“I set my sights on being free so that I can offer myself to the family of humankind.” – Lala, a Sufi Poet and Mystic who ran away from her abusive husband and mother-in-law.
Who am I? Where have I come from? And where am I going? These three questions open doors to spiritual self-discovery and freedom. We often get so caught up in material life that we begin to identify with our possessions, our jobs and our roles in relationships. Whether we become aware of it or not, we often think of ourselves in direct relationship to our homes, our cars, our clothes, our partners and our families and jobs. Another way to look at it is that we unconsciously think, “I am my job. I am good because I have a good house. I am enviable because I drive a good car. I am a spouse, etc.” But what happens when we lose these things? We lose our imagined identity and we no longer know who we really are.
Ancient Asian wisdom traditions used a practice of inquiry as a way to discover who we really are. That is, the part of us which is Real and never changing. It’s a practice of self-discovery to help arrive at the spiritual core of one’s being. A guru (Sanskrit for teacher) would encourage students to ask, “Am I my body?” They were expected to answer “neti, neti.” “Not that. Not that.” My body changes perpetually and eventually will be shed like an old dress or a worn pair of jeans. So I cannot be the body. “Am I the mind?” My mind will lose its sharpness and its ability to think clearly. I may even lose my mind, so I am not the mind.
Am I my soul? Even the soul goes through periods of growth and change. In the ancient wisdom traditions, the Spirit or the atma, the unchanging essence that continues even when all else dissolves and changes, is Real. Therefore, they encouraged students to realize, “I am atma.” I am the eternal, unchanging absolute – and to identify with this. This is a powerful way to remain unaffected by the ups and downs of the life’s journey.
A good way to reinforce this is to repeat, “I am atma.” Or, “I am the unchanging, eternal Absolute.” Or “I am Love.” This ancient practice anchors us in the deep wisdom of knowing our true nature and understanding ourselves as profoundly greater and wiser than what we may initially imagine. Give it a try and discover the depths and the power of anchoring in the Spirit as your true identity.
Bio: Debra Moffitt is author of Awake in the World: 108 Practices to Live a Divinely Inspired Life. A visionary and teacher, she’s devoted to nurturing the spiritual in everyday life. She leads workshops on spiritual practices at the Sophia Institute and other venues in the U.S. and Europe. Her mind/body/spirit articles, essays and stories appear in publications around the globe and were broadcast by BBC World Services Radio. She has spent over fifteen years practicing meditation, working with dreams and doing spiritual practices. Visit her online at http://www.debramoffitt.com and http://www.awakeintheworld.com.