“Who am I?” Finding the Stillness Within
by Cara SaxThe famous philosopher Renee Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am.”
I guess he was saying that he exists because he has thoughts?
I’m pretty sure the famous yogi Patanjali would have said otherwise. He might have said, “I think, therefore I forget who I am.”
According to yoga philosophy, our thinking has the potential to cause us great confusion and suffering. Yogis compare our thoughts to waves in a rough sea: Turbulent water prevents us from seeing the stillness that lies at bottom of the ocean. Our turbulent minds prevent us from seeing the stillness that lies beneath our judgments, comparisons, stories and incessant thinking.
Our thoughts cause us suffering when they are out of control. Just think of a time when you couldn’t get a thought, worry or story out of your head. A racing mind can interfere with your sleep or take you away from the present when you are awake.
The yogis believed that deep inside we actually have an inner awareness that is separate from the layer of our mind. This center is always peaceful, always aware and always wise. This unchanging center is who we are.
Sometimes we get so caught up in the stories racing through our mind that we begin to think we actually are our thoughts. The stories we tell ourselves, and the labels we give ourselves, can run our lives. We start to think the voice in our head that is constantly talking, judging and projecting is who we are. But if we take a step back from our thoughts, we may realize that the awareness that lies beneath our turbulent mind is actually who we are.
If we can access this place, we will be free from the constantly changing nature of our bodies, minds and experiences. By taking some time every day to sit quietly in meditation, or any other practice that helps us quiet the mind, we can let go of the constant chatter.
The great yogi Rahamana Maharishi said, “The way to attain inner freedom is to continuously and sincerely ask the question, ‘Who am I?’”
Maybe a good place to start is to list who you are not.
You are not your mind.
You are not your body.
You are not your emotions.
You are not your experiences.
Ask again, “Who am I?” and then repeat the following:
“I am the one who is aware of the ever-changing events, thoughts and emotions
that pass through my mind.”
When you have established who you are deep inside, and when you live from that place, you will remain centered, steady and present, regardless of the changes that life brings.
Cara Sax is the owner of ELEVATE YOGA STUDIO, in Cortlandt Manor, NY.