What Are You?

Everywhere I go, in various iterations, I keep hearing the same question:

‘Who am I?’

People pose this question as if somehow, if only they could find an answer, it would solve all their problems. They pose it as a reason why they undertake extreme challenges – climb mountains, trek across deserts, or go into therapy or take hallucinogens like Ayahuasca, LSD and mescaline. 

‘I’m trying to find out who I am,’ they say.

And a lot of people I’ve known, have posed it as the reason why they meditate – but I’ll get into that in a minute.

For myself, the question is redundant.

And I’ll go further than that and say, I think the question ‘who am I?’, along with the subsequent struggle to find an answer, can only lead to delusion and suffering.

Not only that, but I think so much of the madness and destruction we see in humanity, arises from this obsession with the stories we cling to in our struggle to define ‘who I am’. Empires arise from it, built by people trying to ‘make a name for themselves’ and have their stories remembered. Wars are propagated in the name of national identity and pride in ‘who we are’. The stories that make up ‘who I am’ lead to our excessive need for celebrity and our need to become bigger than ourselves. To be successful at all costs. To stand on the winners podium so we can see ourselves reflected in the adoring eyes we imagine are watching us.

So much of the culture we live in revolves around the stories our life gives to us – the stories we wish we had, and the stories we struggle with. We use these stories to define ourselves to the world around us – and to ourselves. We depend on them, and when our personal story of ‘who I am’ doesn’t please us, we try to find ways to change our stories, so we can find new ways to live with ourselves. 

So innate has our ‘story habit’ become, that everything we feel, and everything we experience is inevitably made a part of ‘my story’ – a part of the self-definition that we’re locked into. And in the lottery of life, if we’re living a ‘good story’ that’s all well and good. But it’s a living hell if our story is one of pain and suffering. We get locked into an unfolding fiction we can never escape from.

Some people try to escape their story by becoming an actor in another story – a fiction they’ve made up. I watched a TED talk a while ago, titled, ‘How Changing Your Story can Change Your Life’, and I found it very sad, because its root assumption was that, simply by spinning our story in a different way, we can build a different person around our inner self, and fool our self into new outcomes.

Really? Give me a break. Our inner mind is not an idiot. It knows when we’re lying to ourselves.


So now we come to meditation and, more particularly, mindfulness.

In meditating the only question we should be asking our self is ‘What am I?’

Because that’s the only question that will give us the ultimate truth – the reality of what we’ve become, and what we are.

Which then gives us something tangible that we can work with – because it’s not a story – it’s patterns of sensations in our body. ‘What am I’ is not a story – its a body truth. And our body will always give us our personal truth – because our body is incapable of lying to us. And if we can feel those patterns of sensations, then we can penetrate them and disentangle the tensions we find, and work to let go. And as the body changes, so too does the mind.  

No story needed.

But ‘who am I?’ is useless if we’re looking for personal truth, and it gives us nothing that we can work with – because the mind is a liar. It’s a spin doctor, a spruiker for whichever hormonal cocktail we’re experiencing at any one time. If we feel good, our story spins pleasantly, and gives us feelings of satisfaction. And if we feel shitty, our story spins the other way and we feel abject and dissatisfied.

So whenever we sit down to meditate, or when we remember to be mindful in our daily life, we should put aside the inevitable ‘who am I?’. Consign it to the dunces corner.

We should choose the more workable question of ‘what am I?’ – the easy question of ‘what’s happening right now’ – no judgement, no prison of ‘my story’ – just a set of sensations in our body that we can begin to work with – to disentangle the tensions within, and let go of.  

As I said before, as the body changes, so too does the mind.

And as the mind changes, so too does the story.


‘BEING STILL – MEDITATION THAT MAKES SENSE’, Roger’s new book, is available now.


BEING STILL’ is available on Amazon as a paperback ………….. AUD $26.40 (incl. GST) 

‘BEING STILL’ is also available as a Kindle ebook ………………………………………..AUD $11.99 

‘BEING STILL’ the audiobook (including all exercises) ………………………………. AUD $25.00 

(The audiobook includes all the exercises, as well as ebooks of Being Still, to fit any device.)