Do you wonder why keeping your heart open is not as easy as you’d hope for? You can feel calm and spacious in one moment and lose all that in the next. When we try to understand what happened, it may seem that there is always something triggering the closing of our hearts. But the real causes are all within ourselves. One of them is the self-identity.
The development of self-identity plays an important role in the healthy development of life. We identify with what we see as true, good or right. Through the process of developing self-identity, we establish the consciousness of self. However, the way we develop self-identity is seriously inadequate because it is mainly our patterns that determine what is true, good or right. As a result we develop false identity.
We hold strongly onto the false identity. This will in turn reinforce all the patterns that help build it. The false identity and patterns feed into each other and lock each other into a vicious cycle.
How does the false identity affect our hearts? Everything that we build into the self-identity becomes a strong attachment, including the body, the gender, the culture, the belief, the ideology, the value, the race, the nationality, the skin color, the self-image, the unhealthy patterns, and everything that derives from them. These attachments can hold control of our lives. They restrict our views of ourselves and the world and strongly influence our relationships with ourselves and the world. All this will make it extremely difficult to keep our hearts open. Furthermore, patterns will drive us to do everything to protect the self-identity we have built. Whenever we encounter something that disagrees with it, we see it as an attack on our identity and get into a defensive mode, which closes our hearts instantly.
Take the false identity of the body as an example. From an early stage of life, we become aware of the body through what the body experiences and gradually the body becomes the main player in our consciousness of self. Eventually we identify ourselves with the body. Life is the aliveness of the body. When the body dies, life ends. But Shen, the True Self, is who we really are, not the body. When the body dies, Shen will continue to exist. When we falsely identify the body with life, we identify with what the body does and feels and make this the focus of life. We seek pleasure and comfort and do all we can to satisfy its needs. We get attached to the body and become its slave. We are controlled by its condition and inevitably find it difficult to accept illness and death. The truth is our True Self doesn’t need to be pleased or satisfied. Joy and peace are constantly present. It will not be affected by the birth, decline, or death of the body and will continue to exist with an open heart no matter what happens.
How about the false identity of the gender? This is an identity coming with the body. From the gender identity derives all sorts of roles and social norms and expectations. For example, a man should demonstrate masculine qualities; a female feminine qualities. However, the True Self does not have a gender and all positive qualities are universal qualities of the true heart and true nature. While playing our roles in society and observing certain social norms are part of life in society, getting attached to them and making them part of our identity will only restrict life and take true freedom away. Our hearts can only be open when conditions suit.
If we truly want to open our hearts without any condition, working on self-identity is crucial. It is necessary to build a new identity to replace the old one. The only true identity is the True Self. We are not the body, not the labels we put on ourselves, not the thoughts and feelings our patterns produce. Failing to see that will only allow the false identity to continue to grow. Once we fully recognize who we truly are, the attachment to the false identity will start to loosen and the false identity will gradually crumble.
Working on patterns is also crucial because they are strongly connected with the false identity. Discovering the patterns related to the false identity and transforming them can greatly help. For example, if your own culture is a strong part of the false identity, find out what are the patterns behind it, perhaps self-centeredness, perhaps polarized thinking? Perhaps competitiveness? Perhaps being solely driven by self-interest? Perhaps approval seeking? Perhaps avoiding and hiding, trying to hide behind the cultural identity to avoid facing the truth?
Working directly on the false identity is also necessary. Observe how the false identity plays out. Once it is seen clearly, align yourself with the true identity immediately. For example, when you think you should manifest a certain quality because you are a woman, you can connect to your heart and the five Xin qualities. Adopt this new identity to weaken the old identity and the old perspective. Likewise, when you notice that you are judging someone by his nationality, you can correct that by recognizing that the True Self does not belong to any nationality. Every person has a True Self and it will not be affected by the nationality whatsoever.
When transforming self-identity, it is important to pay extra attention to the way we identify with unhealthy patterns. We do it when we engross ourselves in the negative thoughts and emotions they produce or when we justify or find excuses for them. If we don’t want to reinforce the false self-identity, the best policy is to accept those patterns unconditionally and then work on them. There is no need for self-blaming or self-shaming. Just open our hearts and bring light to the false self-identity and face it. Change will then be possible.
Always remember: identify with your True Self. This is your true identity. This is how your heart will be unconditionally open.
Experience this message on Unconditional Openness as a meditation on REN XUE TV
If you would like to learn more about Unconditional Openness, check out our Learn REN XUE website for the Replay of Yuan Tze’s Transforming Patterns for Unconditional Openness online workshop that was run in July 2022 as part of the Removing the Barriers to Your Heart series.