Each article in our “Conscious Questions” series aims to explore specific inquiries that can elevate your levels of success, happiness, and fulfillment. By intentionally posing transformative questions tailored for introspection and problem-solving, you can tap into your unexplored creative reserves and discover novel approaches to enhance your life. Each question we present is thoughtfully crafted to cultivate a deeper sense of blissful understanding. In this article, we delve into the query, “Who am I?”
In the vast cosmos of spirituality, the question ‘Who am I?’ resonates with profound significance, thanks to the wisdom of the great Hindu seer Ramana Maharshi. It was in 1902 when an Indian government official name Sri Pillai ventured to the mystical Arunachala Hill, where Maharshi resided, seeking spiritual direction from now immortalized sage. Despite being only 23 at the time, Maharshi provided profound wisdom while answering Pillai’s inquiries and these insights became the foundational instructions of the self-inquiry meditation technique Mahrashi is associated with today.
The cornerstone of Maharshi’s teachings revolved around the powerful introspective question ‘Who am I?’ and his guidance was clear: by persistently and introspectively posing this question to ourselves in meditation, we can unravel the illusions of the ego, awaken to our authentic nature, and embark on a journey towards the everlasting fulfillment that our hearts yearn for.
Transforming our Understanding of Ourselves:
There is no doubting the fact that throughout any given day, each of us makes numerous behavioral changes that are based on the situations and circumstances in which we find ourselves in. From 9 to 5, we act as serious, hardworking, and dedicated employees and bosses. From 5 to 9, we transform into loving parents and spouses. And after the kids go to bed, many of us become passionate soulmates with our significant others.
In addition to these major transformations, there are also smaller behavioral modifications that aren’t as noticeable. For example, we act a certain way at charity functions with our friends, we put on an appropriate costume when we have to deal with an acquaintance who we constantly butt heads with, and yet still act differently when we are depositing a check at the bank or picking up bread and milk at the grocery store.
As you analyze your daily life, it becomes clear to see how you act differently depending on the situations and circumstances that you find yourself in. The question then needs to be asked, ‘Who are we?’, and more specifically for you:
Who am I?
Are you the father or the mother? Are you the accountant, secretary, or manager? Are you the person who gets frustrated as traffic screeches to a halt on the way to an important meeting? Or are you a combination of all these things and willingly, or unwillingly, change your role to match your situation? These are all valid responses to a question such as ‘Who am I?’ and if you have come to the conclusion that you are a combination of the different roles that you take on, there is only one more question to be asked:
Who or what has the ability to analyze these different roles and notice how you behave differently depending upon the circumstances?
Beyond your daily behavioral patterns, it is equally easy to see how the ‘self’ changes as one age. When you look at various photos from your life, you can see drastic changes in your physical body. When you analyze the thoughts that are going through your head, you can recall how they were different at different stages of your life. This reality of change, however, doesn’t stop us from thinking about ourselves as being the same person our entire lives.
Finding Freedom by Asking Yourself ‘Who Am I?’:
The world of spirituality puts great importance on asking the question ‘Who am I?’ because it allows us to get in touch with the deepest parts of ourselves. It will become nearly impossible to say that you are your physical body, thoughts, and emotions after regularly asking this question and exploring these transformational aspects of yourself. Nonetheless, this truth doesn’t mean that there isn’t part of your being that remains unchanged throughout your entire life.
At the level of pure consciousness, which is your true self, you remain the same from birth until death and beyond. This is the part of yourself that has the ability to objectively observe how your behaviors, thoughts, mood swings, and emotional responses change on a continuous basis. Furthermore, it is at this level that everything is perfect regardless of the circumstances and situations that you find yourself in, and it is at this level where your true self resides.
It is due to the magnificent nature of the human brain that we begin to associate ourselves with the ego, or self-concept, as we grow older. This association, of falsely believing ourselves to be our physical body, cognitions, and societal roles, only grows stronger as we have more experiences. By asking ourselves ‘Who am I?’, each and every day, we can get in touch with the deepest part of our being, pure consciousness, and begin to disassociate ourselves from this false and limiting perspective. As you start to associate with your true self, you begin to experience more happiness on a daily basis and feel connected to those around you.
There is no doubting the fact that at the deepest level of our beings, we all share the same exact desire of finding lasting fulfillment. Through personal experience, spiritual sages have come to realize that the happiness that we seek can only be at the level of pure consciousness. Therefore, if there is one conscious question that you ask yourself on a daily basis it should be ‘Who am I?’. By asking yourself this question, it is certain that happiness, contentment, and fulfillment will blossom in your life.