As a teenager, obsessed with her appearance, I spent many hours in front of the mirror. It was during those years when I first heard the expression, “The eyes are the windows to the soul.” I remember leaning forward toward the mirror to look more closely into my eyes thinking I might be able to catch a glimpse of my soul. I began to wonder, “Who am I?” Was I my body, my soul or something else?
Spiritual searching often takes many forms, but defining the goal of a spiritual search can be tricky. I never really knew what I was looking for all those years of doing yoga, meditation, reading numerous books, attending many lectures. All I knew was that I wanted ‘Truth’ beyond what society puts out there for mass consumption. Actually, I’m a little amazed at how clueless I was in my searching. I wanted answers, but what exactly were the questions? If I had to be specific it would’ve been, “What is the meaning of life?” I didn’t expect to realize that spiritual searching is essentially a search for Self. I didn’t realize that all those years ago as a teenager I actually asked the right question, “Who am I?”
As it is now, society is structured to perpetuate the identity crisis in which we are all stuck. Everywhere there are distractions keeping us from indulging in any meaningful introspection. The world is noisy, shallow, and divisive. Any type of reflection is relegated to prayer on Sundays; however, even that is directed externally since we pray to something outside of ourselves. No wonder we don’t know the right questions to ask. When it’s all said and done, the struggle in life usually culminates with the question, “what was it all for?” since death appears to be the end. Impermanence abounds. We are never taught that the continuity of the Self is the only constant.
Surprisingly, there are hints of truth from the mainstream media that you can catch. In the 1946 movie, “The Razor’s Edge,” Tyrone Power’s character is asked what he did during his time in India. He remarks, “I learned something about myself.” As her time in India comes to a close in “Eat Pray Love,” Julia Roberts, portraying Elizabeth Gilbert, sums up her experience with the insight, “God dwells in me – as me.”
You probably think that once you discover who you really are you will find the answers to the rest of the questions. And you do, but really what you realize is that the rest of the questions don’t matter anymore. The struggle of finding your place in the world disappears when you discover your true identity. In fact, all struggles disappear once you become aware that there is no need to ‘strive’ for anything. You are already everything. It is the ego (personality) that is never satisfied, always doubts, and continuously struggles. It is the ego that believes society when it is told that it needs to do this or that to be considered successful or even acceptable.
It is the ego you see in the mirror. It has nothing to do with who you really are. In fact, the ego is the biggest obstacle to discovering the truth about yourself. Next time you look into a mirror, try looking past the image. If you find yourself wondering, “Who am I?” congratulations, the quest has begun.