Who are you?

My address from Service at Winchester Spiritual Church yesterday evening.
This thought is inspired by the book ‘The Untethered Soul’ and the particular idea is via Ramana Maharishi.

Who are you?

If I were to ask a few of you now, who are you? What would be your reply?

Who are you?

I’m Nici. But am I? Is my name who I am? There is some research that suggests what you are named is important relating to your spiritual life and path. But are you your name? Are you a collection of letters on a piece of paper?

Your name is what your parents chose to call you when you were born. Someone else chose that label for you to be known by. A point of reference. But is a label the sum of who you are? Let’s try again. This time I don’t want you to tell me who you are using your name.

Who are you?

Who are you?

I am a woman,  I was born in Southampton and grew up with my mum and dad & two sisters. I loved school and did really well, my father passed away when I was 13 which was really hard. I now live in Shirley, I’ve been married 3 times and have 4 children. I am married to Pete.

My story is interesting but is that who I am? Or are they a collection of events that I witnessed. Who witnessed those events and experiences? Who saw what I saw and felt what I felt? Who am I?

Try again, this time I know I am not my name, I am not my physical description or the events that happened that I witnessed.

Who are you?

I am a mother and a wife.

I am a father and a husband.

Am I? Would I no longer exist if I wasn’t a mother or wife suddenly? If my husband and I divorced and he remarried, would I cease to exist because I was his wife? Again these are descriptive words for the life & events I have witnessed. I am describing experiences. But who experienced those experiences? WHO am I?

Let’s try again.

Who are you?

I am a body occupying this space. I’m 5′ 8″ with short hair.

Are you?
Hmm is that who I am? When I was 7 and I looked in the mirror and I was 4′ tall with long blond hair, isn’t that who I was too? Am I no longer that 7 year old? Am I now a different person who is 5′ 8″ with short hair or am I still that same person regardless of my height or physical description? Who is it that looked in the mirror at 7? Who was it who looked in the mirror at 34? Who was it who saw that?

What I’ve looked at has changed. But what about you? The one doing the looking? Isn’t it the same awareness that looked into the mirror at 7 and at 34? Won’t it be the same being that see what it looks at in 10 years?

Consider this, when you go to sleep at night, who dreams? You?

Who sees the dream? I do!

Is it the same you that sees in the Mirror? The same you listening to me speak now? Who is having all these experiences?

Now. It’s fairly easy to work out that you are not objects that you see. If I put a carrot and an onion in front of you and asked you which one is you, you would laugh and say neither of them. So if you are neither of those objects, it’s fairly easy to jump to a conclusion that you are not anything outside of you. It’s fairly easy to generalise that if you are the one looking at something, then that thing is not you. So. We now know that any object outside of you is not you.

So you are not the outside world. You are the one inside, looking out at the world.

But who are you? And where are you, if you are not outside with all the other things? Would you still be here if all the other thing outside disappeared? Would you be aware that there is nothing there to see?

Would you feel fearful? Anxious? Frustrated if there was no things outside to see or experience? Who would feel these things?

I would! Me!

The same me that experiences the outside things and the inside feelings.

But where are you? Where is the you that feels these things? Who is the you that sees and experiences? There is a famous quote ‘I think, therefore I am’.

But when you think something, who hears those thoughts? When your thoughts are jumping back and forward having its own conversation with itself, is it you talking in your head or are you the one listening? Who hears all those thoughts?

When you go into a deep meditation for example, your thoughts stop or do they?  Who is the one who notices the absence of thoughts popping in? Who is the one who recognises the quiet and peaceful space you are in? 

If you were able to say that you experienced the peace and absence of thought then surely it’s not hard to see that you are not your thoughts. You are the one witnessing the thoughts and the absence of thoughts. 

Okay so who am I? I know what I am not. I am not the outside world. I am not my feelings, I am not my thoughts. I am the one who experiences them.

If we let go of these outer and inner objects and experiences and the thoughts that go with them, who is left?

When you contemplate this deeper question, you will come to a realisation that there is one quality left. Consciousness. Awareness. 

I want you to close your eyes. Now imagine that you are in a room. There are people there, someone playing a piano. I want you to take in and see, experience all within that room. Now, imagine the piano disappears. How do you feel about that? No imagine the people in the room ceases to exist. How do you feel now? Now imagine your awareness of how you are feeling calluses to exist. You are no longer there. No sense of the ‘me’ that you are. There’s no one in there to say ‘wow I used to exist but now I don’t’  there is no one to notice that as you no longer have any consciousness, no awareness. And without that awareness there is nothing there. Is there objects? Is there people? Who knows becaise nothing exists. Their existence or non existence becomes irrelevant becaise there is no awareness to experience it.

If you are conscious and aware however, there is you there to notice if something else exists or not! When conscious there could be nothing there in front of you but you are there to see there is nothing. You are aware there is nothing there. 

So I ask you again.

Who are you?

I am the one who sees. From somewhere back there, I look out and I am aware of what I see, I am aware of experiences, thoughts and feelings that pass before me.

That is who you are. Back there in a deep place, you are at the seat of your consciousness.

At every different stage of your life, you are the one who has sat back and experienced different thoughts feelings and experiences. All these objects have passed before you. Take everything else away, you are still sat there, aware that nothing is there.

Ill leave you with that final question again. Are you your name? Your body? Your upbringing? Your experiences? Are you what happens outside of you? Are you what happens inside of you? Are you your thoughts and feelings? Or are you the one seeing it all, from back there somewhere? Who are you?

Nici Gorman

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