I have a cat. A black-and-white American short hair named Amelia. She sits in my lap purring contentedly as I pet her, soaking up my loving adoration. As far as I know, she isn’t thinking about the bills she has to pay, how to deal with her boss, or whether she should dye her hair a different color. As far as I know, she isn’t thinking about much of anything. She’s just a cat, living in the ecstasy of sitting in a warm lap being petted.
Amelia doesn’t know who she is. She probably doesn’t even know she’s a cat. That’s the really great thing about her. She just is. It doesn’t matter what’s going on. It doesn’t matter what you or I think. It doesn’t matter what I want her to do. Call her anything you like. She’s just a cat being a cat.
Imagine the peace and contentment of being entirely unconcerned about anything beyond what is right there in front of you. Imagine being free to do whatever you wanted whenever you wanted to do it, without having to consider what someone else might think. When you stop to consider it, it starts to make sense that it’s the endless thinking that’s the real problem. Maybe, if you could just stop thinking about it so much, you could be who you are. Maybe, like Amelia, you could just be.
This article is supposed to be about how to remember who you truly are. But it might be that the real trick is not so much trying to remember who you are, but forgetting who you are not.
Amelia is able to be absolutely and completely present, precisely because she has no idea who she is. She doesn’t stop to think about it. The challenge we human beings face is that we have an amazing and terrible cerebral cortex. We’ve used it to build impenetrable fortresses based on knowing who we are. We identify with our beliefs about who we are. And most of those beliefs are based on stories that we, ourselves, have created. We accept what others think and model ourselves after it. We focus on our thoughts and physical form as if that is entirely who we are. In doing so, we separate ourselves from our true Self.
Imagine what might happen if, like Amelia, you had no idea who you were. Here’s an exercise to help you forget who you are not.
Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit. The way you sit isn’t particularly important. You can sit on a chair or on the floor. You can use some other position if it feels right for you. The goal is to be comfortable and relaxed, calm and alert.
Once you’re comfortable, focus on your breathing. Breathe slowly, rhythmically, and deeply. Follow the air as it moves in and out of your body. Spend a few minutes doing nothing but sitting and breathing.
Imagine you can breathe into your belly, legs, and feet. Breathe into every part of your body. After you’ve been breathing this way for several minutes, notice how you feel. I expect you will feel calm, peaceful, and content. That is the natural state of your true Self.
Allow your Self to be with this awareness and simply enjoy how you feel. When you’re ready, ask your Self the following questions:
• Who would I be without the thoughts in my head?
• If I stopped thinking, what would remain?
Allow your Self to respond. Notice the things that come to you without judging or resisting them. Simply notice how you respond. Pay particular attention to any contrast or conflict between your thoughts and the awareness you get from your body. Every moment you spend with the feelings and sensations of your body is a moment free from the judgments and negativity of your thoughts. That is where you find your true Self and get to know who you are.
Spend some time writing or journaling about your experience. Repeat this exercise often. I suggest making it a regular part of your daily practice. As you forget who you are not, you will remember who you truly are.