The "Who Am I?" Technique
by Dr. Michael Pollack
The following technique has been adapted from Ramana Maharshi?s meditation of the same name. Its original aim was to calm the mind and free it from irrelevant thoughts in order to reach higher levels of consciousness. With continued and sustained practice it can still be employed in that way. You do not have to be consciously striving to be in touch with your ?spiritual side? to benefit from its use. It can be applied in any situation and, with practice, become a habitual way of dealing effectively with disturbing or destructive thoughts. Please be guided by your intuition in its appropriate use.
Here's How it Works
1. State your thought/feeling/pain (out loud or to yourself). Examples:
I feel angry with John for calling me names.
This work is hard to do.
My toe is hurting because I stubbed it.
I am sad because Mary is not talking to me.
I am worried about my son/daughter.
This person annoys me with his/her bragging.
I am so depressed I feel l want to die.
2. Separate yourself consciously from your thought/feeling/pain by using the third person if applicable. Examples:
Who feels angry because John is calling her/him names? (Not: Calling me names). Remember, you need to separate from that part of you who feels angry, sad, hurt, etc. However, this separation is not a "pushing away" of that painful part. You need to focus on it without fear.
Who finds it hard to do this work?
Who feels a pain in his/her toe? (Concentrate on the pain while you say this.)
Who is sad because Mary is not talking to her/him?
Who is worried about his/her son/daughter?
Who is annoyed by this person’s bragging?
Who feels so depressed he/she wants to die?
3. Now become consciously that part of you who has that thought/feeling/pain; make sure that you concentrate, that you become the feeling, if you are aware of one (which is not necessarily the case), that you "breathe" into it, and then say: "I do", or "I am" (whichever is grammatically correct).
4. Then, as that part of you who has the thought/feeling, say:
WHO AM I?
If the thought/feeling/pain is still there, start again, concentrating well.
If another thought/feeling/pain appears, repeat the process.
Never try to answer the question WHO AM I? by saying, for instance: "I am me", or "I am Mary", etc. The question does not apply to you as a person, but to that part of you that appears to have a problem. More often than not, no thought will surface after the question. The mind will be blank, which is what we want to achieve. Should a thought appear that has a heavy emotional load, i.e. upsets you more than you can handle on your own, picture the event in your mind as though you were watching it on a movie or TV screen. In other words, make it something that happened but not something you are going through now. This rarely occurs, and it is not an adverse reaction; on the contrary. Just make note of it so that it can be worked on further if it feels appropriate. But with constant practice, you will find that you can deal with it yourself, whatever it is.
Familiarize yourself with this technique by using it anytime, anywhere. You may want to close your eyes so as to concentrate better, but this is not necessary, nor even advisable at times, to do so unless you are in a safe place. After a time, it becomes a natural reflex. The benefits that accrue can be remarkable.
The same technique can be used to anchor positive thoughts/feelings, like:
I feel peaceful
Who feels peaceful?
Who am I?
Make sure you focus/concentrate on, even become, the good feeling. See what happens!
At first, people appear confused by the way this technique works. I say to them: "Imagine that a tiger is entering this room. Would I ask you to say: 'I am afraid of this tiger. Who is afraid? I am. Who am I?'"
People invariably laugh and say: "Of course not! We would both escape through the window!"
I then pursue:
Of course you would, because you would be facing a real danger and you would be experiencing a `Fear Fight Flight? reaction caused by adrenaline pumping into your system (shallow and faster breathing, heart pumping faster, tightening diaphragm, etc.) The funny part is that you set off the same reaction with your thoughts, even when there is no real tiger threatening you. I call these thoughts `paper tigers?. In fact, you are literally scaring yourself to death? eventually.
With the Who Am I? technique, you challenge that part of your brain that causes these useless Fear Fight Flight? reactions. After a time, your subconscious learns not to react in such a wasteful manner to thoughts that are only the product of faulty coping mechanisms, of baseless belief systems, of conditioned reflexes, etc., etc.?
Practice makes perfect!