Doing some deep thinking as I read Anthony deMello’s book, Awareness, this morning on the true “I” which he distinguishes from “me”. “Me” refers to a description or a statement we might make about ourselves. It is what we say that we hope will help another person know who we are. When we do this we use the word “I” but, really, no matter what I say, the words that follow never really tell who “I” am. I am Judy but if I change my name the person inside stays the same. I may say I am my body (am fat, am strong, am flexible). Every seven years, scientists tell us, the cells in my body totally change over to new cells yet “I” remain. I can say that I am a Catholic or a democrat, but this can change and “I” would still be here. I can say that I am an American but that is just a happenstance of where I was born. Had I been born elsewhere, would “I” actually be a different person?
DeMello says that “I” am the one watching “me”. “I” am the observer of “me”. I pay attention to what I am doing, to the feelings in my body, to my emotions and to my thoughts, knowing that none of this is my true self. I believe that this “I” that knows itself is actually the Spirit that dwells within. I also believe that the goal of life on this earth is to become increasingly aware of the difference between the “I” and “me”. I am here on this planet to discover who “I” truly am.
Why is this awareness important? “I” can notice that when someone says something or posts something on Facebook an emotion arises in me that I have learned to identify as anger. “I” can notice that when this happens, thoughts start running through my mind that defend me or convince me that I am right in my anger. A desire may rise up to have my say, to argue and to win an argument, to make the other person look foolish or take back what he or she said. When one is aware, “I” can know that all of these thoughts and feelings are not the true self.
“I” or the true self can ask questions like, “Why did what that person say or post make me angry?” “I” can be curious. “Did what they say challenge a belief that I have clung to for a long time?” “Did this post frighten me?” “Do these ideas make me feel that things are out of control, that is, out of my control?” “As a result of my hearing or reading these words, do I feel disrespected, judged, or isolated?” “Am I worried about what this person or others might think of me?”
Then “I” can make a choice. “I” can choose to change my thoughts about the situation. “I” can shift from judgment to compassion. “I” can choose to find something else to think about. If the thoughts are persistent, I can step out of the situation, seek an activity that is fun or interesting to distract me. If I still have trouble shaking the thought, I can talk with someone who has helped me in the past, someone who knows me. Someone who has a sense of humor and a way of putting things in perspective.
“I” can be aware of the negative feelings sitting in me or even the pain in my body and say to it, “I know you are here, but I also know that you will not be staying.””I” knows this because it has always been so. “I” can choose not to take action while negative emotions and pain are around.
I cannot describe to you this “I” the way I can describe “me” if anyone were to ask. But “I” know that “I” am here. Sometimes I forget who “I” am but, as I get older, I remember more and more and I am grateful.