After forty years of meditation and spiritual practices I must confess that I’m no closer to answering the question “who am I?” than I was when I first became self-aware. I defy anyone to come up with a simple answer to that question. Go ahead, ask yourself, and keep contemplating this question. We are of course a combination of experiences, information, beliefs, thoughts, perceptions and emotions that constantly shift like a kaleidoscope rotating between our ears. I believe that we seek to answer that question because we are trying to understand something called “life”, which defies definition.
Our perception of ourselves is constantly changing as well, which makes the question and answer relative to how we perceive ourselves at any given moment. If we like ourselves the answer will be one thing, if we don’t like ourselves the answer will be different. We drift in and out of self-acceptance/loathing depending on the circumstances of the moment. Most religions and spiritual philosophies are centered on the proposition that we have to be balanced in life, kind of like the tale of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”, i.e. our perception should not be “not too hot, not too cold, but rather, just right”.
We have also been trained to compare ourselves to others, which creates a need to identify ourselves followed by possible feelings of either inadequacy or superiority. We feel the need to define ourselves so we can understand where we fit into the grand design. We want to know “who we are”, “what our life purpose is” and other philosophical questions that monopolize our minds. This self-analysis and need for self-definition is what is referred to as “mental masturbation”. Does it really matter who you are? Do we really have to know what our purpose is? Or is this our mind’s way of distracting us from our real mission, which I believe is to experience life in its infinite variety.
We can become so busy trying to define ourselves, and put ourselves in a box, that we become delusional. There is no box. We can also be so focused on making ourselves unique that we lose the bigger picture of creating heaven on earth with our fellow human beings.
The answer to life’s most perplexing question, “Who Am I?” does exist. The answer is we are the being that we perceive we are. Unfortunately for some people that answer opens up another can of worms because that puts our life circumstances squarely where we don’t want it to be, on our own shoulders, responsible for ourselves. However, if we’re going to make sense of our existence, to be happy with our self-image, to be “just right”, we have to take responsibility for how we perceive our life and our selves. If we perceive life is unfair, it is unfair. If we perceive life is fun and exciting, it will be. It doesn’t matter what is actually happening, what matters is how we perceive it.
I recently experienced something that was very emotionally traumatic. The details are not important, and they never are. Basically, someone I loved very much fired me. What is important is discovering why it was emotionally traumatic, and choosing what to do next. This experience went to the core of my self-image, my self-confidence and my self-esteem. I had given this person everything that I had – my love, my money, my life, as well as my self-worth – and then I was fired. I was on an emotional roller coaster for months afterward.
I eventually discovered that my quality of life did not depend on my momentary circumstances, and the mental masturbation that followed that experience was only an exercise in self-pity. When I started focusing my thoughts on spiritually and emotionally uplifting thoughts, the pain went away. I stopped fantasizing about this person being punished, and started telling myself that I was talented, worthy and loved by the divine. That was all I needed to get out of the fog caused by the emotional trauma I experienced. Specifically, I kept repeating to myself “I am confident that better things are on the way”. And my life began to change.
I’m not selling affirmations as the cure-all for life’s challenges. I want you to understand that what happens to us is much less important than how we think about ourselves to be. If we believe we are talented, worthy and lovable, we will be. If we believe that everything happens to help us be better human beings, we will be. So if you have recently experienced trauma, don’t worry. You are only growing into a better version of you.
Reprinted from The 3rdi Magazine