Who Am I?
Perhaps one of the deepest existential questions is "Who Am I?" The answer to the question of who one truly is lies outside of the thinking mind's ability to comprehend. The thinking mind itself, and this includes the Ego, is nothing more than a collection of conditioned ideas, words and thoughts that are running inside the mind much like a computer program running on a computer. The thinking mind trying to comprehend "Who Am I?" is like a computer program trying to comprehend what a computer is, and what an electrical power grid is that powers a computer.
This does not mean that one can not directly discover who they really are, but to do so requires moving outside of the conventional thought patterns that define ones self. This is best done by examining "Who I Am Not!"
First lets examine the Ego. The Ego is an ever changing collection of thoughts and images one has of their self. These thoughts are constructed upon judgements and impressions one has based upon their life experiences, and on identification or rejection of other peoples opinions of them. The Ego is so fluid that it can change to an exact opposite view of itself in the flash of a moment. There is nothing of substance, nothing concrete at all about the Ego. The Ego can be easily transcended and left behind by anyone who undertakes such practice. Anyone who has the ability to enter and maintain a completely silent mind has experienced a state in which the Ego does not exist, even if just for that short period of time. If one was the Ego, then such a practice would result in one ceasing to exist. It is quite safe to conclude that one's true self is not the Ego.
And what of the body we inhabit. If we were the body itself, then the loss of a limb or body part would amount to a partial loss of the self. Yet this is not the case. Throughout history, not one autopsy ever performed has turned up anything that can be labelled as the person's self. Even when we search within our own sense of the body, looking for where our Self seems to exist, it can not be definitively pinpointed. There is a sense of the self around the area of the heart, but nothing physical or concrete. One's perception of self is centred in the heart yet ones thoughts of self are centred in the brain. No evidence of self can be found in the body.
And what of the mind and brain? Our mind goes completely silent and seems to cease existing during sleep. There are numerous accounts of people who wake up from comas after having been pronounced brain dead. If their self existed purely in the mind, then in these situations the self again would cease. The self is not the mind.
To paraphrase from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, "In searching for the truth, when all of the impossibilities have been eliminated, then whatever remains must be the truth." We all have something within us that we can sense to be an unchanging sense of Self, something that hasn't changed for as long as we can remember. This awareness of Self exists outside of thought and can only be directly encountered when thought subsides. Deep introspection and contemplation of "Who I Am Not" is the doorway into reconnecting with "Who I Am". Sustained Pure Awareness, as encountered with the silent mind is the reunification with the True Self.
|Michael L. Fournier|