“Becoming free of Ego means becoming free of thought, identification with thought. That’s the end of the Ego. It may reassert itself from time to time, but at least its the Awakening.” – Eckhart Tolle [video-link]
When you read enough Mythology, fairy tales, and religion, you start to realize that the most important archetype, the most important theme, if you will, that comes ringing through all the symbols, is the idea of Sacrifice. Now, in most of the stories, the sacrifice is literal, whether it be animals upon the alter, or even human beings, perhaps most famously rendered in the image of Crucifixion of the “Christ.” Taken literally, it’s very off putting, if not downright horrific to the modern reader. But when you start to read the images symbolically, a whole new realization opens up. For instance the Christ story could be read as psychologically sacrificing the impulses of the flesh, the desires of the flesh, as well as its fears, in order to give birth to the “spiritual” body. Read that way, the modern reader can use these stories as guides to real “religious” (re-linking to the Soul) experiences of their own.
Having read a lot of this material one has the realization that the Sacrifice, in its essence, is about sacrifice of the Ego. One gets the strong sensation, through reading these materials, and also through religious practices such as yoga and meditation, that if one could just simply “Sacrifice the Ego,” not only would a lot of problems be solved, not only would a lot of happiness enter your life, you would not only discover, but start automatically living and fulfilling your true destiny, your true purpose. It’s “the track” that Joseph Campbell talks about in the following saying:
If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. – Joseph Campbell (link)
So, the question becomes, “What is Ego?” If we are going to destroy it, dissolve it, or at the very least, reduce it, it would helpful to know exactly what we are dealing with. Today, while listening to a Deepak Chopra interview on Youtube, the interviewer asked him this exact question, and I thought he gave a very enlightening answer that I wanted to remember. So I’m going to write it down:
The characteristics of the Ego are, ‘I am either superior or inferior to someone. I need to control, manipulate, insist, beg, cojole, convince, in order to have control over the situation. I have to really try hard. And, it’s always really full of fear. The Ego is full of fear. The Ego is our Self Image. It’s not our Soul. The Ego is built up through opinions, through public opinions, and uses ‘agency power’…the power of money, the power of political office. The power of being President of the company, or the state, or the Country. That’s agency power. The power of the Soul comes from a much deeper strength. (Here’s a link to the exact moment in the Interview on Youtube).
That’s a lot to ingest, but really for me, while I was walking and listening to this, was the very first statement, ‘I am either Superior or Inferior to someone.’ that gave me a flash of Enlightenment. All my life, without realizing it, those two “see-sawing”, almost directly opposite feelings have dominated me in my relations to others. And often it will be about the very same person, which is very strange! Yet when one feels the emotion, either of superiority or inferiority, one believes in the reality of it. To have someone explain that these are not reality at all, not your real personality at all, but rather acts, reflexes, almost a hijacking by “The Ego,” is quite a relief! “Ah, there’s not something deep, dark wrong with me. There’s something deep, dark that’s artificially taken over me, and blocked me from my connection to my True Self, my soul.
So what’s the remedy for this? I think the first step is, just like in meditation the first step is not getting rid of your thoughts, but merely stepping back from them, noticing and becoming aware of them without judgement) just becoming aware that you are having this feeling. “Oh, I’m feeling Superior to this person. I wonder why? I know, that not only is it unkind and exhausting to feel this way, but inherently not true. But anyway, I am feeling it. So, I am going to acknowledge the feeling. Then gently practice letting that feeling dissappate, and instead send out feeling of love, equanimity, and compassion for this person.”
Perhaps that’s too much to think about at first. Maybe just becoming aware that you are feeling that way will help you rise above the emotion instead of drowning in it. And from there the emotion will lose a little of its energy.
Just being aware when it happens and saying to yourself, “I do acknowledge the feeling, but at the same time, I know this is Ego’s production, and not me. I know that it has to play itself out, but just awareness itself, and having the intention of seeing things the way they really are, will help it dissapate quicker, as well as slowly dissolve itself completely from my personality.”
UPDATE 1/14/14: I saw this video by Eckhardt Tolle right after I wrote this piece. As luck would have it, the very first question posed to him was this, “What is Ego?” question. Remarkable.
“There is no Ego apart from the thoughts. The thoughts, identification with thought is Ego.”
Wow! In other words: Thought is Ego. Ego is Thought! When I think about how I see the Grail, for instance, as a symbol of the Gap between thought, this statement by Eckhardt really blows me away!
I’m so tempted to erase this big ass blog post I’ve written, and just replace it with: Ego is Thought.
Here is a link to the Eckhart video
And see, before you think, “Well, that’s fine and dandy to realize I’ve got to get my inspiration through transcendence, but in order to enjoy it, I’ve got to bring it back into this world, and THINK about it a while,” read this words by Ram Dass:
“Faith, consciousness, and awareness all exist beyond the thinking mind.” – Ram Dass
We always run back to the “thinking mind” sort of like it were “home base,” thinking that it is our real self.
But in essence, its the “thinking mind” that’s keeping us away from our true self.
Our real adventure.
As Eckhart goes on to say in this same video, “You are not the thought. You are the awareness.”
In this sense, Consciousness, Awareness can observe thought, can observe emotion, but not be trapped inside them, like Theseus is trapped inside the Labyrinth.