Who am I?

I am not my hair
I am not this skin
I am the soul that lives within
~ India.Arie

This morning I caught a TEDxTalk “The art of being yourself,” and winced as Caroline McHugh said: “You’re not your thoughts, because you think them, you can’t be your feelings because otherwise who is the ‘you’ that feels them. You’re not what you have. You’re not what you do. You’re not even who you love or who loves you.”

A few moments later a photo came up in my Facebook feed reminding me that six years ago today a surgeon carved a quarter size hole in my upper lip. I am not my skin. Two years ago a surgeon removed a large egg-sized benign tumor from my breast. I am not my bust size. I lament the hormonal decimation of once strong brows and a thick mane. I am not my looks.

Eyes, lips, bust, hair – each time these hallmarks of femininity become altered and reduced by disease or age, I find myself grappling with the notion of what does not define me.

That I would be fine even if I went bankrupt
That I would be good if I lost my hair and my youth
That I would be great if I was no longer queen
That I would be grand if I was not all knowing
~ Alanis Morrissette

I finish my daily workout. It’s month four of the program and the hardest cycle so far. I’m crushing it. I get a glimpse of muscle definition. I feel pride. I feel strong. And I forget. I am not this body.

I catch the latest news about the world’s health crisis. With significant and potentially catastrophic social and economic change seeming inevitable, I find myself pondering the possibilities and wonder: Who am I if I no longer have my job.. or teach yoga… or own my dream home? What if I’m no longer the one caring for others, creating art, or writing copy? Who will I be?

I work on remembering I am not what I have, I am not what I do. The true self can’t be explained by things that are transient because the self is not.

What changes is not real, what is real does not change. ―Nisargadatta Maharaj

The Bhagavad Gita tells us: Yoga is the journey of the Self through the Self to the Self.

Yoga is remembering who we really are.

For me to know who I am, I’ve mostly come to understand what I am not. And yet I have experienced times when I vividly see my place in the world, feel my connection to all that is, and clearly know who I am. These occasions are rare and ephemeral, usually sparked by an experience of awe or sustained meditation. When it happens, letting go of the importance I place on the things I believe define me is effortless. I find that I need nothing but to simply be and I know peace.

So hum. I Am That.

Remembering who I am during moments of beauty and what I’m not during periods of distress is the ebb and flow of life. It’s a practice of returning home, over and over and over again. It is yoga.

“Wisdom is knowing I am nothing, Love is knowing I am everything, and between the two my life moves.”
― Nisargadatta Maharaj

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