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Who Am I, or You?

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Author: 
Karnamrita Das

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Feeling unusually sober and contemplative, I wrote a rough poem today about how I feel after reading two devotee memoirs, as I think about compiling my own. While I will share it after this introduction, I have so much more to say, to properly convey, all I am feeling today. I continue to contemplate death as as a motivating meditation to live today, and to endeavor to have no possessive attachment weights, that if not addressed, will propel me to work out issues with others in future lives; too many times I have examined my life up to this point and all that I use to define myself, which seem like sand castles, the blowing wind, morphing clouds, crashing ocean waves.

We generally identify as ourselves as our thoughts, feelings, and what we contemplate such as our desires—desires for things, relationships, or experiences, and also our bodily identity of race, ethnicity or the color of our skin, gender or sexual orientation, our family of origin and the one we have created, and memories of past experiences and their principle players or actors. I find it fascinating, though disconcerting to understand how fleeting and temporary these self-concepts are, being only a disguise or transitory covering for our soul, or our real self, consciousness, the observer and animator of matter.
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During my LSD days, close to half a century ago, I had a number of unsettling quasi-spiritual/subtle material experiences, which left an indelible impression on my mind. I would look at my hands frequently and see so many different kinds of bodily hands I have had before, or stare at my face in a mirror and see countless faces staring back at me. I felt so disconnected from my body and everything associated with it. I also experienced something like ego death—temporarily of course, yet so profound, shocking, life altering. I had not yet learned to be in the world but know I am not of it, and while I'm make progress in that art, I am still a work in progress.

I was looking through my bodily eyes with no context, no past memories of this life, or desires for anything. I perceived only that I existed and was aware; I had no beginning or end—only that I was, or “I am.” I couldn’t define myself with any references to existing in this body (in all the ways I outlined in the above paragraph) by which we define ourselves. I was in a limbo state, or in a juncture between the material and spiritual platform of existence.
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I looked at the world like an infant must, with no way to identify or distinguish any one thing from something else. I felt one with everything, and yet, I couldn’t stay in that state. I was being pulled out of my body, but I still had to choose whether to live, relinquish my body (die), or merge into existence. From great universal peace and expansiveness I then felt disoriented and freaked out since I couldn’t continue into the unknown, due to karma and unfinished necessities, and then I felt compelled to again define myself with matter to learn the lessons that would free me from all material designations, awakening my soul.

And here I am today, sharing with you to feed your thoughts, wondering if I am ready for the transition, or what I have left to give and accomplish in my last days or years.
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Reading devotee memoirs,
headlines of full lives
catching the feelings
to slightly enter their world
in a few hundred pages.

Completed in hours
during a few weeks
wondering who they are
or I am—really,
behind the fleshy veil?

Then the book
returns to the self
forgotten and sad
wanting to be reread,
valued and treasured—
to exist forever.

As I think of my life,
to share it in ink
or on blinking screens
I wonder at its value,
& why we are compelled
to remember and share it.

An extension of ourselves
the book falls short
to capture our essence
though perhaps a scent
or clue as to how
we have become
who we appear to be.

We want to be understood
and to understand others;
We settle on guesses
or a working definition
though we remain a mystery
if perceiving only superficial externals
that can’t truly define us.

Regardless of its limitations,
if our story uplifts
and encourages others
on their spiritual journey,
then it’s worth telling
giving a taste of the possible
beyond temporary things,
the joy of awakening.
Shri Radha Gopnath inspires us photo DSCN4902_zpsxwdzwrra.jpg