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How To Get Authentic Results In
The Provocative “Who Am I” Search

Tell me who I am. Discovering who you really are can change your life. Back in 1902, the great sage Ramana Maharshi suggested that his pupil should delve into the question "Who am I" to reach an "enduringly happy state, where there is no mind." That objective sounds a little vague, but it has profound meaning.

The Maharshi said the path was direct. Repeatedly ask yourself the question “Who am I?” Focus on the answer and do not allow your mind to wander. When the question is first asked, many “I” thoughts may rise in your mind.

But, if the question is persistently pursued, all other thoughts will get destroyed and finally, the “I” thought itself will vanish, leaving a non-dual Self. The Maharshi felt that all other disciplines, such as breath control and meditations were only supporting practices, which helped the mind to remain focused on this key question.

A devotee once went to Ramana Maharshi and said, “I’ve been with you for twenty-five years, asking 'Who am I?' and nothing has happened yet.” The Maharshi is reported to have replied, ‘Try it for another twenty-five and see what happens.” But, it is not that difficult. You just need to understand why the approach works.

  • With its ability to recognize patterns, your mind can discover PFR, your rational prefrontal brain, you, within and answer the question "Tell me who I am."
  • Your conscious awareness is created by specific scientifically isolated nerve cells. There is a physical link between the real you and the nervous system.
  • When you observe your mind, you will sense increasing levels of internal processing.
  • Deeper introspection will reveal that your entire viewpoints keep shifting as particular emotions take charge of your mind.
  • You will sense that each emotion also carries with it connected bodily symptoms.
  • As you identify each emotion through its physical symptom, the emotion will vanish. Increasing quietness within your mind will lead to a deadly silence. You cannot sense anything more.
  • As you watch this silence, you will realize that you are the observing entity. You will have discovered who you are.
  • Your observation will have stilled the turmoil created by your animal instincts. Observation is the key to peace of mind.
  • The entity, who observes is the most powerful intelligence in your nervous system, with a massive wealth of inherited and acquired knowledge.
  • The path of discovering who I am is a rarely used path to peace of mind.

Tell Me Who I Am
Can Your Mind Answer Your Questions?

Your mind has a built-in ability to answer questions. The association regions of your cortex recognize objects based on your sensory perceptions. The somesthetic association region processes the pressure stimuli on your fingers and grants you your knowledge that you are touching a pair of scissors. If that brain region is injured, you will not be able to recognize the object by touch, with your eyes closed. You will still be able to feel the scissors, but you will not know what it is. Similarly, an olfactory system enables you to recognize an object by its smell.

Tell Me Who I Am
Will Your Mind Answer The 
"Who Am I?" Question? 
Your mind receives a vast array of sensory signals, including light, touch, sound, smell and taste. It separates these overlapping patterns of the universe and informs you of millions of objects. Your mind recognizes those patterns and will respond to your questions. Ask yourself “Did I have dinner last night?” Did you? You become aware of a reply. It will also answer your question “Who am I?” and identify you as a separate living entity. Initially, it will merely inform you that you exist as a distinct individual among millions of other human beings.

Tell Me Who I Am
How Do You Become Aware Of An Answer?
Billions of neurons fire in the nervous system, without your being conscious of their activities. They support millions of internal processes, without your awareness. This very moment, while you become aware of the significance of the words you read, you have no awareness of the complex multi-stage process, which converted the black pixels on this page into a meaningful concept.

Imagine a neural organ, which acts as a conductor of the inputs to consciousness. While the impulses of one hundred billion neurons power the nervous system, current research points to a single organ, the claustrum, which acts as a “conductor,” which coordinates the highest cortical levels of the system. Thoughts"emerge into subjective experience" from the combinatorial firing patterns on the claustrum screen. The activity of this "screen" generates your conscious awareness. Just as the control panel of a power station grants you awareness of the essential workings of its major subsystems, imagine the claustrum to be the screen, which creates your awareness.

Tell Me Who I Am 
What Happens With Repeated "Who Am I?" Questions?

Ask yourself "Who am I?"  At the first level of recognition, your mind replies that you are your body and mind. Your thoughts may often wander. But, as you keep asking and listening, the process will substantially increase your awareness. As you watch, you become aware of the warmth of the air and the hardness of your chair. You become more aware that you are an entity, which receives internal information of sensory inputs, as well as of your physical activities, like breathing and body movements.

