Day 17: A meditation to check your ego

Try this simple 5-step meditation on the question “Who am I?” to look beyond your ego’s definition of you and discover what lies beneath.
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Try this simple 5-step meditation on the question “Who am I?” to look beyond your ego’s definition of you and discover what lies beneath.
Woman Walking in Field

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Ah, the dreaded ego. It gets a bad rap, but your ego may actually be the key to happiness—if you know how to work with it. Try this simple on the question “Who am I?” from Sally Kempton, who teaches meditation and spiritual wisdom workshops around the world. Use this practice to help you look beyond your ego’s definition of you and discover what lies beneath.

5-Step "Who Am I?" Meditation

1. Settle into your body.

Come into a comfortable, seated posture, with your eyes closed, and your hands folded in your lap. Lengthen your back, and let your chin move back so you feel as if your head is being suspended by a cord from the ceiling. Scan your body, noticing and softening any tightness in the shoulders, face, thighs, belly, arms, and hands. Take 5 deep inhalations and exhalations.

2. Focus on your breath.

Become aware of the rise and fall of the breath. Let your breathing be natural and relaxed as it brings you into the present moment. Feel the coolness of the breath as it flows in the nostrils and the warmth as it flows out. Notice where you feel the breath in your body. Do you feel it in the chest and shoulders? In the diaphragm or belly?

3. Quiet the mind.

Sensing the flow of the breath, inhale with the thought “I am.” Feel the energy of the words mingling with your breath, flowing into your inner body. Then, with the exhalation, feel the space that these words leave in your consciousness. Continue to repeat the pure mantra “I am” without attaching any other thoughts to it. Stay here for several minutes if you can, allowing yourself to become more and more relaxed.

4. Practice inquiry.

As your mind quiets, begin to drop in the question, “Who am I, without words? Without thoughts? Without memories or emotions?” Pay attention to the awareness that opens up. If words or emotions arise, allow them to be there. Identify them—“thoughts,” “sadness,” or “confusion”—and return to the question. You’re not looking for an answer. Look past the answers that arise to experience the bare awareness that is your sense of being, of pure existence.

5. Rest in awareness.

This sense of pure existence is there, and as you practice this meditation, it will eventually reveal itself. Continue your inquiry, and see if you can gently rest for a second or two in the wordless awareness that immediately follows the question. The opening into awareness may only last for a few seconds. If you get hung up on your thoughts, start over: Return to the breath, and the mantra “I am.” Then, ask the question again, and notice what arises. Stay with the practice for as few as 5 minutes or as many as 20 minutes. Then open your eyes, and return to your day.

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