Who We Are Beyond Memory: Identify with Beingness
Let us take a good look at the question of who we are. What is equally as important is knowing who we are not.
As humans we have an incredibly strong tendency to identify circumstances and ourselves with labels. When events happen we say “I am…” (fill in the blank). For example, if we grow up and experience a few instances when we do something to another person, perhaps if we’re angry, we then identify with that anger and other people label us with it. We start identifying ourselves as an angry person.
This may continue for weeks or years until we start doing something about our anger, and then we change. We are no longer an angry person anymore. Rather, we might be kind or gentle. Who we are changes when we use labels. Yet, as we live life, these labels or concepts that we apply to ourselves and those around us seem very real. They appear to be truths, though how can they be truths if they keep changing?
If we keep taking on different labels throughout our lives, how can we actually say we are any of the labels that we give ourselves? We cannot be those labels because the labels change. Even if they are permanent, they ultimately will change.
I like to use my mother as an example. She had certain labels that were applied to her. She was kind, gentle and loving. But as she got older she developed dementia and became an angry, upset person who didn’t remember many things of her past. So who was my true mother? Was it the mother I grew up with, the kind and gentle woman? Or was it the woman later on in life who became angry, upset and had poor memory? Who was my mother?
We have other holes in the concepts of ourselves, those gaps that occur throughout our lives. We all know the gaps that occur when we sleep, for instance. If we are our labels, who are we when we sleep or when we’re dreaming? Or, is it that when we’re completely asleep we cease to exist? Are we then not? We’re definitely not our labels anymore, but then who are we?
Even during our waking state, can we remember what happened two days ago at 12 o’clock in the afternoon or two weeks ago at four o’clock in the afternoon? If we go back in time even further, what about when we were 10, six or two years old, or six months old? We cannot remember these times yet we identify with the person we think we are. If I use my daughter as an example, she is now six years old. It’s very likely that when she gets older she won’t remember most of the experiences that we have right now. Does this mean she doesn’t exist, that she isn’t real? Who is she? Who are we if we forget so much of who we are?
Throughout our lives, there are so many gaping holes in our memory. Who are we then? If we’re constantly changing the labels of identifying who we are, then who are we?
It’s pretty clear that the labels we give to ourselves have gaping holes in them and really cannot substantially say who we are. But we might turn to other questions, such as “Isn’t the universe real?” Unfortunately, this is also based on concepts of the mind. When we sleep at night, the universe and world cease to be. There is no way to prove that the universe exists unless we are aware of it. There is no way to scientifically or mentally prove that it exists without our own awareness of the universe.
Even the concepts we have of our universe and world are constantly changing. I remember when I was younger I was on a trip with my older cousin to the place where he grew up. Though he remembered many things, he kept saying, “It’s so different than I remember! It’s so much smaller!” It was shocking for him to see how different his universe, world and home was when compared to his memories from previous years.
Even if we hold onto the permanence of life, we all shall die some day. Who will we be 100 years after we pass? Who were we 100 years prior to being born? Even the greatest scientists and minds of the world cannot tell us what the universe was 15 or 16 billion years ago. At that point their scientific concepts stop. They only go back about 14.6 billion years ago. Prior to that and the big bang, there are no concepts as to what the universe was at that time.
So then what are we left with? We can’t hold onto the past because it changes and it has so many holes in it; we can’t hold onto the future and we have no idea what it’s going to be; we can’t hang onto the waking state because it changes when we sleep. So if we can’t hold onto any of these things and every concept we have contains holes in it, then what are we left with?
Right now at this very moment the one thing that is absolutely, positively sure is that we are. Not we are this or that, but we just are. So, instead of so much identification with all the labels that we give ourselves and the world, what if we worked on just being? Not identifying with anything and realizing that every time we identify with something we’re just identifying with a falsehood. The only thing for certain is that we are. If we identify with just beingness, what will the world be like?
If you start on the journey of beingness that involves just being, then you will see what life is like when you live like this. There’s really only one way to discover it and that is to buy into the idea that concepts are false. You can live without them and just be. If we do this, then perhaps we’ll wake up to who we are.
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 http://www.HappinessPodcast.org He also creates a weekly podcast on meditation, http://www.MeditationForHealthPodcast.com and a weekly podcast on spiritual enlightenment, http://www.EnlightenmentPodcast.com 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 http://www.SuccessBeyondYourImagination.com