Who am I? The first thing that comes to mind when I ask myself this question is a scene from Disney’s original Alice in Wonderland. Alice stumbles upon a talking caterpillar while wandering through the magical forest. Through languid puffs of hookah smoke, the caterpillar pointedly asks Alice, “Whooooo aaaare yoouuu?” Poor confused Alice responds with, “I hardly know.”
Sans smoke and affectation, this is precisely the question Deepak Chopra asks his guests on the new Chopra Well show, aptly named Who Are You.
In the show’s premier episode with guest star Vinny G. from Jersey Shore, Vinny answers Deepak as many of us would: with his first name. It’s a habit most of us learned in childhood. We define ourselves by our name, our gender, our age, our profession, and countless other labels. But who are we, in essence?
Try this thought experiment. You’ve fallen down a rabbit hole and find yourself navigating an entirely new and bizarre alternate reality. You’ve been stretched, shrunk, bullied, twisted, chased, abandoned and interrogated. Everywhere you turn there are brilliant colors, strange figures and not a familiar face in sight. The talking flowers are the least of your concerns. In this radical paradigm shift, what does your name even mean? At one point in the Disney movie, Alice says, “I’m Alice.” Her companions respond, “What’s an ‘Alice’?” Who are you? And what is this thing called “you”?
In the first Who Are You episode, Deepak asks not only who we are, but if we ever stop to consider who is doing the asking. Occasionally during interactions with other people, I get the uncanny sense that I’m not actually the one standing there talking. It’s as if my true self is somewhere else, in some other words, some other sensations. And then I think, “Whoa. Who is that person?”
In a similar way, Deepak encourages us to remain present while asking the question, independent of our labels. He is unsatisfied with Vinny’s initial response and asks again. “Who are you?” Vinny pauses a moment and then replies, “Consciousness.” It’s an exquisitely simple and profound answer. Consciousness asks the question. And the answer is consciousness. It’s not just rhetoric – this is being at its essence. It’s also hands down the most brilliant thing in any way associated to Jersey Shore. (And note: Vinny is very much his own person, separate from the show. His recently published book, Control the Crazy, is a New York Times bestseller.)
“Who are you?” is a particularly relevant question to ask celebrities, whose identities are often confused in the mire of exploitation and representation. Deepak and his guests explore many facets of identity, life purpose, goals, fears and self-image. Not only are the questions and discussions fascinating in their own right, but it’s also fun to see these well-known personalities (Perez Hilton, Smosh, ShayCarl, to name a few) share their worldviews and beliefs. Don’t forget, there is consciousness behind the persona!
Do you know who you are? One of my mentors taught me a walking meditation. It’s something I do while hiking in the San Gabriel Mountains or walking down La Brea Avenue. With every step, you say in your head, “Here. I. am. I. am. here.” Each word eventually blends with the next, and noun, verb and preposition become one. I am. I am presence. And all is consciousness. What do you think? Send me your thoughts!
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