Who Am I? Nonduality Gets Personal
Perhaps the most important question we will ever ask ourselves is: “Who am I?”
On inquiry, the answer won’t be found in identity, but through an unfolding of inner mystery.
Identity is fragile – it depends on a deeper source that is able to identify with anything – a source much closer to the truth of who we are. Identity is a garment that changes, evolves, and sometimes falls away in the unconfined freedom of the present moment.
The question Who am I? is a koan. When we feel into it, deepening occurs: not in where we believe ourselves to be separate or different, but within the tremendous simplicity of being here, alive. The answer is not a thought, but an experience.
The more we remember who we are, the more what we thought we were evaporates.
This is a sacred disappearance: the vanishing of limitations on our freedom; the falling away of the stress of sustaining the facade of a separate self; and the release of the burdens that load the mental concepts of success and failure.
On inquiry, much of this suffering of being ‘someone special’ is ensnared in the confines of time and space.
Today, it’s known that even the deeper layers of so-called unique personality – our inner states and stress responses – are actually inherited with our bodies. The form which we believed ourselves to be is composed, in the words of Thích Nhất Hạnh, entirely by “non-you elements.” Our body is changing and predetermined. Our personality is inherited from our forefathers. Our moods resonate with our environment.
So what is left? Who am I? The answer – arising from the gut of life in this moment, right here – can open the doors to freedom.
The classical question is Who Am I? This is a question of the mind – a tunnelling into the entangled and often conflicting labels of temporal self identity.
As we begin to immerse our consciousness into the sentient, boundless zone of the heart, however, another question comes forward. Here, in the realm of love and contraction, the question becomes What Am I? What am I made of? What is this substance of feeling? What is able to feel even beyond thought or speech? This is the shift from consciousness (head) to awareness (heart).
The third question involves a sinking deeply into the bones of the body and the physical matter of the body. This is the dimension of perception through emptiness, in which all that passes with time, and all that is confined within space is seen as transient, passing and non absolute. In this dimension, the very notion of borders – of the absolute separation between one entity and another – dissolves. Here, the question is ‘Where Am I?” Where, in the most inner, truthful center is this “I” located? Where does it begin and where does it end?
These three layers of inquiry have a powerful potential to liberate the “I” from the illusion of limitation. Out of this freedom, the suffering of the human psyche reverses and the ‘I’ is liberated to move with pure, unconditional, natural alignment through the causal layers of time, space and form.
No-thing gets left out.