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Discover Who We Are: We Aren’t Who We Think We Are

Ironically, one of the main things that keeps us from awakening to our true nature is knowledge. We think we know things, and knowing these things keeps us from being awake. Our belief that we have true knowledge keeps us caught up in our perceptions, labels, and opinions, making them appear as realities rather than the biased points of view they actually are. If truth is a matter of perspective, can we call it truth? If situations change depending on how we look at them and on who is doing the looking, can we really trust our judgments to be true knowledge?
Getting past the assumption that we have all the answers is the first step in moving toward a higher, more inclusive truth than the one we currently perceive. In the Far East, they call it neti neti. It means not this, not that. In Western cultures, we call it via negativa, which means a way of nothingness. It’s really about unlearning – letting go of all that we think we know and simply being – without bias or opinion.
People who succeed in releasing their assumptions see life as a passing of events and don’t get attached to anything. They witness events as they pass and don’t claim them, don’t identify with them. Try just observing events sometime, being part of them without becoming them. Experience them without saying, “This is mine,” or “This is who I am,” or “This is my event, this is affecting me.” Instead, attempt to just watch the events that occur. With that detached, witnessing perspective, you’ll find that life becomes much more quiet, much more peaceful, and much more enlightened.
In many ways, it’s like going to a movie. We watch the movie, we enjoy the movie, but we don’t become the movie. It doesn’t become our all-encompassing reality. We have fun observing the story, and yet we’re always aware of a larger truth outside the movie theater. What happens in the movie touches us, but the events don’t so overshadow our sense of who we are that we stand up shouting for joy when something good happens, or consider suicide when something bad happens. We know it’s just a story, just a film. We know that while we participate in it emotionally, on a deeper level we’re just a witness to the movie. It can’t reach into our core so deeply that we forget who we are and become the movie.
Try regarding the events that happen in your life the way you would look at a film. Rather than deeply identifying with everything that’s happening, simply witness the events. That doesn’t mean you don’t take action within your life, turning into an irresponsible or passive observer. It does mean, however, that part of you – the witnessing part, the I am awareness – wakes up and becomes conscious in you, right in the midst of your daily activities. When that happens, even your own actions and thoughts don’t absorb you completely – the greater part of you is always watching a story.
The value of this expanded life perspective is that life doesn’t hurt or overshadow us the way it used to do. Things can still sadden or bring us joy. On the other hand, nothing can shake the deep serenity that we have discovered within. It’s rather like wind, whipping up waves on a lake. Part of the lake – the surface part – is involved in all the drama and excitement of the storm, but the deepest part of the lake is forever unmoved. It remains still. Practice becoming conscious of the deepest part of your own nature, and you will find a stillness and peace that endures in the midst of all the turmoils of living.
Observe your thoughts when your mind chatter says things like “This is mine” or “I’m such-and-such.” Take your mind away from such thoughts to an awareness of your simple being. Witness the occurrences in your life, and experience them richly and fully without identifying with them, without becoming them.
Our minds so quickly want to identify with events: “Because I acted nicely toward that lady in the store, I must be a nice person.” Or “Because I was rude on the freeway when that man cut me off, I must be a rude person.” These are the illusions we’ve become trapped in. “I am” – the deepest part of us – is neither nice nor rude. It is beyond such polarities. It simply is – the consciousness at the root of all thoughts, actions, and experiences.
Let yourself just witness your behavior, both the positive and negative. Rather than identifying your actions as you, let them be. Allow yourself to experience life as a flow. Go with life, and release the labels. Instead of hanging onto the judgments, find your way to the bigness, to the is-ness. Do this by practicing neti neti, reminding yourself when you start to identify with something that is not your genuine identity: “I am not this, and I am not that. I just am.”
At your core, you are. You aren’t this and you aren’t that, because those things change. Anything that changes cannot be permanent. So identify with that which is permanent. And the only thing that is permanent is that which you are.
Identify with what you are. Identify with “beingness.” And you’ll find that all the labels – good and bad – fade away and fall off, so that you can experience the bliss of being in the here and now, all the time.
We can all get too attached to our opinions, our theories, and our interpretations of reality. What if you let them go and be like the sky? Opinions and thoughts are like clouds that come by, but the sky is beyond them. It is bigger than them. Instead, the sky is merely the backdrop upon which the action happens.
Think of yourself as the sky that is the backdrop to all the events of your life. But you are not those events. Step back from being the cloud and return to being the infinite sky, which you have always been and always will be, even though you’ve forgotten that. You’ve forgotten because you identify with all the different occurrences in your life. Let that go, and an expansive freedom will dawn, surprising you with joy.
We become attached to events, and that is why we suffer. When we lose the attachment, the suffering goes away, too. The mind constantly wants to dwell on events, things, people. Instead, just be with yourself; be the witness. Explore who you are, rather than constantly being distracted by everything else. Get back to the root of your own being. In that state of I am, all the false identification disappears. What you’ll be left with is the infinite reality of now.