I read something the other day that asked how do we define ourselves? The article went on to say that it was another way of asking the Mother of All Questions: Who Am I? I became intrigued with the idea of how we define ourselves as the underbelly to that Master question.
Throughout time, philosophers and religious seekers have asked the question, Who Am I? Depending on what religious or philosophical texts you read, there are many answers, but general agreement seems to be that we are not who we think we are in this physical manifestation. We are more: We are an extension of the Universal energy (or God or whatever your name for it is) that brought us to be born in this human body in the first place.
Personally, I experience this connection—this extension—in my deepest meditations, yoga practice, or when I sit in Nature and in balance with what’s around me. In those moments, the truth of oneness becomes undeniable.
If you asked me to define myself, I would rattle off that I am a wife, a media project manager, a yoga teacher, a writer, and a daughter. In reality, those are labels of the things I do and are to others. They define my roles in society and my abilities but they do not define me. Labels are made up and so are the associations with them. I don’t believe labels define a person. I believe that moments do. If you take any defining moment in your life—it’s in those moments that we reveal who we are and our true nature.
The defining moment for a firefighter battling a blaze reveals his courageousness in his desire to save people. The defining moment for parents reveals themselves as love when they stay up all night nursing a sick child. The defining moment for a lover reveals selflessness when he puts aside his own desires when he sees his partner in need. Even defining moments that at first glance reveal something negative, really aren’t. Taking it deeper, even a person caught stealing is not a thief. Yes, per the label he is, but the defining moment of theft reveals that he is a fearful person. Someone who is hurt and in need.
We need to be careful here also of mistaking our reactions to events as tells to who we really are. When we are pressed in situations, most of us react until we learn not to. Don’t take that reaction to be the answer to who you are. Take it deeper into what’s behind that reaction.
These defining moments can come to anyone at any time. They don’t need to be earth-shattering life events. They can be simple, and small, but hugely profound in their reveal. I found myself in my own defining moment recently when I was practicing Yoga. I was having difficulty keeping a balancing pose, so in a third attempt, I yet again, renewed my intention and shifted my focus. As my foot came up against my standing leg and my arms rose above my head, my thoughts suddenly shifted to “I am love. I am love. I am love.” With each repetition, my pose became surer and straighter. That single moment was a defining one for me. So who am I? Lots of labels, and lots of things to many people and yes, I am an extension of the universal energy, and I am also love.
Who are you?