What would a life living as the true Self look like? What would it mean to totally drop any pretense of identification with the ego?
Would it leave you wandering life aimlessly, or would you live with greater purpose and direction than ever? Would you lose all of your desires, or would they manifest all the more easily?
Most importantly, is such a life within your grasp, or is it only accessible by fully-enlightened masters?
In last Monday's post, I mentioned the importance of persistence in manifesting your goals. This generated a bit of a discussion on the forum about living from the true Self. I promised I would write a post on that topic, and so, here we are. 🙂
What, Exactly, Is the Ego?
The ego is one of those concepts in new age circles that gets a bad rap, but yet simultaneously remains rather vague and tenuous.
What, precisely, is the ego? Understanding this will help us to get a better grasp on what it means to live as the true Self.
The ego is one thing, and one thing only: it is the belief that you are a separate self.
In spiritual circles, this belief is often demonized. But, it is part of the built-in software of your human consciousness.
Imagine your computer. Your operating system has certain system files that it can't run without. If you're not careful, you can sometimes accidentally delete one of these files, and then your system will no longer start up, or will give you some horrible error.
Well, the ego is one of those system files in your human consciousness operating system (HCOS?). Without the ego, you could not be you.
So, it plays a pretty important role.
Occasionally I've heard of someone who deliberately tries to kill off the ego. The result is usually not so good. They describe their state as being numb, not caring one way or another what happens in life.
Some of the descriptions can sound sort of like enlightenment, but it's far from. A state of repressed ego (because ego can never really be killed), is not the same as a state of freedom from identification to ego. I will describe this freedom a bit later.
Ego is that part of you that desires. It has an aim in life. Because of your ego, you get out of bed every morning and go about your day. Because of your ego, you eat and drink to nourish your body and keep it alive. Because of your ego, you make connections with others.
Of course, most things have both positive and negative aspects, but this is simply to say that the ego is not all bad.
Then, Why Avoid the Ego?
All right, so I've laid out some of the positive aspects of the ego. So, why all this talk about stepping out of ego consciousness?
When the ego is used incorrectly, it has a great number of negative aspects. This is why so many people talk about ego death, though again outright killing the ego is not actually a desirable result.
The ego is meant to be used as a tool. When properly used as the tool that it is, it is wonderfully useful, in all the ways I described above, plus many more.
However, for the great majority of people, they allow the ego to rule over them. They allow the ego to become the master, instead of being the tool it was meant to be.
I want you to imagine you're playing a video game. In the game, you choose your character.
Now, you get to dress up the character however you want, give him or her all the qualities you'd like, and so forth.
Throughout the game, the character is going to be met by many different challenges. As the player, sometimes you'll succeed, and sometimes you'll fail. But, this is all part of the fun of playing the game. You'd never play it if there was never a chance of you losing. It'd quickly get boring.
Now, imagine instead that you took the character seriously. When the character was in danger, you became extremely anxious for the well-being of the character. You purposely avoided risky situations, because you're afraid that the character might die or get hurt.
Even more, you imagined danger where there was none at all. You got upset at how the other characters in the game acted, and believed the game should only proceed in the way you wanted it to.
Sound somewhat familiar?
The first example is what living life should look like. You use this ego character to have fun in the world, accomplish your goals, etc. Sometimes you succeed, and sometimes you fail, but it doesn't stop you from continuing on.
The second example is like one who believes they actually are the ego, and lets it rule over them. They will be terrified of failure. Everything will be seen as a risk. They try to control life, because otherwise they are afraid of what might happen to them.
This is ego out of control.
This also demonstrates why ego death isn't a viable option. What kind of gamer would say, “I'm not the character!” and just turn off the game? Can you imagine?
As the gamer, you already know you're not the character. And, that's the whole fun of it. It feels real, but you realize it is not.
So in life, ego death means the end of the character. But, the character never caused the problems to begin with.
It's All About Belief
It wasn't the character that caused the problem, it was your identification with the character. It was your belief that you are the character.
The character was just doing its thing, as it was programmed to do, by you. But then, you acted as though these programs were indisputable and carved in stone.
The fact is, not only are you the player of this game, but you are the programmer, too. You get to set the game dynamics, the qualities of the character, and so much more.
But, you deny your role as programmer when you step in and pretend you're the character itself. The character doesn't get choice. It has to act according to the programs given to it.
It is, essentially, to deny yourself free will.
