By Michael Ketterhagen, PhD
Ishan Tigunait, executive director of the Himalayan Institute, had quarantined himself at the beginning of April after he returned from a pilgrimage to India. During his self-imposed quarantine he spent lots of personal time exploring the source of his identity. He realized how powerful the world is in “giving” us our identity. We learn who we are from our parents, from our teachers, from the media, and now especially from social media.
But when we have some time to just be alone or “hunker down” with ourselves without the computer or television or phone, we will discover much about who we really are.
I have been doing much introspection lately as well. Mary and I have sequestered ourselves in the house and garden much of the past month. We have been going through old files, books, and pictures. I have learned how hard it is for me to give up my past identity as a Theology professor, as a director of an International Peace Camp in the 1980s and 90s, as the founder of a yoga center that wants to become a holistic health center.
In reflecting on all the things that I think about myself, I am asking the question: “Is that really me now?” “Are all those past activities truly me?”
These thoughts drive me inward, so that I can figure out who I am now and what I am supposed to do. “Am I what I do, or am I something else?”
My inner reflection brings me to understand some of the things that I would really like to do—for myself and my personal happiness and for all those whom I love.
As Ishan says, “Now is the time for discovering our identity from the inside-out, not the outside-in.” We have the time now to let go of (in yoga terms, this is called vairagya—non-attachment) that which binds me to our false self. I now have the time to practice (abhyasa) the spiritual practices that will help me really find out what my purpose and meaning is in today’s planet.
I have learned that journaling after spending meditative and contemplative time helps in clarifying my identity.
Now all I have to do is put out the effort to act on what I am discovering about myself. I have always known that I am a “DIP,” (a Divine, Infinite, Person made in the image and likeness of God). Now, I am learning what that DIP is supposed to do during this Earthly experience.
What a wonderful time for my spiritual growth! What a wonderful growth and “purpose-discovering” time for all humanity. We all now have lots of “inside-out” identity-discovering time!
Thank you, Covid-19!