At some point in our lives, or perhaps at many points in our lives, we ask the question, “Who am I?” At times like these, we are looking beyond the obvious, beyond our names and the names of the cities and states we came from, into the layers beneath our surface identities. We may feel the need for a deeper sense of purpose in our lives, or we may be ready to accommodate a more complex understanding of the situation in which we find ourselves. Whatever the case, the question of who we are is a seed that can bear much fruit.
It can send us on an exploration of our ancestry, or the past lives of our soul. It can call us to take up journaling in order to discover that voice deep within us that seems to know the answers to a multitude of questions. It can draw our attention so deeply inward that we find the spark of spirit that connects us to every living thing in the universe. One Hindu tradition counsels its practitioners to ask the question over and over, using it as a mantra to lead them inevitably into the heart of the divine.
While there are people who seem to come into the world knowing who they are and why they are here, for the most part the human journey appears to be very much about asking this question and allowing its answers to guide us on our paths. So when we find ourselves in the heart of unknowing, we can have faith that we are in a very human place, as well as a very divine one. “Who am I?” is a timeless mantra, a Zen koan ultimately designed to lead us home, into the part of our minds that finally lets go of questions and answers and finds instead the ability to simply be.