Our consciousness of who we are is complicated by the multiple identities we carry with us all the time. Not only do many more identities exist now than ever before—ethnicity, nationality, language, religion, gender, socioeconomic class, age, sexual orientation, physical ability, education, occupation, and more—all of these interact in ways that impact all of the others.

These multiple identities converge, and are the cause of even more complex issues for us; they are all part of a system of privilege and oppression. Each of our multiple identities put us on either the privileged/dominant side of the identity continuum (whites, men, heterosexuals, Christians, etc.), or on the oppressed/subordinate side (any minority group we are a member of). This can make our awareness of who we are more confusing when we realize that some parts of who we identify as may be afforded certain privileges while other parts may be oppressed.

Ultimately, this tricks us into believing that these are our primary, maybe even only, identities, and that what is most important in determining who we are is dictated by these temporal aspects of ourselves.

The competing views of who we are create the need to defend or cling, which in turn creates pain and suffering if our identities are threatened. But they also create the conditions for growth and transformation, which ultimately lead to being able to embrace the one reality. So there is a purpose to our multiple identities, but they are not the end goal. They simply give us a basis for understanding how personal and social consciousness evolves.

Our multiple identities also create the illusion of multiple paths, multiple priorities, and multiple options to choose from in selecting our allegiance. But, as Chief Leon Shenandoah has put it, there is but one path, one identity, that has our true nature as its signpost:

            Everything is laid out for you,

            Your path is straight ahead of you.

            Sometimes it’s invisible but it’s there,

            You may not know where it’s going,

            But you have to follow that path.

            It’s the path to the Creator.

            It’s the only path there is.

 How we know that one path is the topic of the next blog!