First find out who you are not. Are you your name, your property, the wealth you have acquired? These may give you a sense of security, but you can lose them, change them, and yet remain ‘you’.
Are you what others think of you, your social standing and reputation? God help you if you are, because opinions are fickle and a reputation can be lost overnight. Are you your family, your ‘roots’, your background, your past experiences? These have shaped who you are, but you are not bound to repeat the patterns of the past.
Are you a doctor, an administrator, an engineer, a shop assistant? These are merely paths you have followed, roles that you have chosen to play. Are you your expertise, experience and capabilities? These are only so much baggage, however useful they may be.
Are you your memories? These fade and are uncertain. Your hopes, dreams, aims and intentions? These can mutate or dissipate. Your body? You can lose a leg, an arm, hair, blood; you eat, you breathe; where is the boundary between ‘you’ and ‘not you’?
Are you the pains and turmoils that you suffer, the pleasures you enjoy? At times it can seem so, because intense sensations can envelop the body and mind. Yet even in the midst of intense pain or pleasure, it is possible to stand back and observe both the sensation and your response as if from a distance.
Are you your desires and fears? These can seem to govern your life; yet shift your perspective, and you can see that they are no more ‘you’ than the caffeine in your morning coffee, a drama you have just watched on TV.
Are you your knowledge, beliefs and opinions? These limit your perception and prejudice your actions as long as you take them seriously. You can hold any beliefs and opinions you like, but what do you really know?
Who are you at this precise moment? You are thinking thoughts and experiencing sensations. Are you doing the thinking, or is thought sustaining the idea of ‘you’? Are you experiencing, or is experience creating the sensation of ‘you’?
Whenever you name an experience you are putting your stamp on it so to speak. When you recognise, judge, conclude, assume, you are interpreting life through the filters of your knowledge, experience, preconceptions – and these are inevitably biased and limited. In other words, you are translating ‘what is’ in terms of what you have carried over from the past. This process of interpretation, which rarely ceases and is largely unconscious, plays a major part in sustaining the sensation of being ‘you’.
Try looking without naming and interpreting what you see. Try listening without judging and drawing conclusions. Just be aware. You will soon notice how eager the brain is to interpret everything it encounters in terms of what it already knows. Don’t try to resist this process, but simply be aware of it. This is meditation. Awareness is free of judgment, and the more one becomes aware both outwardly and inwardly, the less one is caught in the network of thought. When thought is quiet, there is no ‘you’; then life takes on a wholly different significance.