“That (the Self) is in motion. The Self is motionless.
The Self is remote. The Self is also close.
The Self is inside everything. The Self is outside of everything.”
ISHA UPANISHAD (1-5)
The Projection of the Spiritual Heart
Meditation on the question “who am I?” is one of the methods that enables the yogi to reveal in themselves the reality of the Immortal Supreme Self Atman. But in what location of our inner self do we have to project this question to find the quickest ineffable answer which transcends any mental understanding? Some recommend the area of the head (Sahashrara - in Shaivism; Ajna chakra - in Taraka Yoga), others indicate the heart area (Ramana Maharishi, Vedanta etc.).
In reality however, when the concentration is deep, it overcomes the reflex of being attached to a certain area and in the opening which it creates, the meditation seems to stabilise without localisation. From the practical point of view, even if we start by focusing in the heart area, for example, it is necessary we arrive at a global feeling of our being, including the physical body. It is true that focus and balance in such a global sensation is much easier to realise if the initial point of projection was the heart and not the head; the limitation to a bodily reference will be gradually overcome and we will experience the revelation that what we truly are cannot be an object. In this way it reveals inside us a reality from a superior direction, a very intimate presence which we can retrieve every time we return inwards to ourselves, and a presence which we feel is the foundation of every moment of our lives (which we will at least discover every time when through an act of lucidity we will draw near to the truth of our existence). Thus, our experiences will attain what the jnana yogis said: the world and the conjunctures of our life are inside us, but we are not in these conjuctures. This experience is associated with a feeling of distance, of detachment, which makes us realise that everything is perceived by the Consciousness within Consciousness.
The heart is, according to Vedic tradition, is the last stage that has to be surpassed before reaching that extension in an unlimited space. The meditation on the Self generates a vibration of God’s Mystery, a vibration which has to be amplified so as to attain its reverberation in our entire being, even at the level of the physical body.
The expansion in the non-bodyily consciousness can be easily produced when we completely abandon in these vibrations, while we remain very attentive, without judging, without comparing, until the object of our perceptions (the physical body) disappears and a detached observation of the perception itself (of the all-embracing vibration) remains. This vibration has a special quality because it simultaneously grants us the feeling of the existence of a guiding force which, in contrast with the mind which is inefficient in these situations, guides us to the Reality of the Supreme Self. Truly this vibration is different than the vibration of any other manifesting energy because, in contrast with these others, it is nothing other than a silence, a pause that is revealed between the movements of its vibrations.
When we live the peace that announces the experience of sinking into the “core” of our being, it opens an ineffable perspective on the Self, however we must not confuse it with the experiences of our own mind.
The meditation on the Self generates a vibration of the mystery of God
In order to address ourselves with a true examination that brings us near to the Self a certain spiritual maturity is necessary. We cannot respond in a rational, intellectual way to such a question. Any attempt to form a response will lead to objectivity. When we say, for example, “I understand” we conceptualize what in reality is ineffable. While, what awakens a sacred astonishment, through the fact it escapes any understanding, must melt into a feeling of divine Totality, before which we abandon ourselves entirely. In that moment we have the feeling that our limits dissolve in the infinite and it produces a redirection of our energies that all converge towards the Ultimate Subject, towards the Divine Self.
When we pursue understanding and knowledge of a particular object, the intellectual knowledge is fulfilled once the information is assimilated. It is the same when we refer to the Self, our real self: this knowledge must be complete, which is possible unless our ego interferes – with the personality, mind, feelings, etc.
The Jnana yogis assert that the question “Who am I?” is spontaneously formed in the moment when the answer is already suggested to us. In a mysterious way, the answer precedes the question. The real question can only emerge in the moment in which we intuit the Pure Subject, of the Self with which we succeed to identify ourselves with, even for a moment. Otherwise, the question is formed by the mind and aims outward and not at in the least towards our essence.
If however, we answer “I don’t know”, we enter into a state of complete opening, where we do not draw conclusions and we do not even seek an answer, in the usual sense of the word. However, there remains the feeling of some profound recognitions which come from the deepest, most mysterious parts of our being. Here there is no anticipation of the result, no reference to what we refer, no desire to reach a certain finality.
Despite some vibrations of transfiguration, we learn to enter a complete state of silence, ready and receptive to what we really are. In a given moment the Divine Grace will cause to fall these last veils which hide the Supreme Reality. The question “Who am I?” thus must be associated with a plenary, constant experience, conscious of some unconditional openings, of abandoning all before God, without any mental activity, of any concepts and ideas. Thus we shall feel in our entire being, and this will even have reverberations at the level of the physical body, the fact that we are the understanding. An understanding leaping out from the depths of our being, it is not from the mind and not from our soul, but it confers a feeling of the Supreme Truth, of our own existence.
A way to discover God inside of us
This Ultimate Subject, this I AM, existed in our childhood, we can find it in our adolescence, it is present in our adulthood. All the states we pass through, the situations we find ourselves in, the same as any object, we are in perpetual movement, but the Ultimate Subject I AM is stable and eternal. Nothing can be closer to us. It exists inside us even before it can be conceived notions like “close” or “removed”. The Supreme Self is the Ultimate Subject; therefore what we truly are cannot be known through some method or system. When we profoundly understand this, it produces inside of us some kind of abandonment which penetrates our entire being and all the innermost energies that before were put into motion by our thoughts, wishes, the personality in general, they enter now into a balance bringing peace, in which we feel only some dumbfoundness generated by the undescribable emotion of the revelation of our existence. An emotion of meeting God, of the Divine Mystery inside us, an unconditional abnegation and an opening that can seem to cover everything, the whole manifestation, without ever seeking to stop or draw certain conclusions.
