Sunday, August 12, 2012

Mindfulness Project: Week Four [Part I]

Mindfulness Project: Week One [Week One Review]
Mindfulness Project: Week Two  [Week Two Review]
Mindfulness Project: Week Three [Week Three Review]

I know, I know, this post is super late. But we're pausing on Week Four for a week or two because it's a big week, the biggest week so far, and I've just been processing (and migraining) for the past few days.

Who Am I?

I don't ask this question often. I'm much more likely to look at my partner and think Who is this person? (The answer: the person who has so much dirt on me, it's ridiculous). 

The question "Who am I?" is the central theme of Chapter Four in Andrew Weiss' book Beginning Mindfulness. Weiss writes about how it is really difficult to answer this questions without using any of the many labels that we identify with:
If we ask ourselves the question "Who am I?" and if we are honest, we will acknowledge that we haven't the slightest idea. All of our answers to that question are tags and labels. We say we are Christian or Jewish, a man or a woman, white or brown or black, old or young, but none of these answers tells us who we really are. All they tell us is how we have chosen to identify ourselves. They are mental constructs, but what do they have to do with the deeper reality of our own being? Take away the words and labels, and then let me know who you are. Can you do this? At a deep, fundamental level, who we are is a great mystery. Even if we say, "I am a human being," do we have any idea what a human being is? Again, if we are honest, we will answer that we don't have a clue.
.This is intense. It is mind-boggling difficult to think about the nature of the self, or the nature of anything without the labels we attach to everything.

Weiss goes on to explain that it is not so much that answer that is important, but the question that is of significance. Asking this question of ourselves helps us to see the outside influences and artificial constructs we exist within. And asking "What is this?" about the various objects we come across during our day does the same thing. It frees us.
[Asking "Who am I?] is a direct way to experience life without the usual ideas and concepts standing in the way. It provides clear, unequivocal direction for our [mindfulness] practice. One friend of mine refers to this as "the graceful state of not knowing."
I adore the phrase "the graceful state of not knowing."

I didn't meditate last night because I had a migraine, but on Friday night, I asked myself "Who am I?" and answered "I don't know" throughout my formal sitting practice. It is really interesting to sit and to admit that I don't know It is humbling. It is simplifying. I have so many labels I identify with, so many labels I would like not to identify with anymore, and several I would like to aspire to. And this question strips all of them away. It allows for a free, clear space, where I am allowed to be me, purely me.