Don’t “try” not to identify…it is not a matter of trying not to identify. In asking this, you are admitting you are already identified…and so you must accept this – not resist it. Instead you need to clearly see you are not what you are identifying with…then you automatically cease identifying with it. Only through delving into the identification, seeing it thoroughly, and understanding it can you realize the error in identifying with it and ever believing it was who you are.
The focus is not on “trying not to identify” but to clearly see and understand. Ignorance only continues when uninvestigated. So I am saying investigate the identification thoroughly. Do this and you will find you no longer identify with whatever it is and you know exactly why it was in error to believe you were it. I don’t want to create a practice of “trying not to identify”, so I am attempting to be very clear that you need to cease trying to do anything about it and just look at it deeply. With understanding, things change on their own. We see through the illusion and we cease to be fooled by it any longer.
Delve into the identifications one at a time. Look for the source of the identification. Question the identification. Are you really this thing you identify with? For example, if you identify with your job title…question it…would you cease to be you if you had a different job with a different title? Who were you before you got the job with that title? You have always been you…and so what comes and goes in life is not who you really are.
We accumulate and identify with so many stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. We seek a sense of self in them. We cling onto them for comfort and security. You need to investigate each identification thoroughly…until you realize you are not that. This is not just a mental “knowing”. You must feel it within you that you are not this thing anymore (that you thought you were). You have recognized the mask/hat you are wearing for what it is…a mask/hat…and you no longer identify with it. In the end, there was no need to try to not identify with it.
You tear apart your identifications through investigation…not resisting them. In this way you throw away what you are not…and perhaps realize what you always have been. This is a kind of self inquiry known as neti neti. In Jnana Yoga and Advaita Vedanta, neti neti is a Sanskrit expression which means “not this, not this” or “neither this, nor that”. It is the method of the Vedic analysis of negation.
We have accumulated a lot of data, history, stories, etc. about ourselves since we were born into this life. We accumulate more every day. Much of it is identified with. For example, I am a successful business owner…one might say, but what happens if the economy changes and they lose their business? The identification with being “a successful business owner” now causes much suffering because their business went bankrupt and they are not a business owner anymore. They may resist working for anyone else, because I am more than that…I am an owner. Thus their options for earning a livelihood become limited. It is all ego…and just as much as the identification might make you feel better or fuller when times are good (i.e. inflated)…when times and circumstances change (and it always does change) it could devastate you and cause much suffering.
The practice of neti neti is to empty yourself of yourself. We are full of ourselves now…with various identifications. But if you discard those stories, what is left? Who/what are you without these stories you tell about yourself? Who/what are you…now? You have always been That. That is all there is.