Getting past the egoJanuary 25, 2008
In a discussion, I was asked for the best way to get past the ego. My response:
Thats a big question. Indeed, the question of the age. But I could ask how does one become a teenager? Or an adult? It is a natural process in human development. The ego develops as a stepping stone in human development to allow the person to separate themselves from the mother, then become an adult. To become self-sufficient. Once that is achieved in normal human development, the ego ceases to be useful. Indeed, it gets in the way of our growth and happiness.
As you know, this is not the usual understanding in our culture. But that is no ones fault, it was simply the nature of the time. We have been as if stalled in a mental adolescence. As this was the common experience, it was deemed normal. But its actually not. In the grander scale of time, its almost like a mental retardation (laughs). How else do we explain the world? All the fighting and drama and suffering. For what?
But times are changing. It becomes normal to outgrow the ego. To do that, the first thing to understand is we’re not stuck with it. If you were to look, you would struggle to point to the “location” of the ego. Unlike the heart or knee cap, the ego has no location because it does not exist. It is a mental construct the mind has created to differentiate you from me. You from other. We have lived with it for so long, it seems normal. Thus seeing past it is a little tricky. Even trickier as the ego is itself a tricky bastard. The ego is in control (or so it thinks), so any threats to its well-being may be considered life threatening. The ego is even willing to sacrifice the body to save itself (which is how soldiers are trained). It will even pretend to be spirit, muddying the waters of our path.
For a clearer illustration of this, have you ever noticed that in the morning when you wake up, for a moment you may not know who or where you are? This may be stronger in a strange bed. That experience is because the ego has not yet woken. The ego goes away every night in deep sleep. If you felt any panic or fear in that moment of not knowing, that was the ego’s response. Fear is the marker of the ego.
The ego is an illusion, a dream if you will. So getting past it is simply a matter of transcending it. As it is a construct of the mind, this means going beyond the mind, going deeper within than the mind.
What is within, deeper than the mind? You are. Your real nature. The silent witness, the “space”, the being. That is who we are and is always there but is obscured by the noise of the mind, the incessant babble of processing the dream.
To the question of how, there is nothing one needs to do. The process is natural and will take place of its own accord. Witness the many people who have woken without a guru or technique. That said, who wants to live in suffering any longer than necessary?
To speed up the process, we want to taste the truth, dip into our real natures, open up to who we are. It is not really a doing, it is an allowing. Allowing what is to be, just as it is. And in that allowing, a door can open and the Self will reveal Itself to Itself. The division of “inside” and “outside” will dissolve and we will grow to find the truth about the nature of existence and our role in it.
To help us allow, there is usually some understanding required, to ease the mind. Books, seminars, places like this. Ideas like this. The trigger that allows you to just open and be can come from anywhere. A book, a teacher, a movie, even, as Maharishi says, the smoke of a rotten bus.
To taste the truth, there are many techniques. It comes down to finding what you feel some resonance with. What feels comfortable and works for you. Each of us has a unique path so each of us will tend to blend what we need.
Broadly speaking, we could categorize techniques into 4 types.
- Action or doing: things like Hatha yoga (postures), dance type meditations, communing with nature
- Devotional: the way of the heart in prayer, Thy will be done, meditation on a form.
- Intellectual: the path of knowing or understanding, study (typically a monks path), inquiry.
- Blends: things like Raja Yoga, some meditations, diads.
A speedy path would also be one where we blend things to raise the body, mind, heart, and spirit. So you would include some moderate exercise and yoga, some study, a meditative practice (to connect within and to practice allowing), and some heart work to clear your emotional shadows.
Many of us are doing things along these lines automatically. Don’t sweat what you are not covering. This is an ideal that few can cover consistently. Getting stressed about your spiritual development is right up there with killing yourself for a better life
So, there is no one answer. Except that which you’ll find within.