This is why when the mind is remains suspended and renounces any tendency to understand or categorise, the fascinating divine presence of I AM makes us dissolve completely. Then we are truly present in our absence. We are present in Truth, in Pure Existence and we are absent as the individual, as the personality, as the ego, as the image that we have created about ourselves.
Uttering the question “Who am I?” we realize that the mind cannot embrace the mystery of this answer; this is why we must put aside the usual tools of knowledge. To say “I don’t know who I am”, can lead to abandoning the mind and its tools towards pure presence of the Self, then the accent is removed from the preoccupation to find out, which in the beginning makes it conform to our customary mentality Thus, we no longer are in the domain of thoughts, but in that of existing.
We can even find a criterion and through this criterion become conscious of infiltrating into our real selves in our essence. There are moments in which we feel that we purely and simply exist, without choice, without selection. These moments of contemplation and of innocent opening of our being favour the passage from the state of customary observation to the state of witness consciousness and then to the Pure Consciousness. Observation freed from any critical judgment (for example, of some scenery or of a creatur) is still a cerebal activity, but it tends to sublimate, by detachment of the mental instrument, to Pure Consciousness. Our mind cannot participate in any way to such a change. To familiarise ourselves with such a pure, innocent, aimless perception is considered by a jnana yogi as an act of pure love.
Seeking the ineffable, guided by the question “Who am I?”
The question “Who am I?” exists in a dormant state inside of us and emanates from deep inside in order to mobilise our entire being in order to recognise ourselves as divine existence. This is why it is necessary to become aware how it takes shape almost organically inside of us, in every moment in which we are truly are inside of us; we will cultivate it and awaken it every day so that it opens inside of us the way towards the inner God.
This question somehow feeds from the silence we manage to create in our mind and our being sometimes. Therefore the question “Who am I?” is born inside of us by the intuition of the answer, which in a certain sense precedes the question. This is why we must repeat it sincerely as much as possible, but we must not address the mind in order not to be confronted with that which we already know and with memories of the past. We can love, admire and accept this question-intuition concerning our existence and it will gradually ceases to have a rational objective conscious character. In this way the answer will become alive itself, being a indescribable state of aspiration and grace in the same time. Because the answer is impossible to be stated, we will be released from the trap of conceptualizing and we will thus have access to the totality that Consciousness of the Self awakens inside of us.
Besides, living under the sign of this question, savouring the state of mystery that blooms inside our heart, but forbidding it to be touched and contaminated by any conceptualisation, by any label from the area of rational knowledge, we will learn another way to live our existence, in which the intuition of the Ultimate Reality always prevails, we will find ourselves in a constant expectation, in an unconditional openness before this ineffable mystery of I AM.
Thus our life gets becomes more delicious, because this calling of the Self represents the genuine source from where all our life experiences bloom. It cannot be given name or representation, but it is the perpetual source of a feeling of plenitude.
By penetrating the Self the question recedes
The art of maintaining as much as possible the mystery of God in our heart, together with the question “Who am I?” is a kind of preamble to Self Revelation. By penetrating the Self, by profoundly meditating on Self revelation the words disappear and nothing remains other than a quiet waiting and an opening where nothing that represents our personality or ego can be a barrier.
To always live in intimacy with the question “Who am I?” also means the real positive attitude in front of existence. Before finding out our spiritual mission, before striving in order to succeed in the world, we should ask ourselves: “What is life?” and “Who am I?” In doing so we will give an authentic tonus to our existence, and the body, thoughts and emotions which exist will be integrated in a more spiritual way, in a vision which has an impersonal character. We will be the detached witness of our wishes, thoughts and actions. Thus, our own mission will appear in a different light and we will also understand the ladder of social evolution, health improvement, etc. Searching of the ineffable guided by the question “Who am I?” can disorientate some. Usually the tendency exists for us to concentrate and meditate on a thing, on a specific object. The question “Who am I?” invites us to meditate on an aspect which we do not know; this is why we can wonder if it’s possible to meditate thus on something that for the time being does not offer a manifestation of our mind or senses. In reality, the Self, our real Divine Existence is not an object. In such a meditation, and in general in the spiritual attitude awoken and amplified by the question “Who am I?”, we have to become lucid without interpretation, without judgement, sinking ourselves attentively into a more and more intimate and deep focus to what we really are.
The question “Who am I?” has a very special quality, because it makes the mind confront the state of void. If you have the strength not to superpose anything on this void (not a concept, not an attribute), there occurs the Reality of I AM, of the Self. This neutrality is an indispensable condition. When we ask “Who am I?” and we maintain our consciousness in a state of availability, free of any expression, we give the consciousness the possibility to return to the Pure Subject, to the Supreme Self ATMAN. If we don’t let the mind hang onto apellations, we induce a state of complete suspension, which allows us to return towards ourselves, in order to discover the being in its original purity.
This is why every time the mind tends to hang onto some concept, in the desire to explain and objectify the ineffable experience of the Self, it is necessary we appeal to the famous Vedic negation "Neti, neti"(It’s not this, it’s not this). Such a way is a definitive elimination of all what is known, because for the moment, the experience of our authentic nature of the Self is something unknown. Just eliminating what is known, meaning our thoughts, perceptions and emotions, albeit is possible to reintegrate the Ultimate Self, the Eternal Present.