Who Am I?

by Yolande Duran-Serrano

Who-Am-I-ImageWHO AM I?

The greatest of rewards is “ipseity” and it overflows with wonderment.
—Ibn Arabi

Yesterday evening, you said live fully, simply, but I don’t get the impression you mean the same thing by these words that we do, we . . .

Simply, before identifying with this ‘I am’, before identifying with being an individual…

Earlier you spoke of nostalgic longing, the nostalgia of feeling cut off from the world, cut off from this thing. That too is part of the ‘I am’. That too you must also be able to experience fully.

This morning I thought about Ramana Maharshi’s teaching, answering the question ‘Who am I?’ Have you tried this method?

Is it really a method? As the question comes from the mind, it remains just that – a method. In my experience, it is all in vain, for the answer comes straight from my mind. However, when it arises spontaneously . . .

When you say the answer comes from the mind, what you mean is you reacted before even allowing the answer to arise in its own time.

 Yes, and last night, the question arose but there was no answer. I was dumbfounded by this question. There was no answer whatsoever, neither mental nor of any other kind. Everything came to a standstill, with this question left hanging in midair, repeated once, ten times, twenty times, until your saying simply came back to me.  Yes, simply, without the individual intervening. Except that this is precisely what she, who believes she is an individual “I”, cannot possibly “do”.

Just stay with the question, without trying to understand it or find an answer to it. Allow everything that happens to you, to remain in the background; accept everything that happens, whether it be moments of ecstasy or discomfort. Focus all your attention on this unanswered question, in this silent space, and above all accept this space! Accept it silently, not mentally. Mentally, just accept that everything is in the background; everything exists, everything is there, everything appears, but it appears in silence and in this question without an answer. Really accept it totally, in all simplicity.

Many people think that realization, illumination, is a huge turning point full of light, full of colors; and what if it was no more than this? What if it was just moments of totality? What if it was no more than this? Afterwards, just let yourself be, quite simply be that calmness, that tranquility, that silence. Over time, discover the lightness this brings you, see that everything is still there, of course, but it is in the background and it is not you – so there is no need to make a song and dance out of it.

 For the last few hours, I have been noticing that when this question becomes so vital, when it has such an urgency to it, then it is indeed right there in the foreground. So, even if the question is uncomfortable, and not tranquil as I would have hoped and even if there is discomfort, and not the silence that you experience, thanks to it, everything else slips spontaneously into the background. So it’s important to stick with what is in the foreground, this question, this discomfort?

Stick with the discomfort, totally. Let yourself be totally engulfed by it, so as to make room for silence, for tranquility. Once and for all, let that discomfort take the upper hand and show you truly who you are, without you giving an answer – for all the answers will come.

Yes, staying with it seems to be simple enough. Once the question has been experienced it is no longer an abstract thought.

“Simply,” all the great sages say it! Answer the question, “Who am I?” and all the rest will appear as a negation, for everything else is what you are not. And they say it so simply, but people see it in such a complicated way that they cannot make room for life’s simplicity, reality’s simplicity.

Yes but this question “Who am I?” must arise spontaneously!

But it is precisely by making room for this silent space, when it appears, that attention is able to settle there and no longer leave. It is so simple and powerful at one and the same time. Everything else continues to appear and disappear, but there is nothing left but that within which everything else arises. The attention is completely transferred to this space. Humility and truth arise, from the very fact that it is totally accepted. And all of a sudden you see more clearly, simply, without trying to understand.

You speak of this place, or non-place, as a space of silence, of tranquility; whereas the space that I experience in this moment is discomfort. It is in the foreground – and this is what it has in common with what you are talking about—but it is uncomfortable.

Right now, it is this discomfort that is not accepted in the background. So, automatically it – that is to say you, the individual—has taken control.

So does naming it “discomfort” mean that it is still the “I am”?

That, too, you must be aware of and accept.

 It’s funny, the minute I named it “discomfort,” I could no longer be sure it was uncomfortable. The sensation was kind of suspended, a bit like the split second that precedes a sneeze or laughter, and now, the feeling is moving again; it is starting to quiver instead of being stuck.

The silence that ensued lasts for a while. Each of us savors it from her deck-chair. As the end of May approaches, the warm air is full of birdsong. Five minutes go by. Inside me, everything is in turmoil –changing rhythms and restless waves. The questioning is still there, no longer seeking a reply; the discomfort has given way to wonderment . . . the minutes become half an hour.

Do you remember this sentence from Ibn Arabi? “The best reward is ipseity, and there within resides amazement.” Being there, in silence, in this profound amazement, doesn’t leave the slightest bit of room for anything else; once tasted it leaves a neutral space. Silence completely fills the space. Every moment is sacrificed to silence, to profound amazement. Your “I am” might be full of all the wonders of the world, but all your time, all your attention is focused on silence.

All these people following a spiritual path want, and want, and want to let go. But how much time do they spend focused on this amazement, this profound wonderment, when they are in it? When these moments of lightness, of silence, of “I don’t know” are there: how long do they stay there? Very little, for each time they come back to their “I am” and they are their “I am.”

You asked how long people spend focused on this wonderment. It’s just that we turn it into an object. Most of the time, when it is there, I feel it immediately in the “I am.” I contemplate it—it’s a very pleasurable, marvelous state, one I don’t want to come back out of. I am the one enjoying this tranquility. There isn’t the intensity that I feel right now, the intense questioning that puts everything, including silence, into the background. On the contrary there is a feeling of satisfaction: I am satisfied with this state, I have made it into a thing and then I start thinking, provided it lasts. It is in the background, in fact.

In any case, the “I am” is very simple. Maybe it is as simple as this: right now accept this simplicity so as to make room for the totality.

For the totality of everything that manifests?

For everything that appears, yes. And the fact that you objectify this space, where silence and tranquility are, is simultaneous with the “I am”; maybe it is because it is so simple that your mind reclaims it and comments on it.

Perhaps you could focus the attention on the simplicity of this thing, in such a way that it is allowed to take up more and more space, become more powerful.

 . . . instead of sweeping it away precisely because it is so simple . . .

Even if it is swept away, accept that the mind sweeps it away; it is still in the background. Simply let this thing be in the foreground, before identifying with being this person who says it’s going to end or that the ‘I am’ is going to take over. Maybe, quite simply, accept the simplicity of silence—especially when it arrives spontaneously, when you did not seek it out. Accept this simplicity before becoming anyone.


Yolande Duran-Serrano (Photo)Yolande Duran-Serrano’s teaching is the expression of her own experience and consciousness. She offers no dogma nor method but points out what our life could be free from the rigid cocoon of beliefs that we weave around ourselves. www.yolande.info/en/

From Silence Heals, by Yolande Duran-Serrano. Copyright © 2012 by Yolande Duran-Serrano & Laurence Vidal. Published by Non-Duality Press, Salisbury, United Kingdom. www.non-dualitypress.org