Who am I? Why am I here?
Finding Yourself in the Mystery
We are meaning makers. Humans are hard-wired to search for meaning. To understand ourselves and our experience. This personal exploration may be a source of great joy, or of struggle and confusion.
How we choose to answer the essential questions - Who am I? and Why am I here? form the basis of our experience of both Self and of the world around us. In essence, we create meaning. We choose our experience based on how we see ourselves and what we identify with.
Who am I?
As a small child, you did not ask this question. You simply experienced life. Curiosity reigned supreme and it was all about exploration.
A few years go by and you start to hear stories about who you are. From your parents, your siblings, your community. You are still curious and playful in your experience, and at the same time you begin to see yourself through the eyes of others.
Growing older, you begin to develop a more critical sense of Self. You see yourself in relation to the world around you and begin to explore the ways that you interact with the people in your life. You become self-conscious. Concerned with the rules of your social surroundings and how you are perceived.
This process of socialization is part of our human development. It is also the source of our separation of Self from truth. When we become self-conscious, we seek acceptance. Forgetting our inherent worthiness and instead looking for ways to be judged worthy by others.
And thus begins the search for meaning. The questions of purpose arise and the spiritual journey begins.
I am not the Mind
The primary functions of our mind are to think and to know. We create story and understanding with our thoughts based on years of patterned belief. These beliefs then lead to automated and predictable response.
It's natural. It's simply part of the way that the brain functions.
And how powerful and beneficial this programming can be! Without programming we would lack a frame of reference in relation to our world. We would operate without memory or learning or understanding of experience.
Imagine if each time you turned on your computer you had to download every single program prior to use. First the boot system, then the operating system, then each individual and often interacting processing program. There would be little opportunity to even use the program you set out to open or develop further program functioning.
Our minds operate in much the same way. We utilize programs/neural networks to speed up and automate our brain functioning. This then frees up time and ability for further learning and exploration. The evolution of the human mind truly is a beautiful thing.
Now here's where the sticky part comes in. We are not simply our mind. When we watch the functioning of the mind - noticing the patterns, beliefs and responses, we take the seat of the Observer. As the Observer we are separate from our thoughts and therefore we realise that we are not our thoughts.
Our True Self as the Observer
Our true Self is the Observer. We are the watcher of our thoughts, our life and the functioning of our externalized being.
Hmmm...now that's a tricky one. So, we function from a habitualized mind that we need in order to operate in the external world, but we are not the mind and therefore our true Self is not habitualized. Does this mean the true Self does not function in the external world?
Yes and no. Our true Self relates to the external world, but not in the same way. The true Self does not attach or identify with the external. Rather, we can think of the Self as the watcher of the external.
I love exploring this. We’re now getting into the more esoteric and spiritual side of things. Whether you call this Self your soul, spirit, higher mind, consciousness, life force etc, it can be thought of as the same thing. It is your essence. The part of you that is eternal.
You’ve probably heard this aphorism before. It’s a big one. Reportedly inscribed at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, it has been used by many Philosophers to point to truth.
Knowing the Self is the product of wisdom, not knowledge. The Self cannot be described or tested in the Western scientific way - the realm of knowledge. Rather, to know the Self it must be experienced, engaged with, felt - the realm of wisdom, and ultimately freedom.
Each individual has the opportunity to experience the Self in this expanded and limitless way. The first step in recognizing our true nature is awareness. We draw attention to the truth by opening to it.
In an open state we are receptive. We see that we are not simply the collection of our patterned beliefs, and therefore we come to understand ourselves as limitless.
A Journey of Self-Discovery
At some point in our experience, we find that we have strayed away from the truth of our being. Many of us wake up to this in a very abrupt way. While others may find that there is a slowness to the truth. A subtle wrongness that has permeated their lives.
This waking up is the beginning of the Hero’s Journey. It is start of a return to truth. A remembering of your inherent worthiness. The truth of your wholeness.
“You enter the forest
at the darkest point,
where there is no path.
