“There was a young man who said, “Though
It seems that I know that I know,
What I WOULD like to see
Is the ‘I’ that knows ‘me’
When I KNOW that I know that I know.”
--Alan Watts

Who am I? What am I?

Humans want to know.

We’re not just mildly curious.

No. We are obsessed.

We want definitions, labels, understanding.

We turn to any source that discusses the subject. As long as they’re talking about Who I Am, we listen earnestly and take notes.

There's astrology to tell us What We Are. Myers Briggs, IQ tests, Human Design, Tarot cards.

There are inquiries. Meditations. Lennnnnnnggtttthhhy facebook and satsang discourses. Books, podcasts, Elephant Journal articles. And don’t forget the memes and inspirational sayings.

We let the apparent internal voice tell us Who We Are. That's always fun: “You’re a loser. You’re full of yourself. You’re bad. A fraud. Unkind. Unlovable.”

Yes, of course that hurts, but don’t stop.

We even take on other people’s opinions about Who We Are, too. Teacher: “Billy is an overly shy boy who isn’t living up to his potential.”  Okay! Billy now not only knows Who He Is, he has fodder for talking about it endlessly in years of therapy. Yay!

So many options for finding out Who I Am!  

We might almost come to think it matters.

The thing is, regardless what tools we use, and no matter how much we act as if Who I Am is fixed, definable, and permanent…

The bottom line is we don’t dare take our eyes off the self for even an instant.

Because the only thing that holds I AM in place is attention.

Look away for even a moment and Poof!

Hello The Void, Ego Death, The Abyss, The Quickening, or whatever.


Or at least, unfindable.

Not that it’s actually ever been findable.

I mean, show me this ‘you.’

First there are points towards the body, as if that torso, collar bones or head is What We Are. As if we’re skin, or the space in front of it.

Then comes, “Well it’s the brain, or heart,” as if, if we removed those organs and put them on a plate, that would be us sitting there in all our findable glory on the table.

Till finally we land on, “Well I don’t know, there’s just a sense of Me”.

Like that’s what we are- a “sense.”

If so, it might be helpful to start by defining that ‘sense’ first, since who knows what that is.

And we might also define what knows it’s there, since senses tend not to know much about such things.

So perhaps it’s becoming clearer that all this What Am I-obsession is simply an opportunity to define and reify and solidify a vague, airy concept.

The self story needs an anchor to hold it. Stewing about Who Am I is such an anchor.

Not that there’s anything wrong with devoting our lives to defining something that isn’t there.

It’s just that, if we’re seeking to see through the self, as so many lovely Mind-Tickler readers strive to do, how can that possibly happen,

If we’re attempting to pin down a wispy nothing by pretending we can study or question it into existence?

So just to try something different, maybe we could tear ourselves away from the mirror, and, rather than ask, “Who am I?” we could play a bit with asking, “Where?”

We might find, as we briefly did above, that there’s no provable location to be found.

We might even find that we’re the question itself, and the thought, and the feeling, and the sensation, and the color, and the sound, and every experience itself.

And that there’s no I at all, doing this experiencing.

So it could be there's no need to figure out who we are.

Since we’re all of it.

That's a whole lot bigger than any little identified self concept.

And might even be enough to make the self happy.

I mean, probably not.

But it’s at least possible that being everything makes up for the self’s disappointment about being nothing.

And might be more than fair compensation for

I Am Not.

Click here to get your Mind-Tickled every week.

"My child, you can talk about holy books all you like. But until you forget everything, you will never find yourself."
--Ashtavakra Gita


"The game is not about becoming somebody, it's about becoming nobody." — Ram Dass