Who am I? Who are You?
When asked on Halloween “Who are you?” Little Kai answers, “I’m a LION! ” When we ask ourselves, Who am I? what do we respond? This question came up for me in a new way when I recently joined Facebook. I was asked to put myself in a category. I had to pick from twenty-five and it was appropriate to pick “Author” since I have written two books. But being an author is a very small part of how I would identify myself. I wanted for the purpose of this public page a broader identity, but I wasn’t allowed to select “Other” and then type in something that would tell more of who I am. I might have typed in “Professional Seeker,” a kind of tongue-in-cheek way to say that I am constantly exploring inner realms, seeking wisdom and truth from myself and others. I was frustrated and resentful that I couldn’t tell you more about my human identity.
I once did a really interesting exercise led by Rami Shapiro in which we were asked to write out our assorted identities on many Post-it notes, (such as parent, child, spouse, brother, sister, teacher, student, administrator, businessperson, banker, laborer, clerk, etc.) then stand in front of a mirror and stick the Post-its to our image in the mirror. Then he asked us to take each away until there were no more notes on the mirror. Who are we then? Is there something deeper?
Rami Shapiro puts it this way: “So closely identified are we with our labels, our roles, and the costumes that come with them that we forget the greater Self, the “I” that wears them all without being restricted to any. . . . What if you awoke tomorrow without the faintest memory of who you are? Who would you be? While the named you might be lost, would the Original You, the Me, the eternal “I” be any less or any different?”
Who is the eternal “I?” For me, it’s like seeing that every wave is distinctive but part of the ocean with the same characteristics and qualities as the great sea. We are waves in the ocean. Or, as St. Tereea of Avila envisions us, we are rays of the sun, our Divine Source, God. Some say this is our soul, or our Self, as contrasted with our earthly self. On that deeper level of our pure essence, our being-ness, we are not separate; we are all One. We need to realize our Oneness to have peace and harmony here on earth.
I heartily recommend the book Rami Shapiro annotated entitled, Perennial Wisdom for the Spiritually Independent, in which he explores these questions in illuminating depth. And I share my own experience of this deep identity in Bicycling Home as well.
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