Exploring the Essence of Self

Who are you? What is the nature of the ‘you’ with whom you identify day in and day out as you move through life, probably without a second thought? Much as you may attempt to define yourself by what you do, what you believe, and what you love, do you ever truly get to capture the essential, elusive, unique qualities that make you, YOU?

The fundamental question: ‘Who Am I?’ is one that for millennia has fascinated and haunted philosophers, artists and poets, as well as spiritual practitioners from all over the planet and, more recently, scientists. When we inquire deeply into the nature of being – piercing through the thicket of beliefs, ideas, desires, roles and images – what is it that we discover?

What, you may be asking, is the value of asking this question? At the heart of the Academy for the Love of Learning’s work is the belief that we human beings have an innate urge to learn and grow – to transform. In order to do this, we not only have to accumulate new knowledge and skills; we must also free ourselves from beliefs and habits that keep us small, and restrict our capacity to be changed. We need to dis-orient in order to orient in new and expansive ways – opening to connection, curiosity, and wonder.

Taking on this inquiry invites a profound and experiential learning about the deepest essence of personhood. Who are you – really? By exploring qualities within our selves that are not readily known to us through our familiar sense of identity, we can liberate creativity and compassion, and release the effort to become someone other than who or what we are. We may also discover that what we thought of as ‘I’ proves to be simply a transient experience, and then awareness shifts to a deep quality of presence in which the spacious, unencumbered sense of self arises moment to moment out of the sea of Being.

During the weekend of September 22 – 24, Academy for the Love of Learning Founder, Aaron Stern, and faculty member, Marianne Murray, will be leading a weekend retreat inviting participants into a dynamic exploration of this most essential question of human being-ness. This retreat is designed as a powerful passage – held with warmth, respect (and even some humor). We invite insight along with the experience of profound stillness: resting within your own presence.

Taking place at the Academy’s beautiful Seton Village campus, this spacious retreat is organized around individual and interactive contemplative sessions, developed from the ‘Who Am I?’ meditation form created by the great Indian sage, Ramana Maharshi. These sessions are woven together with creative practices using art materials, music, and movement, and reflective processes such as writing and walking in nature. Essential to the depth of the experience is the supportive community of the group.