Who do you think you are?

There’s a story of an anxious philosophy student who goes to see his professor. ‘Please Sir,’ he asks, ‘I’ve got a question that’s eating me alive. I must find the answer. Do I exist?’

The professor turns to him with a withering look and replies, ‘Who wants to know?’

The yearning to discover our true nature is universal. Many regard this as such an impossible question, they ignore it altogether, but others recognise that when one knows the true nature of this ‘I’, they find a potent source of freedom and potential.

So who do you think you are? A body? A mind? Your feelings? If not – who and what are you?


You are not your body

One morning, I knock on my son’s door. ‘Are you up?’

A loud groan, then, ‘My body’s up, but I’m not!’ Is this a figure of speech, or does it reflect something more significant?

When you look in the mirror, who is doing the looking? Are you a collection of organs, muscles and bones covered in skin, an animal that has somehow learned how to think? You are physiologically very similar to some other higher mammals. No – your body is not what you are. You even refer to it as ‘mine’.

You are not your body because:

It constantly changes

You are born into a tiny, helpless body. It grows, matures, ages and dies – but your sense of self goes on.

With every breath, you inhale and exhale an astonishing ten thousand billion atoms from the environment – each one modifying your physical make-up. The cells in your body are constantly replaced. You grow a new skin every month and a new liver every two months. Your skeleton, which appears so solid and permanent, regenerates every three months. So do your muscles. You grow a complete new brain every year: yes, even the brain cells, where the memories, intelligence and knowledge are stored, are constantly replaced.

  1. The ‘I’ remains intact

 How long is it since you last rode a bicycle? If it’s more than one year ago, the body that cycled is now no more, and yet within a few seconds of sitting on the saddle, you’re as proficient as you ever were. Your old body died cell by cell – but your consciousness lives on.

Individuals suffer the most horrendous injuries, yet the ‘I’ remains intact. Thousands of serious accident victims continue to enjoy a high quality of life, their sense of ‘I’ undiminished.

Imagine: if your arms and legs were chopped off, would you still feel the same sense of ‘I’? Of course you would, because even when your body is completely paralysed you remain a fully self-conscious being.

 3. The ‘I’ is always there

Even when you are completely unaware of the body, e.g. under general anaesthetic, in a coma, in a deep sleep, or when you are knocked unconscious, the ‘I’ is still there observing.

Have you ever been with someone as they die? One moment, their body had life, the next it had not. And yet, although they were gone, their body was still there, exactly as it was a few seconds before, no lighter, no heavier, but completely lifeless. Whatever it is that kept them alive had gone.

 4. Brain activity is an effect, not a cause

 The brain is where our choices are executed, but in itself it has no power to choose. Scientists can identify which part of the brain reflects specific operations, like rational thinking, motor functions, memory and emotional responses – but they have not been able to find what causes it to happen.

Are You Your Mind?

Your mind, unlike the brain, is non-physical. It is the thoughts, ideas, memories and automatic regulatory systems that keep your body functioning. It can’t be seen, measured, touched or weighed. Perhaps (and this is a startling thought) it’s not in the body at all!

You are not your mind because there is something in you that is aware that and what you are thinking.

This ‘something’ is capable of understanding the need to monitor your thoughts. It can examine your thoughts and choose to accept or reject them. If the ‘I’ were just another thought or collection of thoughts, this would mean one thought is controlling another. Is this possible?

We know a great deal about the mind, and our knowledge is growing all the time. But where does this knowledge of the mind come from? Obviously it must come from somewhere other than the mind!

Thoughts come and go, but self-consciousness endures. It is possible to stop thinking (Eastern mystics become very adept at this) and yet remain conscious of the ‘I’. And insane people sometimes ‘lose their minds’ but remain self-conscious.

Are You Your Emotions?

Similarly, emotions change all the time, and some even cease altogether as we become more ’emotionally intelligent’ – but the ‘I’ goes on. Moreover, it is possible to be completely emotionless, in deep meditation for instance, yet still have a solid sense of ‘I’.

You are the Witness

The mind, body and emotions are something ‘I’ possess, which implies that the act of thinking involves the existence of a thinker and the mind is only an instrument. So who is this ‘I’?

You are that which watches the mind and body in action; the Witness, not what is witnessed.

The real nature of this ‘I’ goes beyond the limitations and capabilities of the senses. We know we cannot detect everything through our five senses. Dogs, for example, have a wider range of hearing and sense of smell than we; bats can pick up vibrations we can’t, and eagles can see much further than we. We have instruments which can detect stimuli which are out of range of our sensory equipment. It is beyond doubt that our five senses can’t be trusted to sense everything there is.


