Who am I? This is the fundamental question. This the most important question that I can grapple with and get clear on. Few of us have a powerful answer to this question. Almost all of us are trapped in delusions – delusions that imprison/constrain us in some way. I call these ‘prison bars of our being/showing up in the world for ourselves and others’.
How do you and I build these prison bars? Whenever you/I add anything to “I am”. For example, I am a woman. I am a middle class. I am extroverted. I am a manager. I am unattractive. I am respectable. I am intelligent. I am reliable. I am honest. I am a good friend. I am a poor mother/daughter/wife……. Truth be told, you/I are not the ones that add all of this stuff to “I am”. No, it is done by our parents, our sibling, our relatives, our teachers, our neighbours, the media ……….. It is that without knowing any better we think that the game of life is adding stuff to “I am” and so we get busy adding stuff until the prison bars are complete and we have lost our freedom to be and instead have a fixed identity.
Does it have to be that way? Can you/I regain our freedom? Can you and I let go of all that we/others have added to “I am” and get back to “I am” and rejoice such that it our experience shows up for us as “I am!”? Allow me to share with you one of the most moving passages that I have ever come across:
“I remember walking that day under the elevated tracks in a slum area, feeling the thought, “I am an illegitimate child.” I recall the sweat pouring forth in my anguish in trying to accept the fact. Then I understood what it must feel like to accept, “I am a Negro in the midst of privileged whites,” or “I am blind in the midst of people who see.” Later on that night I woke up and it came to me this way, “I accept the fact that I am an illegitimate child.” But “I am not a child anymore.” So it is, “I am illegitimate.” That is not so either: “I was born illegitimate.” Then what is left? What is left is this, “I Am.” This act of contact and acceptance with “I am,” once gotten hold of, gave me (what I think was for me the first time) the experience “Since I Am, I have a right to be.”
What is this experience like? It is a primary feeling – it feels like receiving the deeds to my house. It is the experience of my own aliveness not caring whether it turns out to be an ion or just a wave. It is like when as a very young child I once reached the core of a peach and cracked the pit, not knowing what I would find and then feeling the wonder of finding the inner seed, good to eat in its bitter sweetness…. It is like a sailboat in the harbour being given an anchor so that, being made out of earthly things, it can by means of its anchor get in touch again with the earth, the ground from which its wood grew, it can lift its anchor to sail but always at times it can cast its anchor to weather the storm or rest a little….. It is my saying to Descartes, “I Am, therefore I think, I feel, I do.”
It is like an axiom of geometry – never experiencing it would be like going through a geometry course not knowing the first axiom. It is like going to my own Garden of Eden where I am beyond good and evil and all other human concepts. It is like the experience of poets of the intuitive world, the mystics, except that instead of the pure feeling of and union with God it is the finding of and the union of my being. It is like owning Cinderella’s shoe and looking all over the world for the foot that will fit and realising all of a sudden that one’s own foot is the only one it will fit. It is a “Matter of Fact” in the etymological sense of the expression. It is like a globe before the mountains and oceans and continents have been drawn on it. It is like a child in grammar finding the subject of the verb in a sentence – in this case the subject being one’s own life span. It is ceasing to feel like a theory toward one’s self…..”