Where there is a way or path,
it is someone else's path.
You are not on your own path.
If you follow someone else's way,
you are not going to realize
― Joseph Campbell, The Hero's Journey: Joseph Campbell on His Life & Work
We are each called to The Hero’s Journey. It is a necessary part of our awakening. To heed the call is to step forward on a path of your own making. It has not yet been forged and therefore, you must clear as you go.
When you set out on your journey, it feels exciting. It is like being a kid again. The curiosity that once inspired you returns and you find the adventure has begun. From here, still in the known, we step forward to face what has been hidden. We seeking understanding of our true Self and thus, begin the journey into the unknown.
According to Joseph Campbell, the Hero’s Journey has 17 stages, which can be grouped into 3 parts: Departure, Initiation, and Return. Each of these parts contains many necessary stages that test your commitment to the journey. And yet, once we begin, we no longer feel contented with returning to the known.
Why am I here?
The exploration of Who am I? naturally leads into the question of purpose - Why am I here? I don’t know if we can actually separate the 2, but for the sake of exploration, I’m going to try.
The search for meaning is incomplete if we look only to better understand ourselves. We live a life surrounded by others. Connected inextricably via truth, and yet each unique in our expression.
When I ask the question Why am I here? I do not mean to question our essential worthiness. This is not in doubt. What I am pointing to is that we each find fulfilment in purpose. In expressing the nature of who we are, in a way that brings value to both ourselves and others.
Like me, you’ve probably spent a lot of time seeking - devouring books and teachings of ‘gurus’ or from those people that just seem to have it all together. The people that we all want to be like.
But, what I want to know is have you taken the time to look inside for answers? Have you really explored the truth of your own soul and inherent wisdom?
The outward seeking is important. It helps connect us with others on the same path and introduces us to ideas we may not otherwise be familiar with.
At some point though, even in this outward seeking, we have to make a decision for ourselves what is truth.
From Knowledge to Wisdom
There is a HUGE difference between knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge is information. Knowledge is the ‘common understanding’ that we share with each other. It’s the agreed upon parts of our world - the rules and commonalities that help us make decisions based on probabilities and agreements with others. In essence, knowledge is the surface layer of reality.
Now, Wisdom. Wisdom is different. Wisdom transcends the ‘common understanding’. Wisdom goes straight for the heart of truth. Wisdom embraces the true, emerging self. Wisdom is neither good nor bad, but always offers peace through release of resistance and suffering.
Wisdom is the personal truth of your soul. It is the eternal self that guides you continuously towards your awakening and living a life of purpose.
Wisdom isn’t always comfortable or convenient. There are no set answers and a who lotta transformation.
What is Important to You?
Cues to the the truth of our own personal wisdom can be found in our feelings, recurring patterns, joyful pursuits, and acts of service. When seeking meaning in our life, we need look no further than what already exists for us. There will be hints and clues guiding us to truth.
One of the most powerful ways I have found to engage with my personal wisdom is through the process of Visioning.
From Purpose to Vision
Your vision for your life exists within you already. Vision is your values-based inspiration that guides your choices. In understanding that your vision already exists, your job is simply to reveal it.
Visioning is a process of turning within to uncover the highest vision for your life that is seeking to emerge through you. It is about aligning yourself with your soul purpose and opening to living a life from heart. Visioning is an adventure into your own deepest Self.
Whether we are aware of it or not, we are always acting from our subconscious – the part of Self that is attuned to our deepest desires, and our deepest fears. This deeper layer of consciousness holds our core values and ultimately creates our reality through thought, word and action.
The Visioning process allows us to tap into our subconscious and create alignment between our higher Vision and our creative expression of Self. In this way, “Visioning replaces any sense of lack, limitation, or anxiety and worry with a consciousness of genuine truth in the fundamental goodness of the Universe and our own Self”.
The Difference between Visualization and Visioning
Visualization uses the power of imagination. It is based on what we already see or know to be true. It is based on past experience and the meaning that we have made of it.
