The ancient Greek aphorism, Know thyself, points to a deep yearning inside us – to understand who we truly are.
Have you ever stopped to reflect, or wonder: who are you?
Are you the familiar thoughts, stories, dramas or constant noise that usually fills your mind?
Are you the stress, anxiety, frustrations and overwhelm that you experience?
Are you the emotional reactions, belief and attitudes you express?
Are you the traumas and injuries you’ve experienced?
Or are you something much greater?
Who am I?
Who am I? – It’s a question that’s been held by spiritual aspirants for thousands of years as a means to transcend the limitations of the ordinary mind and step into expanded states of consciousness. It’s a path to stepping into the heart in its most profound sense – beyond any preconceived ideas of what we “think” the heart is.
One of the great challenges we face in life is not knowing who we are. It’s one of those hidden challenges because for many people, they don’t even know they don’t know, because they never question who they are.
For example, if we never question our beliefs to understand why we actually believe what we believe, then we simply don’t know our self.
This is important because it leads into our search for meaning. Our search for meaning in life (whether we’re aware of it or not) is really a search to Know thyself.
I know you feel this call for meaning in your heart. That’s why you’ve found yourself here reading this post – there’s a heart resonance. You’ve had enough of superficiality and you want depth… Because ultimately, freedom comes from depth.
So, why don’t we know who we are?
Because we become too identified with our belief systems, attitudes, emotions, and the thoughts, stories and dramas that continually occupy our mind. This all contributes to an inner noise that disconnects us from who we truly are.
We don’t realize it of course, but because it’s always there, it simply becomes the familiar background for our experience of life.
It’s not only the background, its also the filter for how we perceive all that life throws at us. We feel stressed and anxious not because of the things that present themselves in our life, but because of the way we react to them… and that’s governed (because it’s filtered) by the inner environment of our mind.
Because the inner noise is always there, we don’t know our self any other way, so it becomes part of our familiar sense of self. Our little ego.
But just because it’s familiar, doesn’t mean it’s the truth of who we are!
So, what do we do?
To Know Thyself starts by quietening the mind
Learning to quiet our mind is one of the most valuable skills we can cultivate, because it brings a sense of freedom from this inner noise and false identity, and a feeling of awakening to a depth magnitude inside us.
As the inner noise subsides, a sense of ”I” starts to emerge that’s not dependent on any kind of belief system.
It’s not a thought… it’s a feeling!
A simple and powerful feeling of I AM!
That’s why I’ve always loved the practice of meditation, because it’s a practice of seeking the truth. The truth of who we are beyond the familiar noise in our mind.
It doesn’t require us to believe anything. It only requires us to turn our awareness inwards and follow a process.
This doesn’t mean your mind has to be completely silent before feeling a sense of freedom or awakening, because it’s a process of becoming quiet. It’s a gradient. So, at each stage of quietening, there’s a corresponding feeling of freedom and awakening.
The question – Who am I? – is not one we answer with our ordinary thinking mind (although we will try). It’s more of a quest. A quest into the truth of who we are.
To know thyself, I call it the ultimate curiosity!
Curiosity can be engaged to know and understand anything, but to know and understand who we are is one of the most profound pursuits we can follow.
Holding the question – Who am I? – works in synergy with the practice of meditation.
The path of meditation is ultimately the same quest into the truth of Who am I?
Meditation offers a process to reveal it.
Know thyself by deconstructing what you are not
To understand who we are, we need to deconstruct what we are not.
While meditation is powerful, we can also take an active approach to the deconstruction.
There are various practices to do this, but something you can start right now is to begin questioning yourself. Question your beliefs. Why do you believe what you believe?
If you’re having trouble identifying your beliefs, start to notice the things you talk about, or the things that make you frustrated. For example, any time you have an emotional reaction, ask yourself questions like:
What am I reacting to?
Why am I reacting?
What do I believe here?
What am I fighting for?
Writing them down in a journal can be helpful, because it helps to make it more real.
You may be surprised to realize what you believed. You might be shocked or even feel ashamed. That’s ok. Try to refrain from judging yourself.
You’re on a quest to know yourself, and you’ll soon start to realize you’re far more than the stories that usually fill your mind. So, whatever thoughts and beliefs you identify, are not who you truly are.
An attitude of curiosity will go a long way.
Most of the time our beliefs are unconscious, so this practice of identifying beliefs is about bringing the light of your awareness into the shadows of your unconscious. This is where deconstruction can happen.
Once you start recognizing your beliefs, then you’ll naturally start to see more.
Follow the call of your heart
Remember, the practice of meditation and questioning your beliefs work synergistically together. So, each one supports the other.
Use them to follow the call of your heart.
And please remember, you’re not alone!
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