Who am I?
Let’s invite ourselves to have a particular thought-the thought of “I” or “me.” Really experience this “I.” Does it have the quality of something real or is it more like a memory, something that is incomplete? What does our character look like in our internal movies and how accurate is that? Has it ever been several days since we looked in the mirror, and when we did, it surprised us because it didn’t match our idea of what we look like? You’ll notice that you can never get a consistent image of this “I”; you can’t pin it down.
Another thing to notice is how the “I” fluctuates. Sometimes we have a positive self-image and sometimes not. We have all had moments of being caught in the idea of being a hopeless nobody one time and being on top of the world another time. This “I” thought has the same fluidity and amorphous quality of every thought and memory.
Although the “I” is often associated with the body, it can’t be the body because we say things like “I have bad eyesight” rather than “I am bad eyesight.” Whenever we refer to the body, there is still something called “I” present as well. Clearly, the body is a part of physical reality; it’s a thing that can be referred to. However, does the “I” refer to a thing? We can have an elaborate story about “I,” and refer to that story and worry about how that story is going, but there is no thing that all of that refers to. “I” is just a lot of memories patched together to make what we call a self-image, which is an accurate description of it-it’s an image. It turns out that the “I” is just thoughts about “I”. No matter how hard we try, it is nothing more than a movie clip. We completely manufacture images of ourselves doing things. We manufacture memories and call them “me.” Then, we work at improving our self-image, when all that we can accomplish is to improve this memory!
We also have a fantasy that our self-image is what people see, when what they see is their image of us. No one relates to your image of you-they can’t see your internal image. Somehow, we think that our self-image will protect us or make us well-liked. The truth of this moment is that our self-image isn’t doing anything.
So, what else is present right here, that notices the sensory data? What is it that hears the internal dialogues? What is it that notices the self-images and isn’t fooled by them? What is the source of all the thoughts, even the “I” thought? It’s not something we can sense. We can’t find it in the body or in the brain, and yet it is here, right now. This Mystery has the fundamental quality of awareness: it is aware of thought, feeling, and sensation. Whatever we bring our attention to becomes lit up by this Awareness.
No matter how elaborate our fantasy of being someone is, we have never succeeded in completely hiding that which does not come and go and we have never done any harm to it. “You” can’t mess this life up because “you” aren’t living it. We think that if there isn’t this “me” taking care of life, it’s going to fall apart, but it never has been “you” that has been taking care of your life. So, what will you trust? Will you trust this fantasy that has never accomplished anything or this Mystery that has actually been living every moment of life?