Who Are We If We Wake Up From Our Lives? : Questioning Leads to Enlightenment
One of the most important tools that can help us enter the world of enlightenment is deep questioning about everything. If Albert Einstein had not questioned the laws of gravity he never would have discovered the special and general theory of relativity, which basically describes that gravity isn’t what Newton described as an apple falling to the ground but rather it is a curvature of space-time.
Questioning is key to enlightenment, but instead of questioning gravity or physics, we’re going to question everything. Particularly, we need to question ourselves. The most important question to ask ourselves is: “Who are we?”
Who we are has to be permanent. It cannot be something that changes, because if it were something that changes then who we are during our dreams would be our reality. But we wake up from our dreams so that can’t be our reality, since they’re impermanent and subject to change.
Who we are when we dream can be very different; our personality and character can be different. When we wake up from our dream, we may be a single mom who is very shy and reserved. In our dream, however, we might be a wild party girl who goes dancing and acts very differently from when we are awake. During the dream who we are at that time can feel very real. But when we wake up we realize “Oh! That wasn’t me – at least it’s not who I am right now.”
Do we act in the exact same way we do now as we did when we were in elementary school, junior high, high school, university or our first job? Are we the same or have we changed over the years? If we recollect our teenage years, I’ll bet we’ll find we are very different people today than we were back then.
Even our emotions may seem very different. For example, during the teenage years our emotions may have been very intense. We may have held deep passions for someone we loved, excitements or depressions. Often our emotions are more magnified when we’re in the teen years, and now that we’re older they can seem more subdued and quiet. If you’ve had the chance to watch the play Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, you’ll realize how well he depicts human emotion during teenage years. Emotions can be very intense then, yet even though they might continue to be intense as we grow older, they take on a different flavor. Rarely do middle-aged people commit suicide when they get divorced. Yet younger people, when they are in love, can be very passionate and could attempt suicide as a response to those deep passions.
So if we really begin to deeply investigate ourselves and who we are, and we do it honestly, we’ll see that we do change. In the same way as our dreams throughout our lives change, we take on different forms and personalities; we even look different as we age.
The only thing that really stays the same throughout our life is being aware. Being. We are. We might throw labels on like fear, desire, passion, anger, bliss, or sadness, but those emotions are impermanent. The only thing that stays the same is the awareness of those emotions. When we’re a teenager and we’re deeply in love, we can recollect on being aware of being deeply in love. If we’re depressed and sad today, we are aware that we are feeling those things. But beingness and awareness are what precedes these feelings. Unless we are aware, we wouldn’t even realize that those emotions existed.
If we continue questioning and asking really tough questions like “Could the universe exist if I wasn’t aware of it?” the only answer we can truly give is, “No. There’s no way I can prove that the universe exists unless I am aware of it.” The universe that we are all aware of can only be because we are aware of it. If we aren’t, then there would be no way to know that it exists.
What these deep questions do is help us to stop identifying with all the different labels we give to ourselves and the world around us. It’s a lot like lucid dreaming. What this term means is that when you’re dreaming you’re aware that you are in a dream. You continue to dream but you are aware that you’re in a dream state. You don’t identify with the character in the dream anymore. Rather, you realize: “Oh, this is just a dream.” If we do the same thing with our lives and say, “Oh, this is just a dream” we will become very silent and still. We won’t engage with the world, but we will witness thoughts and feelings without identifying with them. They will then be able to come and go much more quickly.
We are far more in the present moment, in spontaneous living, when we do this because we stop labeling everything. What happens is that something beautiful arrives. When we take on non-duality, when we take on all there is, everything else comes from that “is”ness.
When we become quiet and still, we enter a peace that truly surpasses all understanding, but our seeking of that peace and happiness prevents us from achieving it. We can gain it by just being, however. When we’re still, we just are. In that beingness, all is well. Silence is so beautiful and emptiness is so full. We stop creating dualities, we stop creating good and bad, and things just are. We witness and experience them, but we don’t label them. We don’t identify with them because they just are, like a dream.
This non-identification causes a freeness to arise within us. We are always free because we are all that is. But when we identify with our small dream character, whoever we are, then we suffer because we have limited ourselves to that small individual person. When we wake up to the fact that we are, we’ve always been and we always will be, and we realize that everything is because we are, then our experience of the world becomes much more simple. We lose the labels such as “I am this” or “I am that.” We just are. Life becomes simple, silent and we can flow with life.
It is a very peaceful, non-conflictual existence. We stop trying to change things and we don’t fight with things as much; we just flow with life. We don’t necessarily have to push all pain away or actively go in search of desires. We just flow with life and realize that duality causes suffering.
When we’re still and silent, all is well and we can discover who we are. We are – it’s that simple. We’ve always been and we’ll always be. This is just an extended dream and some day we will wake up to who we are. We can even wake up now, in fact. Let’s call it lucid living. We can live with the awareness of who we are. At first it might seem frightening to let go of all our identities, loves, passions and fears. But when we let them go, we are free. We’ve always been free but we have forgotten that we are.
When we wake up to who we are and realize that simply we are, we’ve always been and always will be, then we are that. The freeness that we are settles and by giving up our identification with labels such as “I am this” and rather identifying with “I am” then we are free. We just need to wake up to “I am.”
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 enlightenment, spiritual enlightenment, nonduality, and Advaita Vedanta on spiritual enlightenment, http://www.EnlightenmentPodcast.com He also creates a weekly podcast on meditation, http://www.MeditationForHealthPodcast.com and a weekly podcast on happiness at http://www.HappinessPodcast.org His retreat schedules can be found at http://www.HolisticRetreats.tv You also might find his blog useful at http://www.meditation-enlightenment.com If you are interested in having Dr. Puff speak to your organization or company, you can learn more about his speaking services at