe choice is to perpetuate these familial expectations.
Such convictions cause a person to live in ways that are not much different from their forefathers. They may also live vicariously through others, impersonating or imitating their heroes and heroines, characters in movies and other fantasies, all the while suppressing and repressing their inner impulsion to grow, expand, and break out of the limited, mistaken identity they're stuck in.
Many individuals do not develop beyond task-oriented living because they are genuinely convinced that their identity is "What I do is who I am." They remain in a tight cocoon of agreement with this false notion, seldom breaking through it unless a major event shakes them at their roots. They are their own victims of mistaken identity, participating in what Alan Watts described as "the taboo against knowing who we are."
In addition to societal expectations and parental fantasies, identity is also forged by trendsetting celebrities, the media, educational and religious institutions -- the list goes on. Individuality is sacrificed for the security of uniformity and acceptance, even the security of guaranteed rewards in the afterlife.
If it's painful for you to have read these descriptions, then consider yourself ready to begin reclaiming dominion over your life and moving closer to discovering the identity of your Authentic Self. Know, however, that this comes at a cost, one that you would eagerly pay if you could but see the luminosity of your Essential Self, the exquisiteness that awaits your consent to express as the You of you. You must invest the spiritual coin of unbending intent to do the inner work required to reacquaint yourself with your-Self. It's like contemplating the Buddhist koan, "Show me the face you had before your parents were born."
The next way of navigating in the world is goal-oriented living. At this stage individuals exercise a certain amount of free choice about how and where they will invest their time and energies. They set their goals according to a combination of society's values and perhaps what they've read in books about what constitutes success. Independent thinking and risktaking are involved, along with consideration for the meaning of existence. This is especially the case when faced with such painful losses as divorce, the death of a loved one, getting laid off, or ailing health. A certain willingness to break self-imposed boundaries is motivated primarily by the zeal to accomplish one's list of goals, which provides a false sense of control over the outside world.
Goal-oriented individuals experience an occasional inner impulsion to more genuinely self-express, but they quickly repress or don't examine it too closely because of the fear it arouses in them. Their lives might get shaken up and become unpredictable; they may have to change, and the people who love them now may be left behind, or even worse, may leave them. Not to mention that they may have to revise or shorten their list of goals. These "doers" are most comfortable moving in a world of busyness dictated by long, detailed lists of things to do with great speediness. Aloneness for them is synonymous with loneliness, which they avoid at all costs. In truth, they are avoiding themselves by filling their calendars to keep the edge off as they confuse their goals with their purpose in life. While these individuals have moved from the survival mode to the useful mode, they remain convinced that their identity is "I am what I accomplish," which in the end is still just another case of mistaken identity.
IMMUNITY AGAINST IDENTITY THEFT
The third way of being in the world is purpose-oriented living, where an individual consciously seeks and discovers answers to the perennial questions, "Who am I, and why am I here?" Such individuals are in the process of evolving from the useful mode into the creative mode of being. They continue to perform their tasks, fulfill their responsibilities, and set goals. The difference is that all of this unfolds in a spacious inner context of joy, creativity, and conscious communion with Spirit. Purpose-oriented individuals invite the spiritual qualities of love, compassion, peace, creativity, generosity of heart to express in, as, and through their lives. There's a celebration going on within them because their identity is rooted in the realization that "I am a unique expression of Spirit, living my life attuned to the evolutionary impulse governing the universe. My consciousness is open to infinite possibilities." This is the inner attitude that provides immunity against identity theft.
YOUR TRUE IDENTITY IS IMMUNE TO THEFT
Ultimately, of course, no person, place, or circumstance can steal another's identity, nor can we steal our own. Even when we leave the body temple at the time of physical death, we participate in the continuum of existence. However, until we realize what constitutes the Essential Self -- our core identity -- we know we are alive but we are not yet living our fullest potential. Discovering our true identity does not come about by merely learning feel-good spiritual descriptions about who we are but in unlearning the false conditioning by which we define and express our identity. In other words, we must transform our patterns of thought and behavior.
WHAT'S IN A NAME?
I've observed with amusement that as some individuals become more self-acquainted with their unique characteristics, they want a name change to reflect their expanded perception of themselves. So they choose a new name, most often in a language other than English, which expresses a quality they have identified within themselves or are striving to cultivate. Upon learning more about their ancestry, individuals may be inspired to take a name that reflects an aspect of their personal history.
Sometimes a nickname comes closer to expressing a unique personality trait than a birth name, and so it sticks throughout a person's life. Today, more women choose to maintain their own surname when they marry, and married couples hyphenate their last names. And it's no longer so common for parental power to express by naming a son "Jr.", thus allowing him his own sense of individuality. Names do carry a vibration, which is why when monastics take vows they are given a new name that carries the energy of a spiritual quality or is associated with a saintly person. All of this relates to our intricate dance with identity.
Obviously, we don't get to choose our own names at birth, and carrying a name can be a vulnerable experience, as anyone who has been teased because of their name will attest. As a youngster, I never used or mentioned my middle name because it sounded old-fashioned. It was not so many years ago that I began using my middle name out of great respect for my namesake, my grand-father, Francis Bernard, and my father, who was named after his father, both of whom are a tremendous inspiration in my life. Not long ago I felt that I had matured into my middle name and now use it consistently.
