When ‘I Believe’ Becomes ‘I Am’

Candra - Berea, Kentucky
Entered on September 19, 2008

A year ago, I would have written something very different from what I am about to write in this essay. I would have staunchly decided upon a belief that I felt defined me and my life experience, and systematically spouted off a list of reasons in defense of my thoughts as they were at that time. Today, I feel no need to align with or personalize any position. I no longer see beliefs as possessions that I must defend at the risk of feeling personally insulted or somehow discredited as a human being if any were to contest it. I have stopped believing in Belief.

For most people, beliefs are an intrinsically important facet of not only life, but of who they feel they are as a human being. Thoughts and beliefs form the basis of the social measuring stick by which most people come to find out who they are. By comparing and contrasting their beliefs against the beliefs of those around them, some semblance of a definition begins to form. People then take this semblance and personalize it, making it part of themselves so that they can have an answer to the question, “Who Am I?” Through experiences and social influence, people create and attach themselves to thoughts that give them a sense of identity. They say, “If I think/look/act this way, then I must be one of ‘these’ and these must be the people I am similar to and therefore must identify with. I can now say I am [insert noun/adjective here].”

I am not trying to claim that there is something wrong with having beliefs. It is not up to me to say what is right or wrong for anyone else. It’s just that I have come to realize that taking something outside of myself and personalizing it does not define who or what I am. We may feel that because our thoughts occur inside of our brains that they are part of us, or that they make us who we are. In actuality, thoughts are merely a reflection of our experiences and interactions with other people and the outside world. They are not us, but instead are ephemeral exercises of the ego-based mind that can change or even disappear at any given second. Why would or should I cling to any particular thought and declare it to be so important that I would claim it defines me or my existence?

Ultimately, who we are surpasses all thought and belief. The question of “Who Am I?” cannot be truly answered by mere words or invisible thoughts floating in the wind. At our true essence, we are the observer of the thoughts, not the thinker. We are the infinite consciousness that thoughts take place in. If we were not, how would we know when we were thinking? Author Eckhart Tolle equates this perception to that of a dreamer in his book, A New Earth. I’m paraphrasing the idea here, but if we are only the voice in our heads who is thinking, then we would be like the dreamer who doesn’t realize that he is dreaming. We would not be able to know we were thinking and also think at the same time. There would be no concept of “I am thinking,” there would only be the thought. However, our state of being is more akin to a dreamer who is fully aware that he is currently dreaming while still being asleep and acknowledging that state of consciousness as well. Our thoughts are separate from the consciousness that observes them.

Like myself, some people will come to this awareness of consciousness after suffering tragic loss. This could occur with the sudden loss of one major person/thing that provided a sense of identity, or repeated losses of several things and people over the course of a lifetime. When the things and people you identified with disappear, who are you? Are you somehow no longer you now that they are gone? Of course not—the “you” that you were and are is still there, and always will be—even after all the identities you had attached to yourself are destroyed. The ego collapses, giving the person space to realize that they are not “this” or “that”—they simply ARE. Their focus shifts to the essence of Being. Instead of trying to categorize themselves or fit into identities to find an easy answer to who or what they might be, they learn to accept that there is no answer other than existence itself.

I am the answer to the question “Who Am I?” Everything else is a mask and a fabrication. One of the greatest spiritual teachers in existence understood this truth at its very core and attempted to teach it to others. Nevertheless, he has been greatly misunderstood or many times, not understood at all. When Jesus declared “I AM” He meant it in the same sense as when God said to Moses, “Ehyeh asher ehyeh” which literally translates to “I-shall-be that I-shall-be,” or more generally, “I AM that I AM”. Jesus taught that the answer to “Who Am I?” is simply, “I AM”—not just for him, but for all of us, because we all emanate from the source—God, the original “I AM that I AM”.

Therefore, I will no longer limit myself by attaching thoughts and beliefs to myself in a personal way. I don’t identify with beliefs and I feel no need to declare or defend any of my thoughts on a personal level to the extent that doing so creates the illusion that they are part of who I am. The thoughts in this essay are just thoughts and the facts are just facts; I am not personally bound to them. I simply am.