After Thought #22


Who Are You?


One of the most important questions we can ask our Self on the path of awareness, is Who am I?  When navigated successfully, it is the beginning of the end.  It’s the beginning of freedom and the ending of the “I” that we imagined ourselves to be. It is a fresh new start in living and perceiving life in more unbounded ways; free from the baggage of self engendered, conceptual encumbrances; free from the hypnosis of cultural conditioning.

If you walk up to an “average” person, on an “average” street corner, and simply asked them the question Who are you?  They would likely come up with a number of varied but predictable responses.  They would probably tell you their name and ethnic background; perhaps their occupation in life.  They might describe themselves as a man or woman, a teenager or old man, they might say I’m a student or teacher, or describe in some detailed way, a passion or role they engage in their life: “I’m a writer”, “snowboarder” or “photographer”.  “I’m a “father”, “husband” or “basket ball coach”.   While all of these responses seem reasonable in any conventional way of thinking, we need to acknowledge that they are not Who You Are. 

If we are honest; brutally honest, everything that has been said so far, is really a label or description of something you do, a condition of your body, or a circumstance that may exist in your life; which is not Who You Are.  All these ideas and notions; all these labels come from the mind; a mind that grasps and clings, a mind that shifts and changes in its assumed identification, from moment to moment and thing to thing.

You are not your labels, nor are you any of the things you call ideas, notions, perceptions, associations, memories, feelings, and emotions that appear to happen; that come and go.  They are impulses of the mind.  They exist or did exist.  They will come and they will eventually go.  These are conditions of the mind; they are states of the mind. 

The wisdom of awareness can tell us that we are not the mind, nor are we the thoughts contained within that mind.  The wisdom of experience can also inform us that we are not the body, nor are we the conditions and circumstances that happen to that body.

Who you are is present in all these circumstances, all these conditions, and all these states as the silent, still “background”.  Even if you are not aware of it, the real “you” lies beyond these circumstances; circumstances that can only, ever, happen in the foreground of life.  The real “you” happens as background.

Most of us marginalize Who We Are because our attention is focused and obsessed only on the foreground of life.  Our attention is fixated on the foreground and we have lost touched with the background, which is reality.  We have a sense of self that is based on our identification to things. 

We identify ourselves as those things; things that can be labeled that become the content of our life; of what has occurred, of what is occurring and what might occur.  We also, easily identify ourselves with what we wanted to occur, what is not occurring, and what we fear might occur in our day to day experience.  We identify ourselves to the stories that arise out of those occurrences and none occurrences; we imagine we are the stories we tell ourselves, the stories we tell others and the stories that they tell us and others about ourselves.  We label those stories “my” past, “my” present and “my” future.

We think we are how much money we have, or don’t have. We think that we are the type of car we drive or the car that we are going to drive.  We think that we are what we have achieved or not achieved; what we did, what we’re doing, or what we’re going to do.  We think we are happy or sad, white, black or other.  We think we are a man or woman, gay or straight or a Christian, a Hindu, a Muslim or Jew.

We think and identify ourselves to allot of things: the thoughts we have, the feelings that inspire, the emotions that come and go.  We think we are the perceptions, associations and memories we have or don’t have.  We think we are what we are thinking, being, having and doing. 

Because we identify ourselves as these things, and to these stories, there is immense suffering as a result of our labeling and identification, as a result of our obsession to define ourselves.  Our conditioning is thick; we lose ourselves in that conditioning.  We lose ourselves in the content of our experience; the “good” and the “bad”, the “up” and the “down”, the “clarity” and the “confusion”. 

We cannot find Self in things, nor can we find IT, in past or future.  The wisdom of awareness asks us to consider that Who We Are can only, ever be found in the present moment.  It suggests that we can only ever really know Who We Are by first identifying what we are not, because Who We Are is so indefinable, so unimaginable, and so natural, that we can only ever Be it.  We can only ever Be it now…

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