Who am I? Am I this body of cells, fluids, and nerve impulses, that is born, grows and develops, matures and dies? Am I my role in a family? Am I my position at my workplace? This question, “Who am I?” is the central question that philosophers and religions throughout history have all sought to answer. It is the great mystery at the core of being a human being. It is the question that Yoga can answer.
When I have asked myself this question, and sincerely sought an answer, it became apparent, fairly quickly that I am not what I imagined I was. I realized that I am not my body, but have a body. I saw that I’m not my roles in society, not my emotions, not my thoughts. Rather, I take on roles, and experience emotions and thoughts. So, then who am I?
According to Yoga, the way to answer this ultimate question is meditation. Meditation is not just sitting and daydreaming, analyzing or thinking. Meditation is when the mind becomes concentrated on a single thought and stays on that one thought, with no interruptions, over an extended period of time.
If one takes a magnifying glass and focuses the sun into a point on a piece of paper, what happens? The energy of the sunlight, focused into that brilliant point, burns a hole through the paper. Similarly, when the energy of the mind is focused into a point on the screen of our awareness and held there for an extended time, it can burn through the surface appearances of the world so that one can come to know Truth.
All human minds are able to become one-pointed, but few people are able to bring their minds to that point or keep it there because of the habits of their minds. Their minds’ tendency to be in constant movement and diffusely focused, prevent meditation from happening. This is why the first six limbs of Raja/Ashtanga Yoga---Yamas/niyamas (ten essential practices to pacify the mind), Asana (developing a firm seat), Pranayama (expanding the energy of prana), Pratyahara (withdrawing the mind from the senses), and Dharana (concentration) are aimed at calming and focusing the mind. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, one of the core texts of Yoga, says that it is by consistent, sincere practice, over a long time, that one’s mind can slowly be calmed, and the ability gained to make it one-pointed.
So I practice Yoga-meditation to find the answer to the question, “Who am I?”