Discerning the Self: Finding Out Who You Are and What You Feel

By BijaB

The truth is, you are not your emotions—or your thoughts or your fears.

When you discern your emotions, you become more aware of who you are. And it's important to be curious and playful about asking yourself who you are. 

So, who are you? Do you define yourself by your past, present, or future accomplishments; by your profession or your income; by your spiritual beliefs or your physical attributes? Or do you define yourself by something transcending all these things?

If there was nothing you needed to do, create, add to, or separate yourself from who you are right now, who would you be?

The principles of Emotional Yoga say: You don't need to find yourself, you need to discover or perhaps uncover yourself. This is the real practice of discernment. When you discern your emotions, you can easily be aware of the one who is doing the feeling.

The truth is, you are not your emotions—or your thoughts or your fears. Having an emotion is simply having a powerful energy moving through you. Once you consciously discern the difference between you and the emotions you are having, your emotions will just keep on moving through. Feeling your body, feeling your emotions, and noticing the one who feels are all yoga techniques to help you recognize that there is a big difference between what you feel and who you are.

In the spiritual tradition of yoga, even the most elementary procedures are practices of discernment, helping us realize the degree to which we lose ourselves to the objects of our perception. When we actually experience this realizing awareness, we are experiencing what yoga calls the "yoga state"—the state of pure discernment.

In the following inquiry, you are not processing information or analyzing something. You are standing back and viewing the whole, discerning what matters and what does not, feeling the depth, the meaning of things.

  • Try pushing back into the source of your awareness and ask yourself:

Am I the objects outside of me? Am I my feelings? Am I my thoughts? Or am I effortlessly aware of all these things?

  • Say to yourself and feel:

I am more than just my body. I am more than my mind. I am more than the emotions I see and feel. I am the one who sees, perceives, and feels. I am the one who observes.

  • Dive deep inside yourself and discover what is real. Whatever happens, it happens to you. Whatever you do, the doer is in you. You are the one experiencing all of this. You are the one who is here right now. Feel the difference between the words you are reading, the experience of reading, and the one who is actually doing the reading.
  • You are the observing self, the discerning self. But how deep, how high do you go?
  • Go deeper, higher, wider. Push back into the very heart of your self. Become aware of your own field of attention. Realize it in yourself, in nature, in everyone, and engage it gracefully in everything you do.

For more about the practice of emotional discernment, buy my book, Emotional Yoga.

(Photo: painting by Jules Olitski)

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