Tell Me Who I Am
Are You Just A Shifting Vehicle For You Emotions?

There is evidently a “ghost,” who receives all this data. You vaguely sense that you are more the entity, which observes the universe outside and the world within. More questions reveal your propensity to be often overwhelmed by anger and despair, or sadness and joy. Most people stop the questioning process here, concluding that they are just vulnerable ghosts occupying creaky bodies.

The next series of the “Who am I?” questions lead to some confusion. You cannot identify a whole personality within. Emotions transport you into vast conflicting worlds. Your viewpoints erratically shift between enthusiasm, anxiety and utter despair. Even the width and depth of your wisdom appears to vary. While anger makes you focus on a narrow vision, love appears to open up a world of kindly memories. Are you the angry person, or the loving person? Shifting between conflicting worlds, you appear to have no clear identity at all! But, even then, a developing awareness of your emotions carries you ever deeper into your mind.

Tell Me Who I Am
Have You Sensed The Physical Symptoms Of Emotions?

It is a stage in your journey of discovery, where, sadly, you could get stuck for 25 years. But, you could be lucky. You may note, incidentally that each emotion you feel is accompanied by a physical symptom. With your attention constantly focused on internal discovery, you may note that your emotion vanishes, whenever you observe its physical symptom. Eugene Gendlin would call this a “felt bodily sense.” This could happen a few times. Each time, strangely, the related emotion would just disappear. As you keep on “learning about yourself,” more emotions would disappear. You would come to occupy an increasingly still space in your mind.

Tell Me Who I Am
Is Your PFR Your Final Discovery?

A long practice of such observation of your mind leads to a situation, where your mind becomes more and more quiet. When you lie down quietly in the dark with a still mind, worries of tomorrow, or guilt about yesterday's outburst do not disturb you. You ignore your awareness of your bed and the feedback your body sends you about your posture in bed. You ask yourself “Who am I?” and there is only silence. At this moment, you could have a sudden insight. You discover a presence, watching, waiting for an answer. All your powers of recognition are focused on a deadly silence. You are like a closed circuit camera, with a powerful capacity to recognize all inputs, staring into the darkness. That is PFR, your prefrontal regions, your rational brain, free from manipulation by emotions, watching and waiting.

Tell Me Who I Am
How Does Your PFR Function?

Every time you ask “Who am I?” you are activating PFR, the prefrontal intelligence - the investigative part of the brain, occupying the apex of your triune brain. Evolved over millions of years, the prefrontal brain competes with the powerful feelings and emotions of your coexisting mammalian and reptilian brains.

The constant search within enables this superior brain to comprehend the wily foibles of its primitive colleagues. Its superior wisdom silences them and guides your life. After you discover this entity, it helps you to know the scale and power of its wisdom.

Tell Me Who I Am
How Much Wisdom Does Your PFR Hold?

Your understanding improves when you imagine 4 things.  You will realize that your mind carries unimaginably large stores of inherited and acquired wisdom. As an example, the DNA codes in your body contain codes, which instruct your living cells to build your eyelid, or your fingernail. Scientists reported that if those codes were packed into 500 page books, those books will fill the 450 kilometer long Grand Canyon fifty times over! From millions of years of evolution and from a lifetime of experiences, your system has acquired an immense trove of knowledge. Similarly, massive stores of inherited wisdom within your nerve cells manage your life. When not blinkered by the restraints of your emotions, your PFR can flow with this wisdom to manage your life.

Tell Me Who I Am
Is This The Question That Frees You?

The deep insight of Sri Ramana Maharshi was that his repetition of the words "I am, I am, I am, ...", led to his discovery of the truth that "I am not." He emerged into a state of consciousness without any I or self at all, a state of pure consciousness. In a mystic insight, he discovered an awareness, backed by an enormous wisdom, which could perceive the unity of the universe. He discovered the power of untrammeled consciousness. Such journeys into the highest worlds of the mind may not be accessible to the common man. Even if they discover their PFR, ordinary people may still remain troubled by the passions and interruptions of their lower level brains. But, they too can achieve a modicum of peace by following the simple question “Who am I?” with persistence and understanding.

This page was last updated on 06-Sep-2016.