by Anna Rohleder

Who, or what, is the real “me”? In today’s world, with the proliferation of social media, i-devices, and various other tools that support the ego – which can sometimes be as literal as a selfie stick – it seems more daunting than ever  to discern the still small voice of truth amid the noise of self-promotion.

Yet with effort and intention, it is possible. The speakers at Wednesday’s Sacred World panel on The True Self panel offered both philosophical perspectives as well as practical advice drawn from their own spiritual traditions. Here are some highlights from the session on how it can be done:


  • Embrace the mystery.
    For many, the spiritual path begins with the acknowledgement that we are strangers to ourselves. In the words of Brother Paul Quenon: “Being at a loss for the answer to the question ‘Who am I really?’ is the only serious and sincere answer.” The world offers various identities based on the roles we play in society: through our work, our family – even our religion. Yet the true self is a matter of being, not doing. And in opening up to the idea that there is really nowhere to go and nothing to do to find the true self, “there is already the sense of a gift,” as Brother Paul said. “The basis of faith is that I am loved and being human is a sign of that.”
  • Take everyday challenges as spiritual opportunities.
    “We can either take the fact that we’re here as a terrible misfortune, or say, ‘How wonderful!’,” said Pravarajika Vrajapana. She told the story of bringing her aging father around to accepting her choice to become a Hindu nun by telling him that she loved him rather than arguing with him. Thus: relating to our circumstances with gratitude gets us out of the small self’s limited perspective of wanting to be right or superior.
  • Don’t believe everything you think.
    Gerardo Abboud shared the Buddhist perspective that our default way of viewing the world is fundamentally flawed. We believe that there is a separate world ‘out there’ from the person ‘in here’. This basic misconception is the basis for greed, anger, delusion and all the other afflictions that cause us suffering. By engaging in meditation, and starting to observe that you are not your feelings and thoughts, the illusion of separateness becomes less compelling, As a result, life becomes lighter and easier, and even this very serious and important quest to discover “the true self” becomes something that does not need to be taken quite so seriously.