Who Am I When I Am Not?

1st Room – Karuna – Compassion

Who am I when I am not playing the character I have created?

Who am I when I am not imitating, impersonating, pretending? 

Who am I when I am not trying to please or impress?

Who am I when I am not obsessing with what to say and the right words to use? 

Who am I when I not striving to be perfect, wanting to be someone I am not?

2nd Room – Shanti – Calmness

Who am I when I am not thinking about what I like and dislike, what I approve and disapprove, what I want and don’t want?

Who am I when I am not wanting life to match my expectations, wishing the world and people in it to be as I would like them to be?

Who am I when I am not daydreaming pleasant fantasies, or daymaring scary dramas? 

Who am I when I am not plotting how to satisfy my cravings?

3rd Room – Bhodi – Awakening

Who am I when I am neither the one who is being observed, nor the one who observes?

Who am I when I am not who I think I am?

Who am I and who am I not? Who am I and who am I not, really?

Who am I beyond all the ideas I have about myself?

What remains after all that I think I am is gone?

~ Piero Falci


6/15/2016 – Omega Institute, Rhinebeck, NY.

The genesis of this poem:

Today, Saki Santorelli, one of the instructors of the mindfulness retreat I am attending recited David Whyte’s “Enough,” a poem that I love very much, and that has been a companion in my life for many years now. He said, “David wrote this poem during a silent retreat when he was instructed, just as you were, not to write.” After a pause, Saki added, “Well, I guess that, actually, he was not writing; he was listening.” Well, I, too, listened to the words of this poem in the middle of the silence. What emerged and became evident during these days of silence was not so much my true self but my many false selves; not so much who I am, but much more who I am not. So, it made me ponder: “Who am I when I am not who I think I am?” At the end of the retreat, Saki mentioned that he was pondering on that question, and it made me think how we affect each other’s lives in unexpected ways. I am very grateful for the entire retreat experience, and deeply touched by the generosity of the instructors and participants.


1/15/2017 – IMS – Insight Meditation Society, Barre, MA.

This poem came to me, again, during a silent retreat at the Insight Meditation Society on January of 2017. Originally, I divided it in three free-form strophes and simply gave a number to each (1, 2, 3). More recently, I have been reflecting that although the use of the term would not be rigorously correct, I could refer to each part as a stanza (the word means room, in Italian. See the definition of the term below). And since every morning during this last week I walked through the corridors that give access to the bedrooms of Karuna (Compassion), Shanti (Calmness) and Bhodi (Awakening), the three dormitories at IMS, sounding the bell in the early hours of the day to wake up the retreatants, I felt called to include those names in this poem as a way of reminding me to honor this journey we are in.


Stanza – In poetry, a stanza (from Italian stanza, “room”) is a grouped set of lines within a poem. Stanzas can have regular rhyme and metrical schemes, though stanzas are not strictly required to have either. The term stanza is similar to strophe, though strophe is sometimes used to refer to irregular set of lines, as opposed to regular, rhymed stanzas.



Piero Falci is an author and educator who believes that the inner work that leads to personal awakening and transformation is indispensable to create a wholesome world. He is an explorer of the mysteries of life who loves to observe, reflect, and write, and who not only strives to live a life that matters, but also hopes to inspire others to do the same. He is a promoter of peace who believes in advancing the idea that Heaven is here if we want it to be. He teaches mindfulness meditation, mindful living, and the acclaimed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program as taught at the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare, and Society of the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He organizes Silent Peace Walks.


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