Knowing Your Self vs. Knowing About Yourself

What’s your story – your history? I could say that mine began in Alberta where I was born and then I would go on to list all the places I’ve lived, things I’ve done, places I’ve worked, events that have been significant in my life (both good and bad), what I’ve learned from my Mom and Dad and my sons, where I’ve travelled, who has done me wrong and who has inspired me, what I am proud of and what I regret, health challenges faced, whom I’ve loved and whom I’ve lost, my family life, etc. This is all ABOUT me…but who am I really? Who are you really?

From the time the very first human ever pondered his or her existence to present time, this question has been asked. Isn’t it funny that millions of years later there is still no definitive answer? We keep searching, questioning, speculating…Maybe that is our real purpose – to keep seeking the answer until we come to the realization that we really don’t have to look so far after all. Deepak Chopra says, “The true spiritual secret is this: what you seek, you already are. True success is discovering your inner divinity – it’s the ability to love and have compassion, trust your intuition, and awaken to your unlimited creative nature”. This isn’t just New Age wisdom – long before any modern-day spiritual teacher wrote about it, the ancient yogic sages knew that they were much more than their physical bodies or their stories. In fact, they declared “Aham Brahmasmi”  – I am Brahman or I am Spirit or I am pure consciousness. I am Divine…

Fast forward to 2015 in a world that is so complicated, so busy, so in need of connection and so desperate for something more…Maybe our stories have become so complex that we’ve lost ourselves in the details. We identify more with the content of our lives and the idea that we are what we DO; what we have achieved or not achieved; what has been done to us or what we have done to ourselves; what we look like physically; what we have in our possession; what others think of us. We think we know all about ourselves but again we ask the question – who am I really? How do I know my true Self?

Well that’s where yoga comes in – the practice of being very present in the NOW; observing the story of our lives and understanding that the stories are just perceptions and thoughts – movements of the mind. Sit quietly with those movements and let them settle so that clarity arises. Clarity that leads to the knowledge that I am Divine and more than my story. This is exactly what the first three Yoga Sutras tell us:

Atha yoga anuasanam – Now begins the practice of Yoga.

Yogas chitta vritti nirodhah – Yoga is the calming of the thought waves of the mind.

Tada drastuh svarupe vasthanam – When the mind is calm, we see our true nature, who we really are.

The answer to the question of who we really are can be very esoteric or quite simple. Maybe it can be expressed in words or maybe it defies verbal explanation and is more a “knowingness” or understanding. I like this perspective from Eckhart Tolle’s book “A New Earth – Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose“:

“What is spiritual realization? The belief that you are spirit? No, that’s a thought…Spiritual realization is to see clearly that what I perceive, experience, think, or feel is ultimately not who I am, that I cannot find myself in all those things that continuously pass away…What remains is the light of consciousness in which perceptions, experiences, thoughts, and feelings come and go. That is Being, that is the deeper, truer I. When I know myself as that, whatever happens in my life is no longer of absolute but only of relative importance. I honor it, but it loses its absolute seriousness, its heaviness. The only thing that ultimately matters is this: Can I sense my essential Beingness, the I Am, in the background of my life at all times?…Or am I losing myself in what happens, losing myself in the mind, in the world?”

Your story – your history – is still relevant and important in understanding much about who you are and who you are not. Tolle says, “In the seeing of who you are not, the reality of who you are emerges by itself”. Investigate your story but don’t get lost in it, don’t identify with it…go beyond it and uncover your true Self.


I Am




  1. yogatravels1 said,

    April 24, 2015 at 7:19 am

    Beautifully said Anne. Being who you are based on your Life story is often soooo limiting. Being who you really believe yourself to be without that story is the work. Your essence, if you are brave enough to listen to it (because this often means change on many levels) allows you to BE right here, right now, no before no after, only this present loving moment. Again, again and again. Every moment new, every moment present.

  2. ANNE STUBBS said,

    April 24, 2015 at 7:48 am

    Yes, Varuna, bravery is required for sure. The “willingness” to go there is necessary for transformation, even if “there” is a challenge in the moment.

  3. Elizabeth Cole said,

    May 2, 2015 at 4:57 am

    I appreciate your sentiments but as a believer in the great I AM that is Jesus/God only He is Divine or perfect and I find following His Word the BIBLE is all I need to know myself as His creation. just my world view
    You and your yogis can choose to differ. I love and appreciate you classes thank you for being you

    • ANNE STUBBS said,

      May 3, 2015 at 7:53 pm

      Yoga is just one of the many paths on the journey to discovering one’s Self. Some of these paths have fundamental differences and others have close parallels and similarities. In my view, if one’s path makes them a more compassionate, kind, loving, and forgiving person who takes responsibility for their actions, then that is the path for them. Thank YOU for being a regular participant in my classes over the years!

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