Happily, my root teacher, Swami Satchidananda, taught that we do well to learn from the whole spectrum of Yoga paths, including Jnana Yoga. Jnana Yoga (I’ve heard it pronounced Ge-Nana and also NY-Ana) brings the mind to the central question “Who am I.” The teaching is that all our perceived “problems” – the negative experience of financial uncertainty, tense interpersonal relationships, even health concerns and death itself – have a common root: a misunderstanding of who we actually are, ignorance of our true identity.
There are many methods for opening to the discovery of the “real you.” Ramana Maharshi was one of the 20th century’s brightest lights in this regard. One of his most potent teachings was keeping utter silence in the presence of his students. Try it. Try keeping still and quiet for just one minute. You can readily see the rambunctious nature of the mind and the fluid mastery required to steady it. A transformative practice for cultivating this awareness – for shifting perception from the world of change to the dimension in which it moves – is the Vedic practice of Neti-Neti, “Not this, not this.”
My personal application of this teaching: I have recently felt drawn to practice Neti-Neti by spending a few minutes each day writing what I am not, actively identifying what I am quick to identify as my own. For example: I am not my plans for today; I am not what she is saying I am; I am not the me I was so proud of yesterday. These moments of remembering this core truth (another way of practicing Core Yoga!) heighten my realization that I take on a myriad of changeable roles to actually carry on with life, to get the job done, so to speak, but that these roles stop short of telling the whole story.
Note that this exercise, like other Yoga and meditation practices, is merely an anchor for the ongoing inquiry, a way to steady the moment by moment movement of life itself. Ultimately, we thread this question through every thought, activity, and interaction.
Who cares? Well, who does care? Where exactly does that voice in your head come from, the one asking such a question? Who is having that very thought, “Cool” or “What’s she talking about”? Who is responding to these words at all?
If this – spending 3+ minutes a day writing down what you are not – seems like a meaningful pursuit to you, have at it! And do share your discoveries; the brighter your light, the better we can all see! And if this seems like jibberish, enjoy the jibberish – wherever you are “in-joying,” the world is lighting up!
Without looking for the answer, simply steep in the question itself: Who am I?