Who am I?  I can answer that by giving you my name, age and nationality. I could supply my contact details and let you have a photograph. You could follow me round and see where I sleep and eat; with whom I spend my time; the clothes I wear and how I look; you could observe what I do and where I do it. And you’d think that you’d end up with a pretty good idea of who I am.   But the person whom you will have watched, is not who I think of as being the real me: it’s not whom I consciously know myself to be.


Unless I look in a mirror I never see the person you’ve been watching, and I have a limited idea of how I might have come over to you.  The person I think of as the ‘real’ me, is the inner life, the activity of my conscious mind: the person who was feeling, thinking, reacting in my head, while you were watching me. You could watch and have very little idea of what was going on in my conscious mind. You could end up none the wiser as to who I know myself to be.


With the help of GPS you could say exactly where I am at any given time. You could weigh and measure me, and be precise about my size. But I’d be hard pressed to say where and what my conscious mind is, for it has no position in space. I tend to think of it as behind my eyes, because that’s where I am aware of it, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s where it actually is. And if I close my eyes I’m not at all sure where it is.  The human brain can be dissected on a table, my mind can’t be.


Neither is it easy to place it in time for it seems to have a rhythm and pace of its own. Something that happened years ago may be more really present to my mind than what happened a few minutes ago. My memory can put my inner self in a place I haven’t physically visited for many years, and my hopes can place me well into the future. And as to where and when my dreams take me, I often have no idea. And yet this is who I know to be the real me.


This raises all manner of interesting questions about consciousness, about which there is currently much fascination, but little hard information and agreement. That’s not such a bad state to be in: fascination with interesting questions is much to be preferred to answers.


[1]      I am very aware that I have only a limited control over my mind, my inner life often seems to have a ‘mind of its own’. Why does a memory suddenly pop up in my mind when there has been no conscious trigger for it to do so?  Why do I get these occasional ‘eureka’ moments, often on waking in the middle of the night, when what was an insolvable problem, is suddenly abundantly clear?  Where does a seemingly original and creative idea come from?


[2]      It is possible to make a conscious decision to try and be more aware of what is going on in my mind: to become more self-aware.  Some people find this easier to do then others, some seem to have a positive gift for it, others shy well away from it. Does it matter?  I think that it does.  Knowing oneself is surely key to accepting oneself, becoming oneself, and achieving some degree of inner contentment.


[3]      Discovering which of the voices and choices that influence how I feel and behave are mine and which are other peoples which I have unconsciously absorbed, and which are those of the culture in which I’ve grown up, is essential to that process.  I can deliberately choose which of those voices to heed and encourage and which to send packing. I can set out to change and shape who I am, if I wish.  If I do so, I am likely to discover that this inner self is on an interior, often lonely, but potentially deeply rewarding, journey, through life, to which I am invited to wake up and trust. I’m also free to ignore it, but the journey will go on anyway.


[4]      Does consciousness only exist within my body?  Recent studies on after death experiences, near death experiences, out of body experiences, religious experiences, visionary experiences seem at the very least to suggest the possibility that consciousness can and sometimes does.


[5]      Does consciousness exist just within me, or does it relate to, belong to, or is a part of, something beyond itself?  That might seem a silly question, but a child coming across a television or radio for the first time is likely to think that the pictures and sounds are produced by the equipment they see in front of them. Whereas we know that the television and radio will be picking up signals from elsewhere, possibly a very long way away.  Might our minds be able to pick up signals coming from outside itself?  And if so from where or what or whom?  And how does it do so?  Can it ‘tune itself’ in if it chooses?


[6]      Being present at the birth of my children left me full of awe and wonder at creation. Understanding something of the biology didn’t seem to remotely do justice to the experience. Where did this gift of life come from?

Death poses the same question. I’ve seen someone die, and the reality of their dead body after death, and I know that something has gone out of it. The life force, the energy, the consciousness of the person is no longer there. But where has it gone?

Where does consciousness come from and where does it go to?  Is it the part of us that survives death?  Does it pre-exist our birth?


[7]      Our minds seem to have a powerful need to relate to other minds. We want to share what we think, and feel; to communicate our loves and hates, when we are hurt, and when we are joyful; what we hope for and our deepest desires. It is important for us to have what’s going on inside us acknowledged and affirmed by others.  Meeting someone who seems to understand and relate to who we consciously know we are is a source of huge delight and can unite us most profoundly. Its also a source of great anger if we subsequently feel ourselves betrayed.

How can we reveal our inner lives that others might know them? Unless we have some self-awareness how likely is that to happen?  Are we willing to take the necessary risks involved in doing so?

And how do we learn to read the inner lives of others? Is it through the voice, what they say and how they say it, or the eyes?  Do they express it through their body? Or the way they dress?  By the choices they make?  Or is there something indefinable that we recognise but would find difficult to put into words, and can we trust it?


I find these questions fascinating. But to what extent are they answerable?