Spirit is just a name for the Intelligence that sparks your body to life and leaves it when you die. Its existence is fully compatible with the latest findings of quantum physics. Once you discover the truth that you are a Spiritual being, you’re able to step beyond your previous limitations. How? By recognising that this is the part of you that has the power to think – in fact, this is the only power it has, and it is the power that shapes and directs our lives!

©David Lawrence Preston, 18.6.2016

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365 Spirituality book

How to Books, 2007

Stragne but true!

Wehn I was at socohl, we wree cagitatsied for poor spleling,  but it semes that in smoe circumstances it’s not taht important. Adorccing to rsceearh at an Elisngsh uvinterisy, it dones’t mettar what odrer the leretts in a wrod are as long as the frist and lsat lteetrs are in the rihgt pclae. The rset can be in any oderr and popele can slitl raed it with no plobrem.

Tihs is bcauese we do not read erevy ltteer by itslef, but look at the wrod as a wlohe. The unsconoucis mnid maeks partetns and reganorises the ltteres so tehy make sesne.

Smoe say it’s coptleme bkollocs, but I don’t tnihk so? How aoubt you?

How using the right brain makes you more creative

In the past, intelligence was seen as something inherited in fixed amounts which couldn’t be altered. Some people were thought to be more creative than others because they were born with special talents.

Nowadays, we know that the brain has two parts, a left and right hemisphere, each with its own special functions. This discovery thirty years ago changed the entire foundation of psychology, neurology and education.

In broad terms, left brain activity is related to thinking (the ‘cognitive’ domain) and right brain activity to intuition, emotion and creativity (the ‘affective’ domain). To develop creativity, therefore, we must make more use and better use of the right brain. Then we tap into the same resource that great men and women down the ages used to fashion great works of art, music and sculpture and major scientific discoveries.

Most people have a tendency to favour one hemisphere or the other, but for many activities we rapidly alternate between the two.

Some activities are predominantly left brain based: reading, speaking, calculating, computer programming etc. Others mainly utilise the right brain, for example, drawing, playing music, dancing, and long-term memory. The creation of new ideas is a right brain function; evaluating and developing these ideas is a left brain task. Sometimes (e.g. creative writing) the use of left and right brain switches so quickly that it is impossible to tell which is being used.

When both sides are working together and contributing equally, the brain performs at its optimum level.

Are you more left brained or right brained?

Do you tend to prefer to think logically, take things one at a time, step by step, analyse, calculate and use words?

Or do you process things more emotionally, think in pictures, use colour, ‘feel’ and daydream?

Or both equally?

You can develop both sides of your brain

Long ago, Professor Robert Ornstein of the University of California discovered that people who had been educated to predominantly use one side of the brain had great difficulty in using the other. He also discovered that when the unused side of the brain was stimulated, the result was a vast increase in the overall ability of a person – in the region of five to ten times.

To improve your creative mind-power, therefore, first find out which side of your brain is under-used, then concentrate on developing that side.

For many of us the right is the weaker. This is because our schooling encourages us to make more use of the left brain. Politicians stress the importance of the ‘3 R’s’ – reading, writing and ‘rithmetic. We are encouraged to think about the world in words and numbers. Art, music, dance and more imaginative pursuits are pushed to the periphery.

The balanced use of left and right brain can help you to:

  • Become more creative
  • Learn more quickly
  • Improve your memory
  • Solve problems faster
  • Improve communication
  • Be more intuitive
  • Understand body language

Many of the great artists and inventors had the ability to utilise both sides equally. They appeared to tap into a source of inspiration beyond their contemporaries. What were they tuning in to? Some psychologists believe it is their own unconscious minds; others that it is the Collective Unconscious of all humankind; still others that it was some form of Universal Consciousness.

Whatever it was, it is something to which we all have access through the right brain. However, we usually receive only the germ of an idea from there and must use our more structured left to develop it. The right hemisphere is a rich source of inner wisdom but you have to trust it. It’s a quiet voice, a subtle feeling. Tune in. It’s like having a wise being inside you, always on hand to offer guidance and support.

Get started! If you are predominantly left-brained spend more time on activities which utilise the right brain. Try to avoid analytical or calculating thoughts. Allow yourself to daydream. After one month, review your progress. What difference has this made to your life?

©David Lawrence Preston, 7.4.2016

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Life Coach book cover

How To Books, 2004