I was 21 when I first started obsessing over the question, "Who Am I?" I was studying Buddhism at Naropa University in Colorado, living on my own for the first time, and freshly discovering how poorly I fit into most societal molds. Now in my early 30's, I am still amazed at how deep that rabbit hole can go. More on that later.
Around that time, I created an album on Facebook (remember when it was still only for college students?) entitled, "Naropa Neurosis Sets In." I looked like this:
It was not an easy time in my life. Enlightening, yes. But definitely not easy.
I was encouraged by learning about Sri Ramana Maharshi, who's lifelong spiritual path hinged on the very inquiry I found myself engaged in, this question of: "Who Am I?" At the same time, I was daunted. If it took him that long (and if, in the end, I wound up nearly naked and alone atop a mountain I believed to be my spiritual teacher), I wasn't sure I wanted to embark on that journey!
On the other hand, I didn't really seem to have a choice.
As it is, I deeply respect anyone willing to engage this inquiry. Since I've found it so far to be a most fulfilling path of self-discovery, creativity and ultimately, contribution, I also encourage and stand by anyone willing to walk it. Not to sound all highfalutin or anything. It's just true. And it's part of why I'm here, writing this. You could even say it's part of who I am.
But enough about me. Let's segue to you.
First off, I'm curious how you're taking "me" in as a result of reading this post. You've extrapolated a bit of information by now, some factual, some interpreted and some subconsciously imbued. If you pause for a moment - here - you'll notice you likely have some thoughts, feelings, and even a gut instinct about who I am. Amazing how quickly that can happen, huh? Then again, is any of it true? Better yet, is any of it really about me, or is it another opportunity to learn about yourself?
Allow me to elaborate.
So far, we've learned the following tidbits about Tessa. She:
- went to college
- studied Buddhism
- has impeccable hair.
You'll admit these are hard to debate. They're what we might call cold, hard facts (although you could certainly wonder if they're actually factual - which again, I might add, could tell us a bit more about you). On the next level, you may have inferred some of the following. Tessa:
- has spiritual aspirations
- is somewhat self-absorbed
- attempts, at least, to be funny!
These points are considerably easier to debate. It's a short stretch to imagine someone having an entirely different viewpoint than those listed above.
Now most difficult to contest of all, because of its inherent depth and subjectivity, is the gut-feeling level. Do please forgive me in my attempt to be objective on this oh-so-very personal subject ...
... considering you're still here, you're probably having a relatively strong emotional/gut response to what you're reading! I'd guess you're either loving or hating this post. It seems unlikely that if you found it entirely neutral you'd still be carrying on - unless, of course, you already know me and love me and are just trying to be supportive of me. Which again, says quite a bit about you, and I thank you for it.
Moving right along, some possible emotional/gut responses to this include, but are by no means limited to the following:
- interest, intrigue and inspiration (clearly my personal wish)
- disgust, confusion and fear
- curiosity, some uncertainty and a willingness to continue ...
Now, to weave this all together and *hopefully* make it relevant:
You, I, we all are a complex mix of parts and possibilities. We are deep and multitudinous blends of thoughts, emotions, body sensations; attractions and aversions, ideals, repulsions, and much more. We're woven together into a fabric that manifests as a whole; and we move through the world from that place, encountering and experiencing each other as we are - or at least equally as often, as we are not.
As far as I can tell, this is the reality regardless of how we choose to look at it - or if we choose to look at it. I happen to be of the opinion that looking is worth the effort, and results in a more peaceful and powerful existence for us all.
As you already know, I hold anyone willing to tread these waters in the highest regard. I acknowledge you in your commitment to this so often difficult work, and I will do my utmost to support you in the process, if you'll allow me.
Thanks for reading. Thanks for wondering. Thanks for sharing, whoever you are.