The Question is: “Are You?”


Sometimes a question becomes its own answer and clears up all confusion in an instant. I recently had such an experience with my partner when we sent to visit a wise septuagenerian from India, who teaches non-dualism through provocative questions and art.

We sat down to chat, and I wove a story about how childhood experiences still create specters of anxiety, self-doubt and over-functioning. After listening carefully, he explained that most of our conscious energy goes toward modifying our stories or replacing them with better stories.

Our stories, however, are illusions; they are mental constructs without permanent substance. There’s nothing wrong with having stories about our lives. We can choose to enter into and enjoy our stories, but unless we realize them for the illusions that they are, we will be trapped in their web.

Of course, I wanted to know how to break free of my illusions. He mentioned the usual prescription: meditation. Focusing on a candle, the breath, a chant, or a word can break the addictive trance of our thoughts/stories.  We can then take a step back and be the witness of all that comes and goes without becoming identified with what comes and goes.

He hinted, however, that there was something more, something beyond the witness. What was he talking about? I got that I’m not my stories. I understood that there was something more to me than these mental constructs, but in that moment, I couldn’t seem to get past the web of my stories. And I admitted that although I meditate daily, the effect doesn’t seem to last throughout the day. That’s when everything shifted.

He looked at me and said, “I have a question for you: ‘Are you?’ I’m not asking, ‘Who are you?’ or ‘What are you?’ but ‘Are you?'”

We let the question linger in the air. Within me I felt this crystal clear, potent answer surface: “Yes, I AM!”

He said, “That which answered your question is The Answer itself. It is Self knowing Self. God knowing God. That which answers the question, ‘Are you?’ is the pure Essence, Being Itself. It is the creative intensity from which all stories arise and into which they all subside.  This is what drew people to Jesus. He mirrored the divine within people back to them.”

In that moment I felt I AM.  I could neither describe nor grasp what was happening, nor did I want to. I was Being!

My stories, once frozen in my mind, seemed fluid, no longer solid. I realized this Presence/Being is who I am. I knew it in a way that was beyond forgetting. This knowing grew in intensity through art he showed us, living canvases which seemed to exist on the border between inanimate and animate.

I left feeling free and grounded. Of course, the stories have come flooding back, but in their liquid state, they tend to flow through me more readily. If they start to solidify, I realize what is happening and ask myself one question, “Am I?” The Answer to that question answers everything else.

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3 Responses to The Question is: “Are You?”

  1. Jazz says:

    Thank you, Scott!

    • Lisa says:

      Scott, thank you for this post. Please understand I am not addressing your childhood narrative personally as I do not know it. And I’m sure that you use it to demonstrate a conscious effort to transcend it. I’m addressing a popular mindset that uses its childhood narrative to excuse its weaknesses and limitations. I don’t know if the world (western world, the US, the pre-ME generation, maybe the pre-Freudian world) always defined its individual selves (grammar?) almost soley by its childhood experiences. To me it seems a convention mostly of our and maybe one generation before, but I have no data to support this. Anyway, this self-limiting thinking has troubled me for years. Obviously childhood experiences shape us, but whenever I hear adults justifying their faults by their not particularly dire childhood, I want to scream “BUT haven’t you done or learned anything in all your years since then? Especially now that you can understand the world better than as a child?” If we could shift the culture of blaming how we were raised for our shortcomings to stories of tranformation out of that, or even better, by just emphasizing only on “Who are you now?, we could grow so much more. Anyhoo, thanks for guiding people in this world.

    • scott says:

      Amen! Thank you Lisa.

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