Self Inquiry: The Inner Road
A Child's Game
When I was a small child, I played a game with myself. It was called “Who Am I?” I was an only child so I spent a lot of time with myself and became very adept at the art of self-entertainment. This was one such entertainment. At the time, I was completely unaware of the depth and importance of this game in my life.
This is how the game was played. When I found myself alone in a room, I would place myself in an unusual position, usually upside down or spinning in a chair. Then I would ask myself “Who am I?” My mind would happily answer:
“You are Jean. You are a girl. You love horses. You have long hair.”
The list would become quite long and I’d get bored with it, so I would then place a challenge. The next question was “But who is it behind those things?” I knew somehow that the list of things my mind ticked off was not who I was. There was something else than just being Jean and all that embodied.
At some point during this part of the game I would experience something strange. All those definitions would fall away. When they did I was left with a very expansive and crystal clear experience. The unfortunate part is that it’s very hard to explain. It defies my intellect to this day to be able to state it in written word. There are reasons for this, and I’ll explain in a moment.
I played many pondering games as a child. Not just “Who am I?” I also played “What is God?” and “How Big Is The Universe?”. They were worthy games because they didn’t come with easy answers. I could really sink my teeth into them.
This habit led me to the practice of meditation as an adult. I never followed any specific discipline or technique and still don’t but it was the natural progression to continue myself down the inner road. Interestingly, The Game was forgotten somewhere along that road. Life happened, landscapes changed, memories ebbed and flowed over time to which I was mostly unaware. It’s very interesting in retrospect just where all these changes led me.
After a series of life changes and what I considered monumental blunders, I found myself beginning a life in India. I should have mentioned that I’m an American, but this fact really wasn’t pertinent until this point. I married an Indian man, so my life has become very East meets West.
My husband is much like me. He values self understanding and his own lifelong journey down that inner road. One day in passing he asked me if I had ever heard of Sri Ramana Maharishi. Admittedly, I still struggle with Hindi and I have a hard time retaining Indian names, however I was sure in this case I never had. So, like every other curious human being with an internet connection, I Googled him.
I discovered this unimposing little man was, and is, considered one of the world’s true seekers. He was a master whose devotees follow him to this day even though physically he is no more. Like all masters he had a core philosophy. His philosophy was quite simply self inquiry or “Who Am I?” His teachings were really never more complicated than that. He encouraged his devotees to meditate on those 3 little words and nothing more and the answers to all their questions would be revealed.
That’s when I remembered The Game and it all came flooding back with a new clarity. I found my adult mind struggled to move beyond the list of definitions my mind had spent a lifetime creating but I persisted. As a result my understandings have deepened beyond even my wildest dreams and I’m still tumbling happily down the rabbit hole.
Hidden Treasures Revealed - What I've Learned
There is nothing mystical about our true nature. It is the most natural part of us. Poets and sages have written about it, danced around it, hinted at it. Religious tomes have exalted it. It is the umbilical that connects each one of us to existence. Before I wax too metaphoric, let me state what I discovered as plainly and simply as my intellect will allow me to do:
"Experiencing your true nature is to feel your own consciousness."
A life time was spent searching for something that was right in front of my proverbial face since I took my first breath. It’s as simple as that, but ironically so hard to do until you actually do it. The maddening irony is that we already know it, we already experience it, we are just unaware of it.
Becoming aware of it was like waking from a dream-filled slumber into the warmth of a bright spring morning feeling exhilarated and alive. What I experienced was so amazing I couldn’t stop with just this realization. It was just the tip of the iceberg.
The deeper I went into self inquiry I found the demands of my physical ego losing control over my thoughts and subsequently my emotional state at any given time. As a result, I have more clarity in situations where I would have previously crumbled in a tempest of conflicting thoughts and emotions. It’s clarity as clear as a clean window. Moving through life’s currents is becoming effortless.
This new clarity has also allowed me to be more present. My mind isn’t littered with an endless stream of thoughts, worries, second-guessing, supposing, and assuming. There are still errant thoughts but I can see them for what they are and not give much attention to them unless they’re truly necessary. I am freer to just be.
There are other realizations along the way as well. Once you experience your true nature you find a quiet sort of empathy for life, realizing in all its facets it is what it needs to be and that’s perfectly okay. You see the connectedness of everything. Reality has become something infinite and wonderful.
And as I mentioned earlier, putting any experiences deeper than this into words begins to fail. The realizing moves beyond the scope of the intellect to digest it and communicate it. You can only experience it and let that experiencing flow through you out into the physical world, like the ringing of a silver bell in the fog.
I wanted to share this with you, the reader, in hopes of inspiring something if that’s what you were seeking. I can tell you without even a moment’s hesitation that it’s real and it’s always been there waiting for you to discover it. I don’t know where this road ends. I suspect it ends only in infinity but the vistas are beautiful and well-worth continuing the journey.
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