If you’ve ever explored the transcendental field of spirituality, you would have discovered that the ego is often spoken about with contempt.
Many people carry the belief that the ego needs to be destroyed, muzzled or even killed. But do we need to destroy the ego? What is the ego, really? And furthermore, what can you learn about your own ego?
What is the Ego?
The ego is basically your identity, or who you think you are.
Your ego is usually constructed of a name, a personality, and a story. Within this personal story is a collection of memories, beliefs, impressions and sensations about who “you are,” where “you came from,” what “you’re good and bad at,” what “you’ve experienced,” and on, and on, and on, ad infinitum.
The Ego and Duality
The ego is a veil between what you think you are and what you actually are. You live under the illusion of the mind, totally unaware that you are directed by a great big load of stories! — Isira Sananda
Your ego was created, and is currently maintained, by the belief that you are “separate” from others and life itself. In other words, your ego believes that you are firmly HERE, and other people are firmly THERE. You have a body, life, and personality that is distinctly different from others. Therefore, according to the ego, you are not like other people. You are different. Or that’s what your thoughts tell you anyway.
As a result of being taught (or conditioned) to believe that you are a separate individual, you experience fear and suffering. Instead of simply experiencing life in its purity and wholeness, you filter life through your mind. You are taught to live life in duality. Duality is essentially the state of separation — it is the opposite of reality. It is the product of the mind. In duality, we essentially “split” or divide life.
Examples of duality include filtering life through the lenses of “right/wrong,” “good/bad,” “pretty/ugly,” “holy/sinful,” “love/hate” etc. As a product of living in duality, we create untold amounts of suffering for ourselves because we are no longer open to life. Instead, our lives become centered around judgment, condemnation, and fear. As a result, we alienate and destroy others who we perceive of as being “bad,” “wrong,” and “sinful” to protect our ideas of what is “right” and “holy.”
The more deeply we are entrenched in duality, the more we experience problems such as hatred, anger, depression, paranoia, anxiety, and perversion. Not only do we sever ourselves from others, but we are cut off from ourselves as well. Anything within us that we perceive as being “evil/bad/wrong/sinful” we suppress, repress and deny the existence of. As a result of this repressed energy, our Shadow Selves grow more and more twisted, destructive and depraved. Unless cleansed through shadow work, this intense suffering is ultimately expressed in our relationships and the world at large.
Our physical world is an expression of our collective internal torment. Our lives are an expression of our inner emptiness. Simply looking at the violence, murder, poverty, greed, bigotry, mental illness and environmental degradation shows us how profoundly lost we are as a race. We are lost because we have lost touch with the truth of who we are.
The Folly of Demonizing the Ego
In light of this discovery, it is very easy to start believing that the ego is bad. In fact, some spiritual teachers teach that the ego needs to be “destroyed.” But here’s the thing: this is just another trick of the mind! I’ve heard so many people in the spiritual community condemn the ego and speak of it with such great resentment. However, the belief that our egos are “evil” or need to be “killed/destroyed” is just a reflection of the mind stuck in duality!
The ego isn’t “good” or “bad,” it simply IS. We need to realize that the ego is simply a tool. The ego exists as a biological survival mechanism. The ego also exists as a vehicle for our spiritual growth; for us to become conscious of our own strength, love, and oneness. The ego is a doorway through which we can return to our True Nature.
Why the Ego Isn’t You
You may have heard before the expression: “the ego is an illusion.” What does this mean?
The ego is an illusion, and therefore isn’t really “you,” because it is always changing. In other words, how can anything within you that is subject to birth, change, and decay really be you?
Let’s try an experiment. Write down on a notepad or word document who “you” think you are. You can always stop reading and return back to reading this article after you’ve finished.
Take a break. Really. Do the experiment now.
Now that you’ve done the experiment, read over your words. Likely, you would have written something along the lines of, “I am Jane Doe. I’m a wife, mother, and friend. I’m a fighter, a dreamer, and a spiritual seeker. I am 38 years old, have three children and am a skilled artist.”
See this description of you? This is your main personal story; the backdrop of your life, of what you think you are.
The ego is an illusion because it is simply that: a story — a story created in the mind.
Let’s use some self-inquiry and apply these questions to your statement:
- How can you be a name if it can easily be changed? You could have very well been born into a different family that named you something else.
- How can you be a body if it is constantly aging, changing, disintegrating and can be replaced with other parts? Your red blood cells live for four months, your white blood cells live for more than a year, your skin cells live for 2-3 weeks … all cells within you are constantly dying and being renewed. How can you really be your body or looks?
