Who am I?
Go ahead, close your eyes and ask yourself the question: "Who am I?" Notice what thoughts and images come into your mind. Pay attention to the feeling tone that accompanies these thoughts and images. Now ask yourself the next question: "Is that true?" or "Is my idea of who I am really true?"
Each of us has an idea, a concept, of who we are. But is it true? Imagine that I gave you an assignment of looking at yourself in the mirror once every 10 years starting at age 5, and taking inventory of how you look, what you are thinking, how you are feeling, what your values, beliefs, and opinions are, who your friends are, and how you see the overall quality and tone of your life. How do these things change, and what remains constant? Let's break it down for a closer look.
Body - Ha! This one is easy, right? If you look at your body at age 5, 15, 25....85 and so on, is there any question that things change? The body is not meant to remain constant, nor does it despite our desire for it to do just that. In our society, we have this pervading belief that at some point in our 20's or 30's we hit the body that we are supposed to have forever. We suffer and torture ourselves for it to remain the same forever, but alas, it never does. It is impermanent and will not go on forever as much as we would like it to. The truth is, we are born into a body, it changes constantly, and then at some point it dies. There is one body for each of us for a lifetime. What is your relationship to yours, how do you treat it? Most of us are very conflicted when it comes to our bodies. So, can I rely on my body to define who I am? Probably not. Let's look further.
Feelings - We all feel. It is a big part of what makes us human. We get very involved in our feelings, and they drive much of what we do. But are our feelings who we really are? I hope not. Feelings are also always in flux. Doing the 10 year experiment described above, not only would we feel very differently at different phases of life, but day to day, moment to moment. The same people in our lives evoke different feelings at different times and in different contexts, for instance. Feelings are not permanent, and for most of us, not even consistent. So how could feelings define who I am? Would I even want them to?
Perceptions - Interacting and functioning in life requires us to perceive what is happening and then to act and/or react in certain ways. This is survival 101. The issue here is that none of us ever see reality exactly the way it is. It is part and parcel with owning a human brain. Regardless of how skilled or functional yours or someone else's may seem to be, we all have one. The trick is, that we only ever see life through the lenses we are currently wearing. These are shaded or tinted by our feelings, prior experiences, opinions, thoughts, beliefs, traditions, etc. Going back to our 10 year check-in, how do your thoughts, beliefs, opinions, experiences-your very identity- change over time? Do you perceive things today the way you did 10 or 20 years ago? How then, could perceptions be who you are?
Thoughts/Beliefs - Here is where most of us think we find identity. It is what we think, what we believe, and then how we act on those that makes us who we are, right? Let's see. Right now, close your eyes, take a deep breath and monitor your thoughts for a minute or two. For most people, the mind is a sort of free-for-all. The truth about thoughts is that they are events. The brain fires and throws things out into your awareness that many times may not connect or even make sense. Certain thoughts we tend to go back to over and over again, continuing to invest in them which makes them more solid, and these we call beliefs. Beliefs can start to modify how you live and behave, and these we refer to as values. But their ground is shaky. How many times in your own life have you adopted a new way of thinking which starts to challenge your beliefs and values? How firm and steadfast are you? Do the beliefs and values you held 10 or 20 years ago still serve you, or will they continue to serve you 20 or 30 or 40 years from now? Maybe so, maybe not, but these are things one should continue to evaluate and question as life goes on. It's a part of developing wisdom over time.
So, then, who am I? Let's go back to the 10 year mirror exercise. If every 10 years I look in the mirror and see a body that has changed, a new fashion sense, hair style, set of ideas, feelings, and beliefs, a different social group, maybe even a new career, spouse, political or religious affiliation, and even an ever-changing self-concept, then who am I really?
What is subtle in all of this is that there is that part of you that shows up every 10 years to monitor all of these other things. It is that part of you that is aware of these other ever-changing parts. It is a knowing, a deeper sense of stability in this maelstrom we call life. It is steadfast, wise, and always knows the answer, whether we choose to listen or not. We call it our "gut," or "intuition," or "deeper inner self," "consciousness," or whatever name you give it. Get in touch with this part of yourself, and stay in touch with it. Get to know this part of yourself intimately. It will not betray you. It allows you to be who you truly are, not who you think you should be, or whom everyone else wants/expects you to be. Your health, happiness, and enjoyment of life rests here, within you, each and every moment of your life. Be who you are. The world needs no more and no less from you.
That is all for now. Thank you...