Total Recall of Who We Are: Stop Thinking and Start Being

Posted on November 28th, by Dr. Puff in Articles. No Comments

Let us explore why self-identification causes bondage and how we can be free of it by identifying who we truly are.

I don’t know if you ever saw it but there was a movie once made starring Arnold Schwarzenegger called Total Recall. A large part of the movie revolved around the character discovering who he really was. He went into a machine that created an alter reality for him. But was this alter reality who he was? Or was he really just another person before he walked into that room?

As we watch the movie we see Arnold’s character go through a lot of emotional trauma trying to figure out the answer to “Who am I really?” We all want to know who we really are. I think that like Arnold in that movie, we just keep searching until we find who we really are, unless we just settle into thinking “Well, this is my life and I’m not going to think about it.” A lot of people do this, but if we’re seekers then we’re going to keep searching until we find the answers.

When we’re born into this world we quickly take on identities of being young, of being a person and of being fearful. We take on so many different identities as we move through our experiences in life. But how can we possibly be these things if they’re always changing? Can we truly be something that tomorrow might be different? Of course not. So then, who are we?

We have desires and fears and these develop into conditional responses. But we are not those responses. For example, my children are in a dual emersion program where they’re learning Spanish and English simultaneously. When they’ve finished they’ll be fluent in both languages, so many of the children in their class are from Latin speaking countries. We currently have a beautiful Labrador named Einstein. He comes to work with me every day and he’s a very sweet, gentle dog. But when I take Einstein around to some of my kids’ friends, they’re afraid of him. My children aren’t afraid of Einstein at all, but these kids are, and particularly their parents are. What has happened is that these parents were raised in Latin American countries where dogs are wild and often vicious. The people are conditioned to be afraid of dogs. When they have their children here in the States, the children pick up on their fears even though they’ve never been exposed to vicious dogs. When they meet Einstein, they therefore become unafraid of dogs because he’s gentle and kind, and then they can be around dogs without being fearful of them.

So who are the real people? Is it the parents who are afraid of dogs? Is it my children’s friends who are afraid of dogs at first but then aren’t anymore? Is fear merely a conditioned response? It really has nothing to do with the true person.

Thoughts, fears and desires all occur in the mind, and they can change. They are not permanent so anything that the mind can create or conceive cannot be the ultimate, true reality of who we are and what we are. Our minds cannot grasp our true reality. All our self-identifications are absolutely false and cause us bondage. When we discover and are aware of this, we’re on the road to freedom, peace and enlightenment.

If the absolute of who we are is beyond our mental grasp, is it something that’s beyond us, period? Absolutely not. Who we are is who we’ve always been, we always will be and we are right now. If we silence the mind, what happens is we experience it. We don’t know it, we can’t discuss it but we can experience it. I often like to compare this with chocolate because I really like chocolate. If you’ve never had chocolate you can write dissertations on it or best-selling books about it but until you’ve tasted chocolate you don’t know what it’s like.

All we have to do to discover who we are is to just be and then we’re on the road towards awakening and self-realization because we are there. When our minds become still, we become present with our supreme self. How is this possible? It would be a lot like we’re in a completely empty space and start creating things. In this empty space before things start being created it is so beautiful, rich and full. The emptiness, the not two, just one unicity is so rich and full that nothing is needed and everything comes out of that.

But what happens is that things do start coming out of it and when they come out we engage with them. We start enjoying them. We want more of them or we don’t want them. That process of wanting and not wanting cause us to forget who we are.

It’s the same as going to watch a movie and getting so involved in the plot that we forget we’re sitting in the audience watching the movie. All that we have to do is remember “Oh, I’m just watching this movie. This movie is enjoyable and it’s fun but it’s not who I am. It’s just a movie.” Of course we can enjoy our lives and when things go poorly we can wish they were different, or we can grieve through the process of the pain we’re experiencing right now. But ultimately, it is just that. It’s still the oneness, but out of the oneness, our not two-ness, everything comes.

The only thing that we are is that unicity, that non-two, non-duality. The supreme self is who we are because we can only be that which always was, always will be and always is. Right now, we are that.

If it were possible – and it isn’t, but if it were – for me to label it, what would I call it? I would call it silent peace or I would call it love. Lots and lots of labels come with love. But sometimes I think we’ve all had the experience of experiencing love so rich, empty and yet so full that it comes pretty close as a description. It’s the same way I think sometimes when we meditate it can be so peaceful yet so silent. Again, these are just pointers. Pointers at what it is and they truly can’t describe what it is, but we can be what it is.

All that we have to do is realize that we aren’t our thoughts and feelings, even though they continue to occur. We are that from which everything comes. Again, using the movie example, we’re like the screen on which everything is being created. But we aren’t being created ourselves. We are that which everything comes out of. Or, if I can use gold as an example: gold is a beautiful element and we can shape it into so many different ornaments. But it’s still gold when all the creation is over. When it’s melted down, it’s still gold. It’s always been gold and its ultimate nature doesn’t change in any way. It’s always been and always will be gold.

These are all concepts and pointers to the truth. The ultimate truth is that we are. And when we aren’t, we are that. Silence. Beauty. Love.

Resource Box:
Dr. Robert Puff, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, author, international speaker, and meditation expert who has been counseling individuals, families, nonprofits, and businesses for over twenty years. A contributing writer to Psychology Today, he has authored numerous books and creates a weekly podcast on happiness at He also creates a weekly podcast on meditation, and a weekly podcast on spiritual enlightenment, His retreat schedules can be found at You also might find his blog useful at If you are interested in having Dr. Puff speak to your organization or company, you can learn more about his speaking services at

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