By Rabbi Rami Shapiro Who are you really? Not the self you imagine yourself to be when you look in a mirror. Not the self your parents, bosses, co-workers, teachers, spouses, partners, children, and friends say you are; but your true self. The self we are when no one is looking, even yourself. Who is that?
You have never ever seen yourself. You can’t see yourself because the self you are looking at isn’t the self that’s looking, and it is the self that’s looking that is the real self. You can no more see yourself then you can smell your own nose or hear your own ears.
So, who are you really? You have no idea. Which is a good thing, since all ideas about who you are turn out to be just whom you aren’t.
A lot of people try to find the true self by looking inward. OK, but all you will find there is what you found when you looked outward—more ideas. You can’t look inward to find yourself because the self that is looking inward is the self that you are, and it cannot see itself looking inward or outward because it is itself.
Think of the classic figure/ground puzzle; that simple black and white drawing that sometimes looks like a vase and other times looks like the profiles of two people facing one another. When you see the vase, you don’t see the people. When you see the people, you don’t see the vase. But what is the figure when you aren’t looking at it at all? Is it a vase? Or is it two people facing one another?
Some people will insist it is both, but this makes no sense to me. It is never both. It is always one thing or the other; the vase cancels out the people and the people cancel out the vase. And neither is real unless you are looking at it.
I think the figure itself is nothing you and I can grasp. And it will remain nothing until you look at it and make it something rather than something else.
What is true of the figure is true of you as well. When you look you see one self or another. But the one who is looking is no self at all. Your true self is no self. Your true self is formless, nameless, birthless, and deathless. It just is and has always been and will always be. It’s you, but you aren’t really it. Why? Because as soon as you talk about it or look at it, the you who is talking and looking is not the object talked about or looked at.
If you want to know who you really are, ask yourself this: Who is asking “Who am I?” If you have an answer you have missed the point. Ask again and again and again until you simply realize the vast nothing that is the field in which all things happen. That’s you. Or at least it was until I said it was. reprinted from Rabbi Rami’s blog.