- How can you be a personality when it is constantly fluctuating and transforming? Think back to your personality 5 years ago, then 15 years ago. Did you have the exact same personality that you do now?
- How can you be your emotions when they are constantly coming and going, ebbing and flowing? Not only that but do you really control your emotions? Where do they come from? Do you really control them?
- How can you be your thoughts when they always changing? Not only that but do you really control your thoughts? Where do they come from? Do you really control them?
- How can you be your beliefs when what you believed 10-30 years ago isn’t what you believe today? Your beliefs are influenced by your conditioning, upbringing, and society … how can they be “you” or “yours”?
- How can you be your memories when they come, go and even alter? Did you know that there is such a thing as “false memory”? When remembering the past, the mind has a tenuous and colored perception that is subject to change and alteration. How can your memory be you?
As we can see, everything that we unquestionably believe we are isn’t really us. So what really is us? What has been there all along?
What is That Presence?
What has been there to witness everything that has happened in your life? What never changes? What is the most fundamental core of who we are?
Explore this question for a few moments and you’ll realize that it’s:
Consciousness is the fabric of all things. In fact, even science has shown that everything at its core is energy vibrating at different levels. In our human experience, Presence, Consciousness or Spirit manifests itself as the energy that composes every form.
It is hard to really put a word to this experience, as language is so limited. The easiest way to experience this Presence that is you, and always has been you, is through meditation. Meditation, or quieting the mind, helps you to become simply aware of your thoughts, and the space beneath those thoughts. That space is You.
Another common way humankind since the dawn of time has used to experience this Truth of Being, this ego death, is through psychedelic shamanic plants and brews, such as Ayahuasca, Psilocybin Mushrooms, and Peyote. Although it is helpful to take such herbs, it isn’t compulsory. These plants are simply doorways into the Universal Experience or Spirit that we are.
How to Untangle Yourself From the Web of Illusion
It can take a while to truly realize that you are not the Ego, and sometimes much more to integrate this discovery on a deep level. Discovering that everything you believed you were is false can be hard to accept. In fact, don’t be surprised if you experience a lot of resistance to this article. It’s normal.
The ego’s job is to protect itself and the belief that you are separate from other people and life itself. Experiencing the state of no-ego, or no-self, that is “enlightenment” can appear to be extremely depressing or disturbing at first. How can having no “me” or “you” really be something desirable? This is a common question.
The answer is that in order to understand, you must experience Consciousness itself. Without experiencing the Truth that you are, the spiritual search becomes purely intellectual and prone to sabotaging fears. However, once you do experience even a single moment of Consciousness, you will discover for yourself that it is the most liberating, pure, peaceful, compassionate, expansive and loving state possible. In fact, Consciousness itself is the very embodiment of love, peace, and freedom. You are this embodiment. You are the Truth that you have been seeking for.
Untangling yourself from the web of illusion is a process that requires patience, self-discipline, and dedication. This process isn’t for trendy “spirit junkies,” it is for sincere spiritual seekers.
Here are some helpful spiritual practices that will help you reconnect with the truth of who you are:
- Read through the self-inquiry questions above regularly. Ask yourself, “Is this (that I think is me) really me?” Although emotions, thoughts, personality, and body are experienced by you, they are not truly you because they are subject to birth, death, and change.
- Practice dynamic meditation to release any repressed energy within you. Do this before traditional meditation to make it easier.
- Meditate each day. Try 15 minutes first, then move on to 30+ minutes. Remember: the purpose of meditation isn’t to “get” anywhere or “achieve” anything. It is simply the practice of sitting with whatever arises in you.
- Regularly affirm to yourself, “I am Consciousness” throughout the day. Feel that truth seep into your bones and very core with each breath.
- Explore the way your ego influences your life with compassion. You can do that by reading our articles and taking our free tests. I know you’ll find something that resonates!
- Read into the experience of The Spiritual Awakening Process to get further guidance. We created this book to help support you on the spiritual path.
- Practice mindfulness on a daily basis. Mindfulness is a vital practice that will help to ground you in the present moment.
The spiritual awakening journey is one that requires courage, radical honesty and the willingness to let go of all that you are not. What is the ego? The ego is a teacher, one that you carry with you each day. When seen in this light, the ego is the most powerful and persistent teacher we have to wake us up to the Truth that has always been here, and will always be here.