“How do I know myself to know who I am?” .. this is one of the questions I often get from some readers, readers of all ages, who seriously wonder about their real nature. But I, who am neither a guru nor an enlightened teacher, as a simple ignorant wayfarer as I am, I always answer: to know who you are you have to understand what you are not. That’s all I know. Sometimes, for someone, it turns out to be an unsatisfactory answer, too simple, for some it is even a nonsense, but for me it is pure truth. Behind that answer is all my short and tragicomic life experience, but that step by step has led me to get to know me more and better, starting from an observation job, then moving on to an experimentation phase and finally realization. I realized who I am and to get there I followed the path of what I am NOT.
But let’s start with the question: “who am I?”. It must be noted that we live in a modern society, so modern, in which most people never change, do not evolve, and that over the years falls into an ever greater despair precisely because this fundamental question never arises. I have come to the conclusion that people are afraid to question what they think they know, what their beliefs are. And so, often, with age advancing and death approaching, they realize that they have lived unknowingly. All the beliefs and ideas never investigated begin to falter, along with the false image of themselves that they have been carrying for years.
This is because death shows us how little we know about this fundamental question, and it does so by depriving us of the body, destroying relationships, money, power, practically all those things that most people live for. There are even those who think that his faith in God will eventually help him, but paradoxically, even this much vaunted faith is, for most people, simply a weak conviction, a ritual learned by children and repeated on a Sunday every now and then for the whole life. The truth, dear readers, is that throughout our lives we chase desires and personal satisfactions, convinced that we know who we are and what we want. But then it happens that the disease comes, the torments, the death, the misfortunes, the great tragedies of life, and everything around us and within us collapses, making us sink into anguish.
It is for this reason that I have great admiration for those who dare to ask themselves “who am I?”, For those who feel a strong desire to know themselves in a world where most people do not even ask themselves the problem. And so, suddenly, you are in a phase where you no longer know exactly what you really want, what the road is, who we really are, but it is an excellent dilemma: it means that we have the possibility of not doing the superficial life and sad death that many people make. And believe me, it’s not a small thing. But it takes courage, a lot of courage. Because the price to pay for being yourself is being emotionally alone.
Most people, when they begin to experience these moments of confusion, in which everything is questioned, they start to be afraid. Fear of oneself. And instead of plunging bravely into a search for truth and inner harmony, they go to conquer easy ways of escape, they rely on pseudo masters and pseudo gurus, in need of consoling answers in which to lock themselves up, so as not to face the fears and efforts that a honest research dictates.
The investigation and careful observation show us how we are not what we usually believe we are. Thus we begin to understand what we are NOT. We are not our job, our bank account, our home or our properties. We can take advantage of it, we have a social position and affections, we can enjoy it, but it is temporary. And let’s go further. We are not emotions, moods, problems. Knowing them offers us a partial but not essential knowledge of ourselves. We are not even our thoughts for the simple fact that what can be seen cannot be he who sees. If I see a tree, I’m not that tree. If I see a thought of mine, I am not that thought. Understanding that you are not your own thoughts is the most important and delicate step in the path of inner search. It is the most difficult thing because we are powerfully identified with the mind.
Think about this story: imagine that there is a man born with a mask on his face and all his life he is told that that is his real face. This man grows, makes his life but suddenly it happens that his skin, under the mask, becomes more and more irritated. Thus begins an observation phase in this man, finally he looks around for a remedy and experiences that everyone lives in the same conditions, the same irritations. “It will be normal,” he says to himself. Then one day, by chance, he comes across a person with a strange face, which does not seem like his: he is radiant, alive, rosy, a face with a thousand expressions. The man is so impressed that he approaches and asks him how his face can be so expressive and alive, and if he too suffers from cursed itching.
At that point the man with the “different” face, with a big smile, replies: “Look, you too have a face like mine, perhaps even more beautiful, you just have to take off the mask you are wearing”. The words resound so incredulous that the other man, without thinking, replies: “But don’t say nonsense, what mask are you talking about? This has always been my face! It is not possible that my parents, my teachers, my colleagues, my friends, the women I have been with, in short, it is not possible that none of them has ever noticed that I wear a mask on my face! “. At this point, the man with a radiant face replies: “They could not have noticed because they too live in your same condition. In any case, if you want, I will help you to remove it ”. The man with the mask thus begins to tremble with fear. Fear that everything will change and it will not be the same. And give up taking it off.
I am reminded of a famous and remarkable quote attributed to the songwriter and poet Jim Morrison: “People are very used to their image, they grow attached to their masks, they love their chains, they forget who they really are, and if you try to remind them of it they hate you. “
This story serves to understand how, in reality, disidentification with the mind is equivalent to tearing the mask off us. Few have the courage to do it. Because we are totally identified with it. But things are not what we believe they are. So let’s not give up and continue with the path of what we are NOT.
As I said, we are not our thoughts, and we must add that we are not even our beliefs, our ideologies, our painful or pleasant ideas about ourselves and the world. Because as strange as it may seem, our greatest troubles arise from the obscuring of our real nature in favor of identification with thoughts. In other words, our thoughts and beliefs make us forget what we are. I am Christian, I am Italian, I am rich, I am incapable, stupid, beautiful, I am a doctor, a worker, I am a father, and so, endlessly .. I am this and that, and people are able to define themselves in a thousand ways different. But in truth we cling to these definitions to pretend that we know who we are.
This happens because all the thoughts and beliefs we have about ourselves are conditionings that have settled in us since we were little. But if we remove all this, if we try to undress and courageously try to understand what we are NOT, then what we will be able to perceive will be something that now we cannot even imagine. It is no coincidence that in Eastern traditions the expression “turn the light inside”, that is to turn attention a hundred and eighty degrees, often occurs. Because what we seek is not found outside of us in some near or remote future, but is already present in us, at the very source of our asking. We are what we seek.
“Who am I?”. My whole being was shaken by this thirst. It was a violent storm. Each breath trembled, jerked. “Who am I?”. Like an arrow, the question penetrated everything and headed inward. I remember it was such a strong thirst! My whole life had become thirsty! Everything was burning. And like a tongue of fire the question remained there. “Who am I?”. The surprise was that the intellect was completely silent. There was no longer the incessant flow of thoughts. What had happened? The suburbs were completely silent. There were no thoughts, there were no conditionings from the past. It was just me and there was also the question. No, no, I was the question myself. And then the explosion … in an instant everything was transformed. The question had fallen. The answer had come from some unknown dimension. The truth is reached with a sudden explosion, not gradually. It cannot be forced to appear. Arriva. Emptiness is the solution, not the words. Becoming unanswered is the answer. ” Osho Rajneesh – “Seeds of Wisdom”