Who am I?

Most of us ask ourselves this question from time to time with uncertainty in our hearts and unclarity in our minds regardless of what God we believe in (if any), philosophical inclination or whatever answer we have managed to cobble together through the experiences in our life.

 

Please carry on reading, I promise I’m not going to start philosophising or even attempt to answer this very meaningful and important question. I would just like to look at the question itself in a different way. 

Please carry on reading, I promise I’m not going to start philosophising or even attempt to answer this very meaningful and important question. I would just like to look at the question itself in a different way.

 

Mindfulness teaches us that we are the observers of our experience and not the contents of our experience. In other words we are not our thoughts, our emotions or our bodily sensations, we have those experiences. All the contents of our experience come and go, some are a bit stickier than others: some negative thoughts like to linger a bit longer for many people. But all those experiences are ever changing and impermanent. 

 

So, from this perspective, who I am is the one who is the observer of these experiences. The part of me who is aware that I am having a thought about work issues, that I am experiencing sadness or feeling cold - but that observing part is not itself sad or cold, it simply observes these experiences coming and going.

 

It is as though I were watching the sky and suddenly great thundery clouds approach and rumble: perhaps I’m feeling anger towards someone at work or my spouse. I can feel the rain wash over my body and watch the spectacle of lightning and thunder but I am still able to watch. I am not dettached or devoid of emotions about what is causing me pain, I can still experience the feeling of anger in my body and my thoughts but if I can be aware that this too will pass, if I remember that I am not the contents of my experience and don’t get too caught up with the anger then I am less overwhelmed by the angry feelings and less likely to engage in behaviours which will lead to more suffering and problems.

 

So next time you feel there is a great big storm coming your way see if you can remain connected to that part of you who is able to watch things unfold, be aware of your breath coming in and out of your body and notice for yourself how a small change like this can bring you closer to knowing who you really are.