What is “Identification”?

What is “Identification”?

What is "Identification"?
What is “Identification”?

MEDITATION IS MEANT TO BRING you to a state of watchfulness or witnessing. This means that you are a bit like someone on the sidelines. Things go by but have nothing to do with you. You do not interfere or question (whatever is) happening. You watch and, maybe, even enjoy everything that passes by.

What has this to do with the term “identification?”

In meditative practice, there is a very lengthy story of a man with a fine home. It catches fire and burns uncontrollably. The man despairs of not having sold it to the many interested buyers. He is saddened by the fact he now owns a worthless ruin. As the fire burns, one of his three sons approaches and tells him not to despair for the home was sold the day before and at a good price.

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The man is suddenly no longer identifying himself with the tragedy and watches calmly as the fire continues to rage.

The second son asks how the father can so peacefully watch the home disappear in the flames. His father reassures him that the home has already sold for a large sum. The son corrects him and says that the buyer had not fully committed to the purchase and that the house is still in his father’s hands.

Again, the man despairs at his ruin.


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Finally, the third son arrives and says that the buyer was honorable and agreed to still pay the full price and buy the now ruined home. Once more the old father is elated and calmly watches as the house finishes burning to the ground.

What does this tale tell us?

It shows that, although nothing actually changed in terms of the reality of the situation, the old man identified with the events when they affected him directly. This is an example of his mind controlling the situation.

What is "Identification"?
What is “Identification”?

Had he watched his mind, instead of identifying with some of the mind’s thoughts and experiences, he would have seen that his reactions had nothing to do with the fire.

His thoughts and identification with the event were not controlled by him. They were dictated by what his sons were telling him to think about it. He was the owner, he was not the owner, he was again the owner . . . he was ruined financially, he was secure, and so on.

Thus, identification is a function of the mind. Yet it is completely possible to detach from the mind’s tricks or distractions and to use watchfulness, awareness, and witnessing instead.


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The “no mind” state.

Consciousness allows us to watch, and in so doing we override the mind. We reduce the cloudiness that it creates and avoid identifying with what we are witnessing.

While many panic at the thought of this disassociation, it is actually a clear indication that the meditator is gaining wisdom.


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