Posted by: Tess (Piyadassi) | May 29, 2011

Who am “I”?

I lost my wallet. Yep. It happened last week on my way either to or from my friend Barbara’s house. When I discovered it was gone that evening just a short time after I got home, first there was the “hmm, it must be here somewhere” feeling as I groped through bags, emptied my purse, looked under furniture and retraced my steps into the darkness of the impending night. Nothing.

After those searches failed to offer up any happy endings, I looked at my next options. No, not calling the credit card companies or my bank. Instead I wondered how I would respond to this occurrence from the emotional rim of my Grand Canyon of emotions? “Oh, joy of joys,” I thought. “A chance to try out my equanimity bungee cord.”

Equanimity, one of the four brahma-viharas, or divine abidings, asks us to observe without being pulled into the drama of what we are observing. In true equanimity the extreme highs of exuberance or lows of depression, as examples, are leveled out into a state of deep peace. Gil Fronsdal tells us the Buddha described a mind filled with equanimity as “abundant, exalted, immeasurable, without hostility and without ill-will.” I scanned my thoughts and found to my surprise that I wasn’t upset or anxious. I didn’t see this event as something awful or horrific. Instead I started to look at what it meant to lose my wallet. What was the worst that could happen?

If someone used my credit cards they wouldn’t get away with much more than a night on the town and a rather cheap hotel (maybe there is an upside to maxing out one’s debt.) There’s the much ballyhooed fear cry of identity theft, but what is my identity anyways? Am I the bits and bytes of a cyber avatar? Am I my Visa or American Express cards? Am I my driver’s license or passport? If someone used my debit card what would that say about me?

Somehow none of the answers I came up with seemed that scarey. All of it was illusion. Plastic purchases that move over the internet. Debt and solvency as fluid as sand through our fingers. If someone used my name and face for their own gain, am I lessened or exploited?

Who am “I” really?

In my mind’s recollection of my wallet’s contents I found the real gift of this loss: a chance to see that I’m not my credit limit or my library card or a permanent resident of any sovereign nation. Would I be anything less, or perhaps more, without photo IDS?

I slept quite well that night and the next morning I felt the bliss of equanimity wash over me, sustaining me through the day. There was a lightness, a parting and shedding somehow of the unreal parts of me held in that wallet. Yes, I still looked for it and actually didn’t report the cards lost for another day as I was sure it would turn up. It hasn’t, but it might. In the meantime I’m pondering whether to replace some of those missing stand-in pieces of me.

A friend told me that she believes when we lose our wallet there’s a part of our identity that needs to fall away. I’m considering a life without debt cards. But give up my Pic a Flic rental card? Never.

Image: Worship without Limits weekly blog



  1. Wow, Tess gets to build a new identity.

    I think the foundation is pretty solid, but maybe we can look forward to a couple of new additions (maybe a sun room, and one of those flowering cherry trees in the front lawn).

    Have you ever thought of adding “Meditation Teacher” to the property?

    • DJ, I have a very long way to go to add meditation teacher to the heap of me, but a small sun room would be a most welcome addition.

      • My mistake, I should have said “Dharma Teacher”. Oh wait, you already are!

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