Who am I?
The quick answer to the question is a sum of what I do. . .often for a living. But what happens if that goes away? If I am downsized, lose my health so I can't do my work, am I nothing then? This is at best, a blurred picture of reality.
This week I went on a journey along the North Coast Trail on Vancouver Island. It is a remote stretch of coastline accessible for us by a long logging road shuttle on one end, a water taxi on the other and by foot in between. It is perhaps one of the most inspiring beach walks and rainforest "trials" anywhere. It is a trail, with established camps, but unlike others on Vancouver Island it still claims its integrity. Nothing has been usurped by throngs of people with unshakable facades.
On a human journey to remote places, the facades have a chance to exfoliate: a truism on this traverse for me. By the end I was not a mountain guide, writer, brother, uncle, son, lover, someone's X, and less of a person who desires that which is not meant for me. I was not even "Ken Wylie" to Bald Eagles that sored overhead, the whales that spouted a short distance off shore, or the deeply burnished rocks that I trod upon en route. Was I nothing to them?
At one point, I tripped and fell HARD on the cobbles, cracking my "Mountain Guide" shell so that it too could drop away. I picked myself up with a sprained right wrist, saying that I was embarrassed; as the words crossed my lips I could see how ludicrous the concept was. Ego is not the real me either. Of course falling is a reality on this tricky terrain. A place that presented new challenges for my well traveled mountain feet. What shed was a mental construct of myself, to be replaced by my humanity, the pain connected me deeper to my true self.
So what is this true self of which I have been eluding? If it is not what I do then what is it? It is not the thoughts I have, not the tags, labels, past history of wins and losses. The eagle, nor whale do not know these. What do they know? What wisdom can be gleaned through their eyes? They see a being, at the same time unlike and just like them. I am a living breathing, exploring, being which is what they see.
While watching whales one knows of their presence through their breath. The spout, as it shoots up from the water's surface, alerts. At close range, (I learned this week from a highly skilled whale whisperer) it is laden with mist, the olfactory of fish, and a deep deep resonance of life. The reverberation is not the breath, but the thing that underpins. This fathomless force is who I am. And I share it with all others. I just have to scan the vast ocean of my life to catch the magic: one constant that will always be with me until I die. The awareness I have of it while living, is who I really am. One with all else.
Working from this understanding simplifies and brings life into focus.