Once you seriously ask, ďAm I thinking for myself?Ē the entire hierarchy of identity starts to unravel. If you keep asking without being daunted, eventually you get closer to the core. This is the final level of false identity.
Am I thinking for myself? Or am I thinking like: The person I was yesterday; the person I wish I could be; an ideal image of myself, a nobody trying to be a somebody.
We put on these layers of false identity in order to be separate from everybody else, to feel unique and special. Yet at the same time we know that separation is the problem. Common humanity is beyond self-image. Itís beyond the issue of whether you are a somebody or a nobody.
If you follow the way of peace you donít try so desperately not to be a nobody. Those distinctions stop having power over you, because you turn into something different. Instead of a label, you become human. Instead of ďI am X,Ē you become ďI am.Ē The healing of separation is the beginning of true knowledge.
This transformation isnít mystical. If I confront the first layer of false identity, I simply catch myself thinking like a type. I pay attention to my reactions when I start sounding too much like a typical Indian, a typical doctor, a typical middle-aged male. Having caught myself, I stop. Just that.
I can then proceed a bit deeper. I catch myself whenever I am talking so that someone else will like me better. If my words are a disguised way of saying, Love me, accept me, respect me, I stop. Thereís nothing mystical in that act. Instead of talking, I listen. Instead of serving my own self-interest, I think about what everyone wants, or what is moral and good despite what everyone wants.
Finally, if I am thoroughly honest, I get to the deepest level. If I catch myself talking for the sake of my ego, I stop. Again, it all starts with the thought, This isnít the real me.
Adapted from: Peace Is the Way, by Deepak Chopra (Harmony Books, 2005).