The Wisdom Blog: Classic & Contemporary Buddhism

Just Who Are You?

by Miguel Chen
April 19, 2018
Thu, 04/19/2018 - 14:13 -- Miguel Chen

Many spiritual practices lead us to ask this question, but it’s not easy to answer. 

Well, I guess it is easy to answer...it’s just not easy to answer well. 

You might be quick to offer up basic descriptors like parent, adult, middle class, business professional, music lover, man, woman . . . but to do so would be to sell yourself short. Yes, you may be any of these things, and it’s common for us to describe ourselves by what we do, but the truth is that we’re all much greater than these words can ever express. Our jobs, likes, dislikes, or roles in society aren’t the whole picture of who we actually are. 

Some things, we all have in common. We are all human beings. We all have thoughts and bodies. We all feel happiness, sadness, anger, love. But who exactly is feeling all of these things? If your likes and dislikes, your job, your role, even your body and thoughts went away, who would be left? You’ve probably had the inkling at one point or another that we are somehow more than our bodies. It’s a fairly common idea. A less common but very interesting one is that we are also not our thoughts. In some spiritual traditions we are taught about the difference between the ego and the self. Ego in that case indicates where our thoughts come from. It’s a tool that helps us navigate life on this earth. The self is something else—something more. And our thoughts? They’re just something that happens; they are not who we are. 

Thanks to my own spiritual practice, I’ve come to some semblance of an understanding of who we actually are. It goes something like this: We are all, everyone and everything, part of one thing. We’re interconnected. (I am far from the first to say that, of course, but everything changed when I saw it for myself.) And everything that has ever happened is exactly what brought us here, where we are, as we are now. In this sense we are all connected more than we realize. 

Our bodies may stop breathing and living, but this “something more” that we’re all part of never dies. It sim-ply changes forms. Take for example a piece of wood that’s been lit on re. After a while, it won’t be that piece of wood anymore—it’ll just be a little pile of ash and some fumes. But it’s not nothing. All of the energy that composed it still exists, just in different forms. People might be seen the same way.  

Another thing you should know about your deeper self—and everyone else’s, for that matter—is that it is, at its foundational level, good. I know it might not always seem that way. It’s often easy to get down on ourselves and forget this, but we are good at our core. I know this can be an incredibly hard concept to buy into. Many of us have spent our entire lives disconnected from this truth. Still, I believe that a part of you, no matter how buried, knows this. My hope is by the end of this book that part can come out of hiding, and you can catch a glimpse of your inner goodness. 


Excerpted from I Wanna Be Well by Miguel Chen and Rod Meade Sperry

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