It’s that moment just after disaster has struck, when you are reflecting on what just happened that you are likely to hear a voice in your head that says, “Why me, why now?” And it can be even more frustrating to discover there is usually no reply!
For those who see themselves as someone encountering frequent misfortune this question is a regular visitor to their consciousness. For others it seems that the backdrop to their entire life has always contained the nagging mystery of …me, here, now … why? As these somewhat esoteric questions gnaw away at our consciousness we might suppress them, ignore them or try to shut them down with the distraction of action. However there are some amongst us who earnestly pursue the answers, as if called by a deeper part of our ‘self’ that keeps reminding us that these are the most important questions, and that life will be incomplete without knowing. And there are those at the other end of the spectrum who would never give a second thought to questions that they regard as somewhat irrelevant. They simply get on with living their life. But it’s almost certain that at some moment, and it may only be ‘one’ moment, when even they will at least hesitate in their tracks with a self reflective enquiry into, “Why am I me?”.
Why me, here, now, are questions that point straight at the heart of almost all philosophical musings, the core of almost all spiritual understanding, the underlying wisdom of almost all of those considered to be wise, and to what is sometimes referred to as enlightenment. They are the classic starting points of the earnest seeker who is hunting truth. And they are both signposts and stepping stones as you embark on what is known as the ‘spiritual journey’, which is essentially a process of clarifying three things – identity, meaning and purpose.
Playing with, digging under, looking behind and silently contemplating each question is essential if you are to follow the signs and set out on the seeker’s trail. For example, WHY ME cannot be fully answered until you are clear about WHO IS ME. Why did most of the major philosophers through the ages finally decide there was really only one question worth exploring? Why did they say that when you get the answer to this question you will realise and know all you will ever need to know? That question of course is WHO AM I? Paradoxically it is the one question that can never be fully answered as it points to a place beyond language, beyond all philosophy, beyond all symbology. However, it is in the attempt to answer it that everything else becomes clear. In the context of the first question - WHY ME or WHO IS ME - there are three ways to proceed ‘towards clarity’ – elimination, realisation and re-memorisation. Ultimately the first leads to the second, which initiates the third.
Applying the process of elimination is similar to stripping off your many layers of clothing to reveal your naked physical form. By ‘seeing’ what you are not, what the ‘I’ is not, you gradually ‘uncloak’ the true self who is always present and naked at the centre. Instead of starting with WHO AM I, experiment with WHO or WHAT AM I NOT? Then identify all the things you identify with, and in the revealing light of your awareness, challenge each with the question IS THAT WHAT I AM? It will not be long before you start to see that you are not things like your nationality, your profession, your location, even your family! They are all either labels or ‘things’ quite separate from the ‘I’.
As you proceed you may catch a glimpse of the truth that you are not your race, gender and even your body as they are also not what the ‘I’ that says ‘I am’...is! Once again they are labels or in the case of the body just the piece of meat and bone that is closest to the ‘I’! If you stick with it, at an even subtler level, you will begin to eliminate all the things you momentarily believe are you, but are not! Things like your thoughts, feelings and even your beliefs and memories can also be a source of a false sense of identity. It becomes obvious that all of these ‘things’, like all other ‘things’, come and go, and yet the ‘I’, the ME, always remains.
So what is left after the process of elimination, after peeling away all the layers of false identity. Nothing is left. No thing. Only awareness. This can sound a bit scary in theory. It can sound like a complete loss of identity. In reality however, it is the restoration of ‘real identity’ because it was already lost in all those other ‘things’. This regaining of identity, of who I am, however, is not an idea or a theory, that would be to identify again with just another idea or theory. At the end of the process of elimination you are left with an awareness of your self as awareness, as the one who is aware of being aware, knowing your self as the one who knows they don’t know! While this sounds abstract (as it must in physical language) in practice and in reality (of consciousness), it is both freeing and energising. What falls away is all the fighting and defending of what were false identities, all the struggling and striving to survive the perceived threats to those identities and all the suffering and the stress that have their roots in misidentification.