This is why I talk so much about radical acceptance. Radical acceptance is realizing that your programs aren't carved in stone. They are programs chosen by you, consciously or unconsciously, and can easily be changed.
But they can only be changed if they are not believed in. By giving them the power of your belief, you give them reality. In this game, belief = existence.
So let's say you have the belief that the only way to make a good living is to get a job that you hate. This is quite a common program in our society, and you see many characters out there living by it.
The thought comes up, “I need to get a job.” But, this thought doesn't feel very good, because the program comes up with it, “Good-paying jobs are hard. I'm going to hate it.”
Now, you have a choice. You can pretend to be the character, and simply act upon this program. You get a job, and, surprise of surprises, you hate it.
Or, you can be the gamer/programmer, and realize this program isn't so fun. You'd rather be a character that perhaps can be self-employed and do something he or she loves.
You don't complain about the existing program. You don't keep focusing on it, trying to get rid of it.
You simply remove the unwanted program, and replace it with the program you prefer.
Then, as the character, you realize that you have options. You think about what you love to do in life, and find a way to make money from it. And, you are happy with this option.
This is just an example. The point is, you have the choice of what you believe or do not believe. You chose these programs, and the ego will continue to live them out until you change them.
Living as the True Self
Now, with all of that in place, what does it mean to live as the true Self?
It means to live as the programmer of your own reality. It means to realize that you have a choice in every moment to believe the thoughts coming up, and so to give them reality, or to simply let them go and choose something you'd prefer.
Sometimes we believe that our higher self chose before birth the way this life would go. We think that it selected all the beliefs we would have, and that we're just stuck with these.
But that's not the case at all. We came into this life for the express purpose of realizing our non-identity with the ego, and then changing the program as we see fit. There is 100% free will in this.
To live as the true Self means to understand that we are not the ego. It means to use the ego as a tool, and not to allow it to rule over us.
It means to realize our true nature as absolute peace and happiness. We realize that nothing in the game itself could really add to what we already have within, nor could we ever lose what we already are.
As the ego, we can believe in lack. But as the true Self, we realize the perfect peace that we already are, and nothing can threaten this.
I've always loved this quote from A Course in Miracles:
Nothing real can be threatened.
Nothing unreal exists.
Herein lies the peace of God.
When you realize who you really are, then you can step out of the ego, and use it as the tool it was meant to be.
Learning to Live as the True Self
Now, how do you actually go about doing this?
Again, it is all about belief.
When thoughts arise that bother you, you must realize that these are just the programs you've installed at some point in the past. They are not real, unless you believe in them. Your belief makes them real.
Once you remove your belief, you have the option of changing it to a new, preferred thought.
Similarly, when experiences happen in life, you must realize that these do not really mean anything. They are the manifestations of your past programs, which can be changed. Change the programs, and life changes right along with them. Do not, then, give your belief to these unwanted experiences, either.
But all of these programs are built upon a single foundational program: the belief that you are the ego. Remove that belief, and all the rest come tumbling down with it.
So, above all, living as the true Self means realizing that you are not this ego. It means realizing that you are whole and complete already, as you are. You have always been complete.
For this reason, I recommend living life as a witness of your thoughts. Do not engage with them. In particular, do not engage with the unwanted thoughts, as they are the old programs you have set in place in the past.
With positive thoughts, you should still realize that you are separate from them. Affirm and validate them, as a creator might do, but don't identify with them. Don't become attached to them. They, too, are only thoughts, and do not represent your true nature as the Self.
As you become the witness, the true Self will begin to shine through. You will come in touch, more and more, with the beauty of the Self. As this happens, the ego will have less and less of a hold over you.
But it all starts with the basic decision to realize that you are not your thoughts. Do this, and the rest will follow.
The great thing about it is that it doesn't require being an enlightened master. You can make a decision to stop believing in your thoughts day-by-day, moment-by-moment. Sometimes, you will fail, and that's okay. Ultimately, there is no failure.
But, the more you decide to do this starting today, the happier you will be, because you will be in touch with your true nature. This is the only source of real, lasting happiness.
I'll be talking a lot more about the various levels of consciousness during the teleclass series beginning this Sunday: The Art of Reality Creation. There some spots open, so be sure to sign up soon. Recordings will be available if you are not able to attend the live event.
How About You?
Now it's your turn. Are you living as the ego, or as the true Self? What would life be like if you could be the programmer of your reality? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.