"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique." Martha Graham
I call that unique life force, the Soul.
In any given moment, we have 3 levels of identity available to us: 1.) the ego, 2.) the Soul and 3.) the Spirit. The ego is our programmed self, the self we made up that we needed to be to feel safe, experience some sort of power and control, and to win us affection and esteem.* After about age seven, this level of identity becomes our default position. In other words, we live out of our ego-identities unless we consciously choose to move out of them. We consciously choose to move out of them when we begin to realize that the self we know ourselves to be – our ego – is suffocating us, is keeping us stuck in old, worn out patterns that in fact, do not lead to power, affection or safety, after all.
Our Spirit identity is that part of us that is at one with the All. Always has been, always will be. It is a given, even if we are not aware of it. This is our shared identity. We share it with each other and with all that is Divine At this level, there are no distinctions. We are all melded into the Whole. The Whole is Reality. Reality is another name for Truth. And Truth and Love are just flip sides of the same sacred coin. Our truest identity is Love.
Our Soul identity, the one in between the separated-ego and the connected-All is the aspect of the self that we were born with, but have forgotten. It is our pre-programmed self – pure, innocent, perfect just as it is. It is the part of our identity that is uniquely ours, alone. When we are living out of our Soul, we experience both greater connection and greater freedom, all at the same time, with no effort on our part. We become like a flame that extends light and warmth out in every direction, just because that is its nature.
The process of personal growth and development is the process of consciously choosing to participate in the evolution of the experience of the self, from ego-identity to Soul-identity. This evolution cannot be self-directed through any sort of hard work or analytical problem-solving. It is not a cognitive process, at all. Quite, the contrary. The evolution requires deep humility – a gut-level-recognition that we don’t know how to move ourselves from ego stuck-ness into the Soul’s expansion.
But here is what I have come to know in my heart of hearts, if we move into that deep humility – into “beginner’s mind” as the Buddha put it or if “we become as a little child,” as Jesus suggested – and ask to be shown the way. Big, powerful, loving wise Forces come to our aid. All They need is your invitation and then, hold onto your hat because They will open your heart, crawl inside, dust off the alter, and lift the bushel off your little candle - so you can - you know - let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
* See Thomas Keating's: Open Mind, Open Heart