Nonfiction and fiction books that forecast future societal trends make reference to a time when individuals will no longer be identified by a name. Instead, they will be given a number. Talk about an in-your-face insult to identity! Our true identity will always be more than a number, our gender, or name because we are, in essence, formless and nameless. Our spirit-soul knows only its cosmic identity as an individualized emanation of our Source. Nevertheless, for the sake of having some fun playing with your name as an aspect of your identity, if you could rename yourself today, what might your name be? If you could rename your children, what might their names be? Upon what would you base your choices?
IDENTIFY YOURSELF WITH FIRST CAUSE
As stated earlier, your cosmic identity is made in the image and likeness of love, intelligence, compassion, joy, creativity, and beauty itself. It includes the unique ways in which these qualities express in, through, and as you. Embody this realization, and you will cease competing for love, recognition, and attention. You will know that you are one of a kind, that your life is on purpose, and that you are loved, guarded, and guided by Existence. When you say "yes" to authentically being who you are, your purpose reveals itself in language your heart can understand. Then, instead of operating from cunningness and manipulating the world around you, you navigate life from your identification with First Cause, your Source.
As you begin to touch who and what you really are, you participate in the art of real living. From the boardroom to the meditation room to the bathroom sink, the impress of the uniqueness of your being energetically falls upon all that encompasses your world.
A trustworthy and accurate indicator that you are moving toward reclaiming your true identity is when your life centers on your inner evolution. You begin your search for a spiritual path that makes sense to your heart and your head, one that teaches you how to expand consciousness and become a beneficial presence on the planet. You affirmatively answer the call to deliver your talents, gifts, and skills with nonattachment to the fruits of your actions. You live free from the shackles of societal thought forms that would bind you into a collective agreement with the status quo. You begin to attain self-mastery over your thought patterns, your behavior patterns. You accept the invitation of the master teacher Jesus to "come out from among them" and dare to be your Authentic Self.
When you realize that you are on the planet as a co-creative agent to fully express your unique identity, you are claiming that you are a distribution center for delivering what is happening throughout the cosmos: love, beauty, compassion, joy, creativity, harmony, peace. Challenges arise, but you relate to them in their proper context -- as rich material to work with.
As you begin to love and appreciate yourself, you realize that all beings are an emanation of First Cause, and so it becomes natural to express compassion and forgiveness and pray for everyone to experience the glory of their existence. You begin to realize that how you see the world and what you experience are projections from your own consciousness. Equipped with this insight, you quit demanding that circumstances and people change, and instead you take self-responsibility and work within yourself for a transformation in consciousness. You consciously choose to live by the evolutionary principles governing the universe. You accept that there is an innate greatness within you which must be disturbed into action, so you welcome challenges as a vehicle for awakening to your true nature. You begin each day with an attitude that "this is the best day of my life, and by the end of this day, I will have a deeper realization about the universe, about the Invisible, about myself and the true art of living." In these ways, you go about living the wisdom that your true identity is not determined by anything or anyone outside of yourself.
Existence is whispering in your ear right now that everything you could ever hope to be is already who you are. Believe it. What does that feel like? How does it affect your thoughts, choices, and actions?
Right now, through meditation, contemplation, visioning, and affirmative prayer, you can begin to see your original face, feel your innately enlightened state, and be on your way to freedom from the illusion of an existence separate from the Whole. You will know yourself as an expression of the next level of human evolution, and never again will you have the need to compromise your real identity.
I give my consent to activating my life's purpose of delivering my talents, gifts, and skills on the planet -- not only for my personal benefit, but as my contribution to the planet. Anything that heretofore blocked or intimidated me from living up to my highest potential mentally, emotionally, creatively, or spiritually is now dissolved. I am who and what I was always meant to be.
Right here and right now, I announce the truth that my life is the life of God. I fully accept my spiritual inheritance of the qualities of the Spirit and activate them within me. Pure love, intelligence, wisdom, and beauty emanate from my soul. Everything works together for my good. The entire universe is conspiring on its own behalf to release life energy through me in all aspects of my life.
All the ways in which I was previously tied to my human identity that would have convinced me I am separate from the Whole are now dissolved. They were never the truth about who and what I am. I am beyond my personal history, beyond my ego, beyond the ego's opinions, concepts, and points of view. I no longer see myself only with the mortal eye but with the inner eye of the Spirit. In its reflection I see my inherent purity, my innately awakened state.
I not only see who and what I really am, I act from this place of awareness. From the mundane to the sublime, I infiltrate all of my thoughts and actions with the qualities of my true nature. My life is the life of God; God's life is my life. I am what Thou art; Thou art what I am. In this realization I know all of my needs are met. I know I am an opening, an instrumentality through which the Eternal shines forth and expresses through. This is my true identity, and I wear it well.
This word that I have spoken falls upon a fertile consciousness. I declare my readiness to live that which I believe. The conditions are now ripe within me to be fully franchised expression of the dynamic potential, vitality, and vigor that I am.
I no longer fall prey to identity theft, to the false belief that I am separate from the Whole of Existence. I serve this truth today in my thoughts, speech, and actions and am filled with the joy of not only knowing but of being who and what I truly am.
Copyright © 2008 by Michael Bernard Beckwith