There is a movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger called Total Recall. A large part of the movie revolves around Arnold’s character discovering who he really is. We all want to know who we really are. Unless we settle into thinking, “Well, this is my life and I’m not going to think about it,” we keep searching until we find the answers.

Who Are We Really?

When we’re born into this world, we quickly take on many different identities and continue to do so as we move through life. But how can we possibly be these things if they’re always changing? Can we truly be something that tomorrow might be different? Of course not! So then, who are we?

We have desires and fears and these develop into conditional responses. But we are not those responses. For example, we currently have a sweet, gentle Labrador named Einstein. My children aren’t afraid of Einstein at all, but some of my kids’ friends, and particularly their parents, are. These kids’ parents were raised in Latin American countries where dogs are wild and often vicious. These people have been conditioned to be afraid of dogs. Their children have picked up on their parents’ fears even though they’ve never been exposed to vicious dogs here in the United States. When these people meet Einstein, they learn not to fear him because he’s gentle and kind, and by doing so, they learn to be comfortable around other dogs.

We Are Not Our Thoughts

Thoughts, fears, and desires all occur in the mind. They are not permanent, so anything that the mind can create or conceive cannot be the ultimate, true reality of who and what we are. Our minds cannot grasp our true reality. All of our self-identifications are absolutely false and cause us bondage. When we become aware of this, we’re on the road to freedom, peace, and enlightenment.

If the absolute of who we are is beyond our mental grasp, is it something that’s beyond us, period? Absolutely not. Who we are is who we’ve always been, always will be, and are right now. If we silence the mind, we can experience it. We don’t know it, we can’t discuss it, but we can experience it. I often like to compare this with chocolate. If you’ve never had chocolate, you may be able to write books about it, but until you’ve tasted chocolate, you don’t know what it’s like.

Be Still, and You Will Find Your Supreme Self

When our minds become still, we become present with our Supreme
self. How is this possible? It’s a lot like we’re in a completely empty space and start creating things. In this empty space, before things start being created, it is so beautiful, rich, and full. The emptiness, the not two, just one unicity is so rich and full that nothing is needed and everything comes out of that.

But what happens is that things do start coming out of it and when they come out, we engage with them. We want more of them or we don’t want them. This process of wanting and not wanting causes us to forget who we are.

Sometimes when we watch a movie, we get so involved in the plot that we forget we’re sitting in the audience. All that we have to do is remember that the movie may be enjoyable, but it’s not who I am. It’s just a movie. Of course we can enjoy our lives and when things go poorly, we can wish they were different. But ultimately, it is still out of the oneness, our not two-ness, that everything comes. The only thing that we are is that Unicity, that Nonduality. The Supreme Self is who we are because we can only be that which always was, always will be, and always is.

The Ultimate Truth

If it were possible – and it isn’t, but if it were – for me to label it, what would I call it? I would call it silent peace or I would call it love. I think we’ve all had the experience of experiencing love so rich, full, and yet so empty that it comes pretty close as a description. It’s the same way I think sometimes when we meditate it can be so peaceful yet so silent.

All that we have to do is realize that we aren’t our thoughts and feelings, even though they continue to occur. We are that from which everything comes. If I can use gold as an example: gold is a beautiful element and we can shape it into so many different ornaments. But it’s still gold when all the creation is over. When it’s melted down, it’s still gold. It’s always been gold and its ultimate nature doesn’t change in any way. It’s always been and always will be gold.

The ultimate truth is that we are. And when we aren’t, we are that. Silence. Beauty. Love.

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Dr. Robert Puff, Ph.D. is clinical psychologist, international speaker and meditation expert who authored, Spiritual Enlightenment: Awakening to the Supreme Reality. A contributing writer to Psychology Today, he has authored numerous other books and creates weekly podcasts and articles on Spiritual Enlightenment, Enlightenment, Nonduality, and Advaita Vedanta at