Freeing the ME from all that has trapped it, releases a long suppressed enthusiasm for life and the joy of living. However until there is this ‘revealing of the self to the self’ many will resist and fight against this idea of being ‘no thing’ and say things like, “But I like to struggle... I need to fight...life and suffering go together…don’t they?” They are really saying they are a little addicted to the ‘pain of living’, a pain they probably have not yet realised they create themselves. For them WHY ME or who AM I really, is irrelevant…at the moment!
The second route to the awareness of the ‘I’ that says I AM is realisation. Just as science creates a theory and then conducts experiments to affirm the truth or the reality of the theory, so the self contemplates a theory of WHO I AM. The laboratory is consciousness, the method is meditation, the raw materials are thoughts, the measures of progress are feelings and insight, and the result of the internal experiment is ‘self realisation’.
First the theory, which is not new, and which goes something like this. The ‘I” is a conscious being, or a being of consciousness. Consciousness is energy but not an energy that you can see with physical eyes. This energy is indestructible and is often referred to as spirit, soul or the authentic self. It is not separate from the self. It is the ME that says I AM ME! It is the life force that animates the form. It is ‘I’. And the original and unchanging nature of the ‘I’ is peaceful and loving. That’s the theory. The experiment is conducted in the laboratory of consciousness and its aim, like all scientific experiments, is to validate or invalidate the theory. The methodology is meditation. As the self meditates upon the ideas/beliefs/concepts contained within the theory it focuses its entire attention inwards upon such thoughts. Gradually those thoughts penetrate the heart of consciousness while at the same time fading into silence. It’s as if they knock on the door of the heart, and as the heart of the self opens there is insight (sight in) into the heart, and the ‘realisation’ of ‘I am’ and that nothing need be added to ‘I am’. There is not even the thought ‘I am’, simply pure awareness. In that moment the self insperiences the highest reality, and it is silent and still, yet radiantly peaceful, and it is the power of ‘I’. The self realises the self as pure awareness. From that moment all other identities have no power over the self, and they dissolve into the background (well almost) as they are clearly seen to be the illusions that they are.
The maintenance of self realisation, or the ‘realised self’, then becomes the ‘inner work’ of day-to-day life. The insight (sight in) into who I am is sustained by re-memorisation. The lifetime habit of identifying with what you are not is so strong that there are inevitable moments through the day when you fall asleep to your ‘realisation of self’, and back into misidentification. So there is an ‘effort’ to remember, remind and restore your consciousness of your self as the ‘I’ that says I AM, as pure awareness and nothing more. This memorisation and re-memorisation over time weakens the habit of allowing those old false identities to re-invade your consciousness and thereby hijack your thoughts and feelings. And as the self stabilises its self, your true sense of your own pure being becomes clear and consistent.
A sure sign that self realisation is genuine is a change of perception. There is a perceptual shift from seeing others as the enemy, as dangerous or threatening, and seeing the world as a place of struggle and survival, to where one is able to accept and embrace all, metaphorically speaking, and to embrace and dance with all of life… metaphorically speaking!
The proof that the self has realised the self will be the disappearance of all questions that begin with WHY including WHY ME. It drops away. When the ‘I’ knows the ‘I’ that says ‘I am’ no reason is needed to…be. Being is enough. There IS no reason to be, no reason for being, other than to be. WHY ME only arises while there is ignorance of who am I. When WHY ME arises it is simply a sign that says you are not fully aware of your self, and not yet aware that to be, to live, to be alive, to be life, and to live life is enough. Reasons are unnecessary. This verges on what could be termed the return to innocence. This is the bliss of ignorance. Whereas WHY ME is the pain of IGNORANCE, which really means the ‘I’ that I AM is being ignored. And that is the deepest cause of all suffering.
Question: Why do you think so few consciously explore themselves to see and understand who they really are?
Reflection: Sit quietly. Watch attentively. See clearly. Acknowledge silently. Gently allow all that arises in you to pass. And then be aware of what is left. Be aware of what does not pass.
Action: At the end of each day this week look back at the day and see if you can see what you mistakenly identified with throughout that day.