May 23

The “Where Am I?” Game


 May 23

A few months ago, I was cooking while my children sat at the kitchen table working on their homework. As usual, they began bickering about something, and I heard one of them say, “No, this is mine. I have had it for months..”

The following arose as a jovial conversation between the younger child and me:

Me: “Are you sure it is yours?”

Her: “Yes.”

Me: “What makes it yours?”

Her: “Because as I said (with a look of ‘poor dumb Mommy’), I have had it for months. Besides, because I say so.”

Me: “Hmmm.. so it belongs to you.”

Her: “You’re not listening mom. Yes, it does.”

Me: “To whom?”

Her: “Me.”

Me: “Ok, where is this me that has this?”

Her: “Right here in this chair.”

Me: “Where in the chair?”

Her: “In my body.”

Me: “Where in that body?”

Her (thinking a bit): “In my brain.”

Me: “So will I find you if I cut open your brain? Remember the pictures of brains you’ve seen? By looking at those pictures, can you tell who they belong to? Was the person in the brain?”

Her: “Ahh, no. In the heart then.”

Me: “I show you live pictures of hearts all the time. Is the person ever in the heart?”

While the above was transpiring between this younger child (age 9) and me, the older one (age 11) sat listening quietly. At this point, her eyes widened with absolute disbelief and recognition. The following is the conversation with her:

Her: “Gosh, mommy! I’m not in my body at all!!”

Me: “Where are you then?”

Her: “Must be in my mind!”

Me: “Where is this mind where you are?”

Her: “In my brain.”

Me: “In those pictures you’ve seen of brains, is there a part called mind?”

Her: “No.. So, am in my feelings?”

Me: “Do your feelings come and go?”

Her: “Yes.. Ahh.. so I cannot be in my feelings because I am here even when the feeling goes away.. Tell me then mom. Where am I??”

Me (big smile): “Sorry, can’t do. You have to find out for yourself.”

At this point, I just laughed and changed the topic. A few days later, I was driving the older child back late at night from an activity.. After several minutes of silence, she began:

Her: “Mommy, can we play the where am I game again?”

Me (taking several minutes to figure out what she was talking about): “Sure.”

Her: “So, I am not in my body, mind or feelings. But I know I’m here. Where am I then?”

Me: “You tell me.”

Her: “Why am I not my thoughts again?”

Me: “Do you know you are thinking?”

Her: “Yes. Always.”

Me: “So are there two of you? The one that thinks and the one that knows?”

Her (momentary disbelief again): “Gosh! No. I am the one that knows. Because even when thoughts don’t come, I know there are no thoughts.”

Me (heart bursting with joy): “Yes!”

Her: “When did you figure this out mom?”

Me: “Certainly not at your age.”

Her: “Does everyone figure out that they are not in their body or mind?”

Me: “Eventually.”

Her: “If I am not in my feelings, that is amazing. I don’t have to worry about being sad.”

Me: “Exactly!”

After several moments of pregnant silence,

Me (mostly to myself): “The most important question you can ask is who you are. And the first step in that is to ask where you are. Nothing else you achieve in life will come close to knowing where you are not.”

Her: “This is so cool, mommy. Can we play this game every time we are alone?”

Me: “Yes. Any time you want to.”

Just like that! And it took me a few decades to “get” this even intellectually..

My children, my greatest teachers.

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