When you begin to take those first steps along your spiritual path, you find yourself “lightening the load” so to speak. Shaking that deadweight of the “false you” or “ego” off and all that it has attracted can take as long or as short as you will it. That includes friends, relationships, situations, beliefs…the list goes on. It also includes that identity you’ve spent some quality time cultivating through the ages.
An inherent part of that identity is likely cultural. Those notions of “where you’re from”, “what culture your family identify with”, “what religion you are”, “how one of a certain culture should behave”, “how a woman of a certain culture and a man of a certain culture should be”, etc. All the while these things are quickly shaping and moulding an ego-based identity for someone, which is far from their true self – a being of unconditional love and one that does not identify with external constraints that culture creates.
I spent most of my life with my back turned against my so called “cultural heritage” and “religion”. Neither boded well for me, mainly because neither ever felt right to me and most importantly, because it had absolutely nothing to do with who I am. In spite of this, I wasn’t entirely “de-cultured” as it were until I began to take a look at what I “believed”, as part of my spiritual work on myself.
Lo and behold there was a whole ream of cultural “nasties”- things from my childhood that I had observed and been exposed to – that had been impacting my life in one way or another, and polluting my subconscious where it had been stored. Conflicted would be the best word to describe it. The concept of cultural identity by it’s very nature breeds separation, a “them and us” attitude that is most prolific in New York City, for example, which in spite of being “multicultural”, the cultures for the most part aren’t integrated. A different scene in London however where various cultures do coexist and integrate well with one another. Nonetheless on an individual level, a person is still battling their inner truth with cultural identity.
Cultural identity serves to limit, restrict, inhibit growth, and control a being by doing battle with their truth, and creating inner conflict for as long as one allows it to. This is often what happens when a person falls in love with a person of a different culture – there’s an internal struggle before they must then do battle with their family and community over cultural values and “traditions”.
To use my father as an example here. He has lived in England the majority of his life, yet he still aligns himself with the culture he was brought up in, which let’s face it disrespects and disregards women. Which come to think of it all cultures do no matter how “progressive” it purports to be. My father has not shaken off the “king” mentality that the culture he aligns himself with eludes to, which quite frankly is far from who he truly is. Values and beliefs that he has taken on as his own, and the moment a person accepts them as their own without question, they’ve pretty much stepped away from their true self to allow a chaotic ideology to rule their world and to be in control of their life.
If you look at indigenous tribes from around the world, there’s no “cultural” thing going on there. Indigenous people identify with Mother Earth. They recognise one another as “one” – “brothers and sisters”. There are no definitions, descriptions or values that cultural identity creates. There is simply unconditional love and a respect for the Mother and all that belongs to her which is in sync with the universe, something that cultural identity is by-and-large at odds with.
When one starts becoming acquainted with their true self, one must be willing to release everything that doesn’t belong to their true self, and that too includes cultural identity, which is otherwise only serving the purpose of pulling one apart from who they truly are. Once a person let’s cultural identity and affinity go, true freedom can and will be experienced.