Who am I?

By Jeanne Heileman, Yoga Teacher Trainer


In reading the paper and listening to the radio, there are a number of stories about people who have unfortunately lost their jobs due to our economic crisis. My heart melted in compassion for each story as the teller related his or her experience. These individuals were lamenting that they lost their identity when they lost their job. One woman on a NPR show said through tears that she didn’t have anywhere to go during the day and didn’t know who she was anymore. It was her job that gave her a reason to get up in the morning and gave her a sense of purpose for her life, for her sense of self. I remember when I was a newer yoga teacher and had a day that I didn’t teach yoga and I was an absolute mess – I didn’t know who I was without my teaching and would fall into the misery of my crazy thoughts. I needed to teach to stay sane. The woman’s story made sense to me and how we as humans operate.

Our society is designed to categorize us by our job and/or lack of it. And if we have a great job/career, we don’t mind that. And if we don’t like our job, we like to put blame on the shallowness of our society. Regardless, I am about to offer something quite radical, so please try to read past the first sentence.

What is happening right now with the significant job losses may be a gift. If we are only identifying ourselves with our job, then we are setting ourselves up for failure for nothing in our life, including our job/career is unchanging. If we identify ourselves with our placement in our family and in relationships, the same holds true. Nothing, not even relationships, as some of us have sadly found, is unchanging.

Purpose Of Yoga Is To Know Our True Self

However, this can be a good thing. The whole point of yoga, contrary to popular opinion, is not to become flexible, not to get strength to do a handstand in the middle of the room, and not to sweat your toxins out of your body. The whole point of yoga, as all the scriptures support, is to know our True Self.

What is a True Self? It is an identity within you that is calm, grounded, wise and joyful. This identity cannot be seen by looking in the mirror, nor fixed with a better haircut. It cannot be seen by looking at your bank statement, someone’s zip code (or area code in some cities!), looking at someone’s car, or a job. The mistake we as humans make is to use these outer elements as a form of truth and when we hold them tightly in our value system, we break down in sync with the elements.

Consider using this shaky, scary time as an opportunity to find out who you really are. Using yoga, meditation, moments of silence, reflection and listening inward rather than thinking. The scriptures explain that when we know who we really are and begin to speak from that sense of Self, then everything falls into synchronization as we harmonize ourselves with nature. So, while it may seem crazy to sit still when you’ve got a gazillion resumes to get out and phone calls to make because you don’t have income coming in, unless we pause and connect to this greater sense of Self, our fragmentation from the job instability will only bring more stress and ineffectiveness.

There is a saying in the Vedic philosophy of Sri Vidya, “Yatha Brahmanda, tatha bindande”

This translates to mean, “The world outside of us is the same as the world inside of us.” If we don’t know who we really are in our inner world, then we often lose a sense of who we are in this outer world. And then we rely on outer messages to give us a sense of our identity, reaching further and further away from ourselves. And those outside references often change with seasons, as we are currently observing.

It could be that this time of change is a gift for our souls, to help us make small life changes that will improve our inner world. If we clean up our inner world, it immediately, and magically, ripples out to the outer world. So, consider “doing” less and sitting, listening and “being” more.

It’s radical, it’s scary, and it’s more powerful than we can imagine.

By Jeanne Heileman, Yoga Teacher Trainer