When several people witness the same event, they have different perspectives, and they notice different things. A similar phenomenon takes place every moment as we process all the sensory information we’re receiving. Only a tiny fragment of the sensory information that we receive reaches our consciousness, so in a sense we’re always just taking bits and pieces of our reality to create a story of what is happening.
On top of the bits and pieces that we notice and extract, we add a layer of our own thoughts, judgments, beliefs and values, which we also build from bits and pieces of our experience. We end up with a fairly creative tale of who we are and what we’ve experienced in our lives—similar to those fictions that are only “based” on a true story.
This creative process continues throughout our entire life. We add to our story line as the years go by. We buy clothes and do our hair in a way that we like our character to look. We choose some likes, dislikes, preferences for food and music, causes we support and causes we are against. All this becomes our identity, our ego, our fairly fabricated sense of self.
What about everything else that we were exposed to throughout or life? What about all the things that passed through our field of vision but we didn’t notice or remember? How much of our experience gets edited out? How many different stories and identities could be created from the same life?
Why is it important to take a step back and question how we create our identity? Because we are more than our identity. We are not our story. We are not our ego. We are somehow different from all these things. We are the awareness, the consciousness, and the observer behind all of this.
Some of us have realized we are not our ego, and we can practice detaching and not identifying with all the thoughts, judgments, feelings and dramas that it conjures. Some of us are more strongly identified with our stories and can’t step back for a single moment to realize that is all they are—just stories. Stories we’ve woven out of the vast reality our consciousness has experienced.
It’s very normal to have an identity, and fairly useful. It might be hard to make friends if you go around introducing yourself like “Hello, I am just pure Awareness, so good to meet you. Do you know that you are also pure Awareness?” However, strong identification with our ego identity also leads to suffering. The ego has to constantly defend itself, because on some deeper level it knows it is just a story we made up.
Take a moment to step back from your story. Lay it down like a heavy load you’ve been hauling around. How does it feel to live without it for a moment? How does it feel to let go of any idea of who you are, what you do, what you’ve done, and just be?