- Sunday dawns in the desert -
Yesterday I was talking with a friend who told me he was planning to come out to the desert for a few days because he needed to spend some time finding himself.
Lots of people come out into the wilderness to do some serious soul searching, to spend time trying to find themselves, to engage in some rigorous introspection in the hopes of discovering who they really are.
I told my friend that when he comes out here and goes off into the wilderness to sit on a rock somewhere and ask those deeper identity questions, he should keep his eyes open rather than closed. In fact, as I see it, most of us get confused about the direction of introspection - in order to look inward, you have to look outward.
When I finished my conversation with my friend yesterday I came across this enlightening passage from Zen Master, Thich Nhat Hanh:
When you ask the question, 'Who am I?' -- if you have enough time and concentration,
you may find some surprising answers.
You may see that you are a continuation of your ancestors
who are fully present in every cell of your body.
If you remove your ancestors and your parents there is no 'you' left.
You may also see that you are made of elements like water.
If you remove the water from you, there is no 'you' left.
You are also made of earth.
If you remove the element of earth from you, there is no 'you' left.
You are made of air - you need air desperately; without air you cannot survive.
So if you remove the element of air from you, there is no 'you.'
And then there is the element of heat and light in you.
You know that you are made of light, without sunlight nothing can grow on earth.
And you know that the earth, as well as yourself, is made of stars.
On a clear night you can look up and you can see that you are the stars above.
You don't have a separate self.
You're not just the tiny body you normally may think of as 'yourself.'
As I read and re-read this wonderful piece of wisdom, I thought about my friend coming out here to sit in the wilderness and ask that question, "Who am I?" I just made a copy of this passage and sent it to him.
Lots of times when people ask the "who am I?" question they come up with some pretty small and often myopic answers. They focus on their tiny body or see themselves as isolated individuals - defining themselves by their jobs, careers, or roles they play in life. Sometimes they answer the question by thinking about their inmost thoughts or deepest secrets.
But the answer to the question, "Who am I?" is far more than that one little story we may tell ourselves about who we really are - the answer to that question is cosmic.
I am my relationships.
I am water. I am earth. I am the air I breathe. I am sunlight and I am stars.
This is who I really am.