I have recently encountered the Hindu practice of Atma Vichara. It is the meditative practice of asking oneself the question “Who Am I”, constantly examining one’s sense of identity.
As I listen inside for answers, my mind continually produces answers of who I AM not. I am male; I am married; I am a therapist; I am a driver; I am a customer; I am a homeowner; I am an American; I am a senior (though I don’t feel like it). The list is seemingly endless. This list appears to me to be the contents of my ego, who I ‘think’ I AM.
The deepest answer for me is: I AM, without the embellishment of a noun, an object. The true I AM is not a noun or an object and is probably not definable with words. As I ask the question and listen, rather than have my mind supply endless answers, I encounter nothing. I AM NO-THING, a non-object. This brings me deeper and deeper into an ear-ringing stillness that is profoundly peaceful. In this state I need nothing, have no fear, cannot be hurt and am beginning to experience flashes of at-one-ment, a connection in which there is no Self, upper or lower case.
At an even deeper level, the question becomes meaningless as there is no “I”, just awareness, without subject or object or thingness. My functions continue to perform their tasks, but there is something missing. My attachment to these tasks is diminishing. More and more of my attention is entering the Now. Nothing matters and everything life requires of me is performed without resistance. I feel like an empty vessel surrendering itself to infinity to be filled in whatever fashion the infinite chooses. Every time I sound the question in my mind it goes deeper.
Imagine living your life this way moment-to-moment, without attachment or fear. It is one of life’s options, this expanded state of awareness where we can feel…what? No words, no concepts, no roles, no rules, just pure CONSCIOUSNESS.