Each article in our ‘Conscious Questions’ series focuses on a particular question that you can ask yourself to increase your levels of success, happiness, and fulfillment. By consciously asking yourself transformative questions that are geared towards inner exploration and problem-solving, you will be able to get in touch with your untapped creative resources and find innovative ways to get more out of life. Each and every question that we present is uniquely designed to bring more blissful understanding into your life. In this article, we look at the question “Who am I?”
Thanks in large part to the great Hindu sage Ramana Maharshi, the question ‘Who am I?’ holds supreme importance in the world of spirituality. It was in 1902 when an Indian government official named Sri Pillai traveled to the mystical Aruanchala Hill to seek spiritual guidance from Maharshi. During Pillai’s visit with the great master, who was only 23 at the time, he asked him a number of important spiritual questions, and the answers that he recorded serve as the basis for the self-inquiry meditation technique that Maharshi is associated with.
The single most important piece of advice that Maharshi gave that day revolved around the question ‘Who am I?’. He told Pillai that by persistently and consistently asking ourselves this question in meditation, that we could begin to dissolve the ego, start living from our deeper nature, and eventually find the lasting levels of fulfillment that we seek.
Transforming our Understanding of Ourselves:
There is no doubting the fact that throughout any given day, each of us make numerous behavioral changes that are based upon the situations and circumstances that we find ourselves in. From 9 to 5, we act as serious, hardworking, and dedicated employees and bosses. From 5 to 9, we transform into loving parents and spouses. And after the kids go to bed, many of us become passionate soulmates with our significant others.
In addition to these major transformations, there are also smaller behavioral modifications that aren’t as noticeable. For example, we act a certain way at charity functions with our friends, we put on an appropriate costume when we have to deal with an acquaintance who we constantly butt heads with, and yet still act differently when we are depositing a check at the bank or picking up bread and milk at the grocery store.
As you analyze your daily live, it becomes clear to see how you act differently depending on the situations and circumstances that you find yourself in. The question then needs to be asked, ‘Who are we?’, and more specifically for you:
Who am I?
Are you the father or mother? Are you the accountant, secretary, or manager? Are you the person who gets frustrated as traffics screeches to a halt on the way to an important meeting? Or are you a combination of all these things and willingly, or unwillingly, change your role to match your situation? These are all valid responses to a question such as ‘Who am I?’ and if you have come to the conclusion that you are a combination of the different roles that you take on, there is only one more question to be asked:
Who or what has the ability to analyze these different roles and notice how you behave differently depending upon the circumstances?
Beyond your daily behavioral patterns, it is equally easy to see how the ‘self’ changes as one ages. When you look at various photos from your life, you can see drastic changes in your physical body. When you analyze the thoughts that are going through your head, you can recall how they were different at different stages of your life. This reality of change, however, doesn’t stop us from thinking about ourselves as being the same person our entire lives.
Finding Freedom by Asking Yourself ‘Who Am I?’:
The world of spirituality puts great importance on asking the question ‘Who am I?’ because it allows us to get in touch with the deepest parts of ourselves. It will become nearly impossible to say that you are your physical body, thoughts, and emotions after regularly asking this question and exploring these transformational aspects of yourself. Nonetheless, this truth doesn’t mean that there isn’t part of your being that remains unchanged throughout your entire life.
At the level of pure consciousness, which is your true self, you remain the same from birth until death and beyond. This is the part of yourself that has the ability to objectively observe how your behaviors, thoughts, mood swings, and emotional responses change on a continuous basis. Furthermore, it is at this level that everything is perfect regardless of the circumstances and situations that you find yourself in, and it is at this level where your true self resides.
It is due to the magnificent nature of the human brain that we begin to associate ourselves with the ego, or self-concept, as we grow older. This association, of falsely believing ourselves to be our physical body, cognitions, and societal roles, only grows stronger as we have more experiences. By asking ourselves ‘Who am I?’, each and everyday, we can get in touch with the deepest part of your being, pure consciousness, and begin to disassociate ourselves from this false and limiting perspective. As you start to associate with your true self, you begin to experience more happiness on a daily basis and feel connected to those around you.
There is no doubting the fact that at the deepest level of our beings we all share the same exact desire of finding lasting fulfillment. Through personal experience, spiritual sages have came to realize that the happiness that we seek can only be at the level of pure consciousness. Therefore, if there is one conscious question that you ask yourself on a daily basis it should be ‘Who am I?’. By asking yourself this question, it is certain that happiness, contentment, and fulfillment will blossom in your life.