Skip to main content


Over lunch with my sister one day not long past, the conversation turned to the nature of personal identity. Point-blank I asked her, “Who are you?” As Dani (that's my sister's name, short for Danelle) proceeded to catalogue a rather lengthy list of her personal preferences, talents, passions and pursuits (while, it's worth mentioning, leaving out certain quirks and idiosyncrasies I knew her to have, from having known her all my life and lived with her a few years in my teens, and because we all have our little quirks and idiosyncrasies, don't we?), and as she was about to tell me her taste in music, and how it had changed since she was a teenager, my eyes glazed over and my attention wavered, but I said nothing till she finished with “Oh, and I recently discovered I enjoy Jacuzzis. Paul and I have gotten into the habit of taking them together three nights a week, four if he's not too busy with work. Always over wine. Red wine. Which Paul has. Because I don’t drink. But you already know that." Paul is Dani's husband.

I remembered seeing my sister have a few sips of her husband's margarita this Christmas past, but I said nothing. In personal lexicons the world over a few sips still classifies as none whatsoever.

Dani waited for me to give her my take on what she said, true to the "Let me tell you about me then you tell me what you think about me" notion so prevalent in conversation. My urge was to say, "You’ve told me nothing whatsoever about who you are, I mean the real you. How can the girl who likes hip hop and hot water baths be the same you that wouldn’t go near a bathing suit and refused to listen to anything but Sarah McClachlan?" But I didn’t want to argue. I nodded and changed the subject. Why rock the boat?

But if you really consider the matter, as I have, a person’s sense of identity comes in one of two forms. Either you are like my sister and take yourself to be the body/mind apparatus, the individualized, ego-based personality that enters the world, grows up, grows old and dies, not before experiencing some amount of success and failure, hopefully more of the former than of the latter, a conglomeration of preferences, opinions, hopes, fears and wishes, which change by the minute, encapsulated in a vehicle of flesh, bone, blood and sinew. Or you take yourself to be the witnessing consciousness detached from the individual, though nevertheless associated with it, like the driver in a car, or better still, the air in a cup. Always there, from before your earliest memories, present in waking, dreaming and dreamless sleep, unchanging, unaffected and perfect. This is the preferable form, I think.
These two selves correspond to the lower self and higher self of the Perennial Philosophy, or in the words of Vernon Howard, the false self and the True. And the one cannot understand the other. One (the lower self), is always striving, becoming, desiring. It views itself separate from others and works against others or, feeling attraction, seeks to become them. The other (the True) has already arrived. The former views the latter as complacent, since there is nothing the higher self needs to do. The latter views the lower self as a chicken with its head cut off, ever restless, never settled or satisfied. That is, the higher self would hold this view, if it had opinions. But the higher self is above concepts which are products of the mind. The higher self is beyond mind. It is above opinions and beliefs. It simply is. Changeless, perfect, living in a forever present. This of course is the wiser view since it is the one more closely approximating reality.
Nothing, not even a world view, exerts such pervasive effects over one's wellbeing as whether you choose to view yourself and act from the lower self, or whether you are fixed in the higher self. It may not influence your actions (which experts in free will tell us are already predetermined), but your reactions, based on which view you take, will differ markedly, almost like night and day.

Reality, in the purest sense of the term, in the absolute sense, is always present and never changes. Unlike the lower self, the ego-based personality flitting and flashing like colors in a kaleidoscope, the true you always is. That's keepin' it real.


Popular posts from this blog


I was watching the TV show Naked and Afraid last night as I sometimes do. The show teams together two strangers, a man and a woman, who attempt to survive on their own for a period of 21 days in some remote and isolated region. Some of the locales featured include the Australian Outback, the Amazonian rainforest and the African Savanna. The man may have a military background, or be an adventurist or deep sea fisherman. Sometimes he's an ordinary dude who lives with mom. The woman is a park ranger or extreme fitness enthusiast or "just a mom" herself. Sometimes the couple quarrel, sometimes one or both "tap out" (quit) in a fit of anger or illness. It is satisfying to see them actually make it through the challenge and reach their extraction point. The victors are usually exhausted, emaciated, begrimed and bare ass naked. 

Even more satisfying, at least for me, is the occasional ass shot, snuck in at strategic intervals to boost viewership, of course. It's co…


In my days in the working world, doing the traditional 9 to 5 thing - although when I was a teacher it was more like 10 to 2 and 6 to 9; and as a doctor it was often 6 to 6 - I saw how easy it is to fall into the traps of so-called civilized life. I'm talking about modern vices. Things like drinking, smoking, drug use, promiscuity, and a diet of processed food, with or without animal flesh.

During my senior year of high school I decided it was necessary for me to abstain from these five vices. Each day that I didn't 1. drink alcohol, 2. smoke cigarettes, 3. do drugs, 4. eat meat, and 5. have sex or masturbate, was a day lived in the right direction. The direction of purity, divinity, wholesomeness, God consciousness. It was a way of distancing myself from my more earthy peers, who even at the tender age of 17 were indulging in many of these fleshy pursuits, and on a daily basis. I had soccer teammates who smoked a pack of cigarettes, getting their fixes before school, between …


I hereby proclaim that June is meditation month. And July and August and some of September too. For me at least. During the hundred days that comprise summer, give or take, I have taken it upon myself to "assume the position" for approximately one hour each day, usually divided into two 30-minute sessions. During this time I sit in front of a candle flame, let my breathing subside, and with it my mental activity, and literally count the seconds.

The reductive tendency that is emblematic of science has penetrated schools of meditation, and there are many, each of which advertises its particular breed as, if not being the best, at least boasting novel or specific benefits not found in other forms of meditation. 

For example, there is mindfulness, which is the monitoring of thoughts. There is concentration or focus, as on an object or the breath. There is transcendental meditation, which uses the inward repetition of a phrase, or mantra, to "allow your active mind to easily …