Visioning uses the power of intuition. It taps into the deeper part of Self that is not constrained by past experience. Visioning connects us to both heart and soul. Reminding us of what we intuitively know to be true.
Visioning is often mistaken for the process of Visualization. We create goals based on what we believe to be possible, based on past experience. And then visualize the outcome.
Visualization involves telling the Universe what we want, while Visioning is asking the question to the Universe ‘what is the idea of my life?’. While visualization is powerful, and most definitely offers support for many actions in our life, it cannot replace the Visioning process.
Visioning necessarily requires that we suspend our current belief of what we ‘know’ to be true. In this way, Visioning requires trust. It asks us to suspend belief and open to possibility.
Pain pushes until the Vision pulls
Much of our lives are guided by suffering. The avoidance of, and the dealing with suffering. Suffering guides us as we are repelled by that which causes pain.
In understanding the deeper purpose of suffering, we see that it transmits the message that we are living into too small a world. Suffering shows us where we are required to grow and expand.
At some point, we find that while we are being pushed by the pain of suffering we are also pulled forward by something greater. This is Vision. An intuitive pull to activate your unique gifts and highest potential.
Tapping into the intuitive force of Visioning helps us transcend our limited self and embrace our authentic Self in order to live a life of purpose. From here, we are able to embrace our calling and surrender to the highest Vision for our life.
Life Visioning Process
Michael Bernard Beckwith of Agape International Spiritual Center, shares the work of Visioning in his book titled Life Visioning: A Transformative Process for Activating Your Unique Gifts and Highest Potential. Beckwith shares that all creation emerges from Divine Ideation. And because we are each individualized reflections of the Divine, we also work with this energy of creation.
The Life Visioning Process includes 7 Steps:
Meditate to activate intuition
Open to absolute love
Ask the questions: “What is the highest vision for my life? What seeks to emerge in, through, and as my life?”
Ask the questions: “What must I become in order to manifest this vision? What qualities must I cultivate? What must I release to manifest this vision?”
Ask the question: “What talents, gifts, skills, and qualities do I already possess that will serve this vision?”
Give a sacred “yes” to the vision
Am I Pursuing the Wrong Vision?
The big question…”Am I currently pursuing the wrong vision?” So powerful even in it’s asking. This means that we’re willing to inquire into our lives and check in with our alignment to our highest Vision.
The truth is that our Vision, while knowable and definitely attainable, isn’t fixed. It is the continuous and ongoing expression of our evolving selves.
This means that it’s not truly about achieving goals, but rather about following the clues, desires, alignments that bring us in the flow of it’s evolution. I realise that this doesn’t necessarily help when we’re looking at some actionable steps to take on our path, but perhaps it can…
When we see our Vision as the overarching ‘reason’ and foundation for our lives, it becomes much less about the goals and more about what will bring is more in alignment with our Vision.
This means that yes, we may set goals and not achieve them, but that there is no wrong step or choice. It’s all part of the whole. Whether a lesson, a strengthening of your inner/outer resources, or even a stepping-stone into a much larger vision, it’s not possible to get ‘nowhere’.
What is helpful in these circumstances is to look at how we feel - the more joyful, purposeful, motivated, loving we feel, the more we are in the flow. The flow is really the sweet spot.
In addition to all of this, when we are nearing achievement of a goal/transition, we will always be tested. By both outer and inner forces. Reaching the edges of where we have been is necessarily pushing up against that which hasn’t been explored before and is unfamiliar territory. We don’t necessarily have the outside resources in place yet to support our Vision, and our ego mind is likely on high-alert, self-protection mode to help you decide if this is really what you want
The Truth is Yours to Discover
We’ve now looked at some of the ways you can begin to explore the existential questions of Who am I? and Why am I here? But really, you know that the answers are yours to find.
And perhaps it’s not about finding the answers? Maybe it’s the curiosity that matters. The exploration and the willingness to go deeper and deeper into truth. To step out onto the Hero’s Journey and open ourselves to the mystery.