As Ken Wilber explains so clearly (and others do as well), a natural part of our development process is a shift in identity… that used to be an I, first person, perceived as the subject, becomes me, it and an object, and then something else is an I and a subject… generally moving through the bodies as described in different traditions… physical, emotional, mental, soul, causal (witness) and then finally nondual when the perceived I -Other falls away.
One way of working more consciously with this is to explore what happens when what we habitually take as an I is labeled me or it. So at the different levels, we can talk about what is happening as me, mine or it:
- The physical, our body: This is sometimes a little bit of a stretch, depending on what is going on, but not too much. My body is in pain. My body is hungry. My arm itches. It is breathing. My brain doesn’t remember so well right now.
- The emotional: There is often more identification here, so a little more of a stretch. There is anger. Sadness is coming up. There is joy and excitement.
- The mental, our thoughts and stories: Even more identification here, so sometimes also a stretch. There is thinking. A story is coming up saying that people shouldn’t lie. My story is telling me that I need to protect people from feeling hurt.
- The soul level: This is an area many are not so familiar with, so it is often more easy to see as it: There is alive presence, luminous blackness, empty luminosity, a smooth full velvety blackness.
- The causal level, the witness: Again, often even more identification here. There is awareness. There is awareness of music, a sense of chill on the toes.
- Nondual: There is a field of awake void and form, and form as the awake void itself.
We can also lump some of these together: My personality doesn’t like noisy people. My belief system is telling me that people in power should be transparent. That situation triggered a contraction in me.
A formal labeling practice can be very helpful with this, seeing whatever rising as an it, allowing for a gentle disidentification with whatever arises, so also allowing more space around it. The final disidentification is with awareness itself, seeing that too as an it.
We can also do it in our daily life, in how we talk with ourself, our self-talk. And we can even find ways to bring it out in how we talk with others, in ways that creates some distance to it and space around it, while also not sounding too weird (although that would be fine too).
Here are some examples of ways to talk about what arises that, for the most part, does not sound too unusual: My brain doesn’t remember so well right now. My arm hurts. There is a lot of anger coming up right now. My personality doesn’t like him very much. What she said triggered a contraction in me. There is awareness of this room and body. I have a big story about how she should be more respectful. My belief system tells me that corporations should be held more accountable.
Talking about what arises in third person creates a gentle disidentification with it, some space around it, and also creates a familiarity with the terrain of seeing whatever arises in third person. It also helps bring more awareness to our habitual patterns of talking about situations, seeing how we tend to place an I on some things that arises and not other things, and that the boundary is somewhat arbitrary. Why is it that my arm hurts, but I am angry? Why is it a story telling me that this body should be healthy, while I am aware of sensations arising?
Exploring and deepening into who and what we are is of course not all about disidentification, that is just one aspect of it. It is equally important and helpful to explore whatever comes up in other ways. For instance, by fully allowing whatever experiences come up, seeing and feeling into it, allowing any sense of I and Other to become more transparent or fall away. And also to explore what comes up through first and second person relationships using for instance Voice Dialogue or the Big Mind process.
Existence allows for it all… first, second and third person relationships, and even zero person “relationship”… it is what we are, so it is helpful to explore all of these and become more familiar with how the terrain appears through each of them.