In this post, I would like to invite you to embark on a journey to self-discovery. You are not who you think you are, meaning that the outer you that you believe to be you is not the real you. It is only a role you are temporarily playing here on the Earth plane. The real you exists beyond the limitations of time and space, and is silently observing you, while repeaping benefits from your life experiences on the Earth plane.
The following is a really well-known anecdote of Zhuangzi, one of the most revered Taoist philosophers in China.
A butterfly philosopher
One day Zhuangzi had a very vivid dream in which he was a butterfly. The dream felt so real that upon waking up Chang wondered to himself, “Was I then a man who was dreaming that I was a butterfly? Or am I now a butterfly who is dreaming that I am a man?”
Zhuangzi asked himself, “Who am I?”
Look at your life as a movie and yourself as an actor
Think of your life as a movie. While you are watching a film, you are so immersed that you momentarily forget that none of this is real. As a matter of fact, you do not want to remind yourself that it is not real because that will take all the fun out if. When the film is unfolding, everything looks so real that you temporarily suspend your sense of reality. You identify with certain characters. You laugh and cry at certain moments. Then when the film ends, all of them vanish instantly and you come back to resume your daily life.
From the soul’s perspective, our lives are indeed like a movie. In fact, everything we have considered as real is an illusion from the soul’s perspective. It is a mammoth stage on which we play multiple roles. We are all actors and actresses. Most of us are too busy playing our roles that our real identities have sunk into oblivion. We believe ourselves to be the characters that we are playing. But in reality, our names, bodies, personalities and professions have little to do with our true identities.
We can think of ourselves as actors. This week we may portray Hamlet and the next week we may portray Romeo. But are we really Hamlet or Romeo? Although most of us tend to identify with the roles we are playing, they are just characters we temporarily chose to play.
During the course of our various incarnations, we continue to take on a number of different roles that our souls choose to impersonate, so to speak. Some of them are more challenging than others. For example, some of us come to Earth as a beggar, as a criminal or as a physically or mentally challenged person, while others are incarnated to be a scholar, a politician, a billionaire, or a movie star. Since our true identities are concealed behind the illusion, we cannot judge another person by the appearance. We do not really know ourselves that well either. We could be a celebrity, a political figure or even a president of a giant corporation. However, in essence, we are not any different from beggars on the street or even criminals in prison. No matter who we are in this life, it is nothing but a temporary role we are playing.
Why are we here?
Then the question may arise, why are we playing the roles in the first place? Why do we have to play an unpleasant role at times?
It is and was our choice. We chose this realm of illusion in order to expand, learn and grow, restore balance, animate our interior light, and to experiment with various situations and circumstances. As turbulent as it may be on the Earth plane, it is a wonderful place for the soul to grow, expand, evolve, learn lessons, and experiment. However, many of us have gotten so immersed in this illusion of physical life that we got caught up in dense energy.
So, I would like to introduce to you an exercise from Korea that will connect you to the real you. This exercise is pretty simple and relatively easy. It is designed to help you to discover the real you who is silently watching and has been silently watching you ever since your emergence to the physical plane.
To start with, ask yourself the following questions.
What is my name? Am I male or female? What is my background? What is my personality like? What do I look like?
Try to answer those questions as thoroughly as possible and then examine those answers very carefully. You may be white male, married, financially stable and in the prime of manhood. Or you may be a young Asian single mother with two children. Or you may be a university student, struggling to make ends meet and finish your studies. No matter who you are, the real you has nothing to do with any of the descriptions you have provided above. You are not your name. You are not your body. You are not your personality.
Think of yourself as an onion. We will start an onion-peeling exercise to remove everything that you consider to be you in order to reach the core where exists the real you.
Step 1: Remove everything that can be changed
Let’s begin the exercise. We are going to remove everything that is not the real you. Anything that can be changed is not the real you. So we will start by removing everything that can be changed, such as your name, gender, nationality, profession, and age.
Think of your name. Are you your name? If your name is Thomas, can you change your name to Bob? If you change your name to Bob, do you become a different person?
Now think of your gender. Are you male or female? If you are male, you may feel appalled by the idea of wearing a skirt on the street. If you are female, you may find it repulsive to show your body hair on the street. Ask yourself why you would feel that way. Wouldn’t it be simply because you were conditioned to follow certain norms of society? Now imagine yourself undergoing a sex-change operation. Will you become a different person? Now would you suddenly prefer pink instead of blue? Would you prefer an action movie instead of a drama? As you see, the real you has nothing to do with your gender. So remove your name and your gender.
Now, continue to explore everything else that you associate yourself with and that can be changed. For example, it can be your nationality, social position, your profession, your role in the family, your age and so on. Eliminate them all.
Step 2: Remove your body
Next, you will remove your body. Many of us attach ourselves to our bodies the most. Many of us erroneously believe that we can attain happiness by making our bodies happy. Many of us also think that our bodies are ours. However, we are not our bodies, nor do we own our bodies.
Think of your body. Your body follows its own mechanism and its pre-programmed course. If you were your body or you owned it, why would it be so difficult to control it? Your body is not you nor is it yours. You were given a body in order to successfully undertake this journey in the physical dimension. When you finish your journey on the Earth plane, you will return your body to where it truly belongs – Earth. Your body will disintegrate but you will continue to forge ahead with your journey. Keep in mind that while your body exists in the illusory world of physicality, the real you remains intact from the illusion. It does not age with time nor is affected by external influences.
With this in mind, detach yourself from your body. Stop identifying yourself with your body and see yourself existing beyond your physical body. Now remove your body in its entirety.
Step 3: Remove your personality
After removing your body, go deeper into yourself. You are likely to identify yourself with your personality. However, your personality is not you. Your personality serves you while you pursue your journey on the Earth plane. At the hour of your death, your personality will be released as well, yet you will not disappear.
Remember that you are not your personality and remove your personality.
Step 4: Remove everything else that has nothing to do with the real you
Now, you don’t have a name. You don’t have a body. You don’t even have a personality. With this in mind, continue to eliminate everything else that you have been associating yourself with. Do you think of yourself as a kind-hearted person or a spiritual seeker? Eliminate your association with kindness and spiritual advancement from your mind. Continue to get rid of everything you have been associating yourself with or attached yourself to.
Try to suspend your sense of reality momentarily. Relinquish your ego for a while. While engaging in this self-exploration, pause all mental activities. When certain memories surface to your mind, observe them silently. They will fade away.
Step 5: Finding the real you
When you manage to remove everything that is not the real you, you will be finally left with something you won’t be able to remove anymore. Now you have reached the innermost core, the essence of you that has been concealed for such a long, long time. This is the real you, who exists beyond the limitation of time and space. The real you who has been silently watching everything you do since your birth in this physical world. Feel the spaciousness in your heart as you connect to the real you.
Self-discovery could be an extremely daunting task, but it can be immensely rewarding efforts. We come to the realization that we do not really need the majority of what our personalities crave. We realize that the world is an illusion. When we watch a movie, we are aware of the illusory nature of the film. We may laugh or cry at certain moments, but we are rarely devastated while watching a film.
Those who have discovered their real selves are free from dependence on the external world. They can maintain their equanimity even when they lose their friends, professions, money or loved ones. They can laugh even in an abyss of seeming hopelessness since they have found ultimate freedom. There is nothing to gain or lose in the external world. If none of the things you have were yours in the first place, why would you worry about losing them?