As some of you may know, I am currently based in India for several months so in this article I’d like to share an important lesson I have learned during my stay here.
I’ve realized how we live our lives unaware of how the ego wreaks havoc in our existence and colors the way we view ourselves and the world. It prevents us from experiencing our true nature and has put fear in the driver’s seat within each of us and society. So what is the ego exactly, how does it affect us and what do we do about it?
The ego is a thought that gives us a sense of personal identity but in reality, we are not this “I” we’re told we are since childhood. When searched for as a form, this I is found to be merely as a thought and existing at the level of the mind only. It’s a mental construction within the human brain: animals nor babies have any idea of this concept. “Being a man” is only a notion invented by our society, an idea that definitely has its purpose in a given context, but that fundamentally only exists in our intellect. Year after year, this story has been taken for granted, as if it were the ultimate reality. Our minds are victims of a “personification” process that intensifies year after year and that prevents us from seeing the universal truth which is that we are not simply a person, but pure consciousness, the only component of the entire universe.
We believe that the I represents a fully-fledged entity and the mind analyzes what our senses experience (like what our eyes see) from an egocentric point of view, concluding that we are all rationally separated. Consequently, the mind works at differentiating what happens to the I and what concerns the rest. The ego interprets some phenomena as threats for its own existence, often making “new” a synonym of “danger”. That’s why we tend to stay in our comfort zones, to protect, to make plans, to rationalize, to make the future more certain. In societies like in the West, we’ve built our entire lifestyles on these ideas but have almost never been told that the I is an artificial concept, a notion that can certainly be helpful in a given context albeit nothing more than a mental construct. We should be warned to not be attached to this I and to not believe that this I constitutes our identity, our true nature.
By becoming attached to the I we spend most of our time on Earth missing an essential point: life is perpetuating itself through us and doesn’t need the constant input of our minds to keep going. We just have to let life flow and let the soul take the steering wheel. Instead of stressing about how to control our existence, we’d better rest peacefully safe in the knowledge that our hearts will guide us through life.
There is nowhere to go — no state to “reach” — to experience this truth. The Self (yes, with a capital “s”) connected with the Universe is always within us; it IS us. We simply don’t realize it, we don’t feel it; we’re stuck on many levels of thoughts and conditioning that prevent us from experiencing it. We need to deconstruct our identity and disconnect from all the conditioned stories attached to the I to come back to the Source — untouched, pristine, pure. How to concretely do that? Here are three simple and practical ideas coming from my personal experience:
- Meditate. This is a powerful tool. Close your eyes, focus on the breath and don’t follow the thoughts, simply let them go. By simply breathing and “being”, we gradually calm the mind — the ego. When the mind has become quiet, we settle into the nature of things, into who we really are and let cosmic energy flow. Other tools include but are not limited to the practice of yoga as a science of Self-realization, cleansing and opening the chakras, praying, chanting and the like. Religions are also supposed to help us experience this universal truth. That is why Mahatma Gandhi wisely said: “Truth is one, paths are many”.
- Become an observer. We can become the observers of our own lives by adopting an outsider perspective. For instance, we can change how we describe what is happening to us (not when we talk to people, but in our thoughts). Instead of thinking: “I am hungry”, we can tell ourselves “the body is hungry”. It’ll help us become detached — step back — from the false identity our minds have created, from the “personification” process we are victims of. Another example is that when you become angry, observe how your anger behaves. You’ll often quickly realize that this behavior doesn’t make sense, it’s just something happening at the level of the ego.
- Be at the service of others. Overcome your ego-centeredness by volunteering, helping the world and uplifting humanity without any expectation about what you’re going to get in return. “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others” also said Mahatma Gandhi. This may consist in aiding the poor or needy. It’s not limited to supporting people, but extends to helping animals, plants and the planet itself, including various forms of political, environmental and social activism, as well as nurturing, caring, teaching, writing. Join other people in collaborative projects; working in a common task is another way to free yourself from the illusion of the ego. These actions don’t require an overnight switch in your life, but rather start by finding a bit of time during evenings, weekends and holidays to volunteer on a project that matters to you.
When you’re finally ready to make the long journey from the ego to the cosmos, from the head to the heart, this will probably change your whole perception of life. If you’re interested in understanding deeper how dropping the ego can lead to immense development, please hit the reply button and ask any question. I’ll do my best to guide you. Schedule a Skype call if it’s easier.
Looking forward to hearing from you and happy journey through awakening.