Know thyself. Heal thyself. Love thyself.
So who are we really talking about here? Who am I?
I have been meditating every day for the last six years, beginning each time with the question “Who Am I?” Some days it feels like I am trying to discover my purpose, or my place in this world. Other days, it leaves me feeling annoyed.
“So…who the hell am I?” or, “Who the hell do I think I am?”
Early this morning, I was listening to a guided meditation with Dr. Deepak Chopra, where he spoke of the Ego mind, the place where we are caught up in our self-image. The place where we worry about what others think of us: Do I look right? Did I say the right thing? Do I fit in?
You know the kind of self-talk, self-doubt that keeps us up at night, and prevents us from showing our true selves to the world.
The ego is the place where we hold those worries. The place Dr. Chopra describes as living within “object referral,” where the object is someone or something outside of ourselves. We look outside for approval. Sometimes we even look to our possessions, such as our house, our car and our bodies to show our worthiness. While we need the ego to navigate our world, it is when we believe we are our ego, or our self-image that we get into trouble.
The first time I asked the question “Who am I?” the answer came quickly. It is simple, right? I am a mom, a wife, a teacher, a daughter, a sister, aunt, friend, etc., etc. The problem came in as I thought about the fact that I had been a wife before (twice actually), and when that ended (once through divorce, and once through death), did that change who I was?
On another level, I knew the answer to my question—maybe I am what I do. I meditate, I practice yoga, I read, I write, I sail, I walk and I play tennis. Should I lose my ability to do any of those things, would that also change who I am?
Maybe, it really isn’t so simple.
Dr. Chopra also talks about what he calls “self-referral,” which happens when we look inside ourselves rather than outside for acceptance and love. Again, it has taken me some time to really begin to understand what this means. At first, I saw it as needing my own approval and love, but am now beginning to go beyond that understanding.
I am beginning to see it as an unraveling, or removing the layers to reveal who I really am. It is going deeper than the outer layers of my physical body, and of my mind, intellect and ego—to the level of my soul. This has been really hard for me, and at this moment, is still a work in progress.
I am learning to understand that while it is easier to recognize that the stuff of my life such as my house, car, body, is only stuff, that even my thoughts and self-perception are, also, only stuff. Mind-stuff. I am not my thoughts. I am the thinker or observer of those thoughts.
We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.
~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
What does that mean? I think, at least my interpretation is, that we have been given the gift of a human life, and perhaps the best we can do is to be present for every moment. Our human life is temporary, but our spiritual life is eternal.
But does any of that really help? We are still living these human lives complete with egos that continuously lead us through the gates of self-doubt and uncertainty.
I was honored to hear Jean Houston (an American scholar, lecturer, author, and philosopher active in the “human potential movement”), speak recently about finding our way to our “intellikey selves.” She describes the intellikey as a code within each of us, with the example of the intellikey of an acorn, being to become a strong, huge and productive oak tree.
Houston explains that to find the best of our selves, we need to tap into our own intellikey, so that we are able to see everything that we are capable of—our potential, our capacity, and to see that we have everything we need within us to move forward.
Houston challenges us to reach the place where our hearts and minds open and we see the unity between all people. She encourages us to use our own potential to become who we are meant to be in this human life.
So, can I now answer the question, “Who am I?”
On some days, yes. I know that I am a spiritual being, here for a short time to have a human experience. I know that I already contain all that I need to move forward in my life.
On other days, I find myself still being caught up in the worries of the ego, and of yesterday, and of tomorrow, and I end up frustrated.
I do know that every day I am going to continue to ask myself that same question as I go into meditation. Who Am I?
Perhaps, I will eventually find my way to stop worrying about a few extra pounds, a few new wrinkles, my shyness or what other people think of me, and to know that none of it really matters.
I am going to continue to learn to replace my self-doubt with gratitude, my need for external approval with self-study, and to always try to be truly present to every moment.
Perhaps the best answer to, “Who am I?” is simple—and all that matters.
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Assistant Ed: Tawny Sanabria/Ed: Bryonie Wise