To recap: The ego thrives on reactivity. It loves to complain and feel resentful not only about other people but also about situations. It does this to establish you as a victim, as a discrete, separate human identity, fuelling the idea of separateness. The most common ways the ego creates a victim mind-set is through blame, shame and guilt. These can be assuaged through forgiveness, awareness and acceptance. (See previous article).
Now we’re going to look at the capabilities you have to gradually dissolve the ego.
I use the word ‘dissolve’ with great care and would encourage you to do the same.
As a general principle, in the domain of personal introspection, the inner language you use is extremely important.
The process is just that, a process. It’s also one to be approached with gentle care.
Many people are caused great suffering by the ego and can develop a hostile relationship to it with a view to ‘destroying’ it at all costs.
This is the wrong approach for at least three reasons.
The inner language you use is extremely important.
A Gentle Approach
Firstly, as we’ve learnt the ego feeds off of reactivity, so when you take a sledge-hammer approach to it, you just empower it with the hostile type of attention you’re giving it.
Secondly, this style of approach makes an enemy of the ego, creates a division within you as a separate entity which feeds the ego further.
Thirdly, the desire to destroy something ultimately has an end goal implicit within it. The ego feeds off of goal-oriented thinking.
Where there is a goal, the ego strives to create a plan to achieve it and therefore in establishing a goal to ‘destroy the ego’, you’re actually empowering the very thing you’re trying to alleviate yourself from. This is what you could think of as a double-bind situation.
The guiding principles to the gradual dissolving of the ego are therefore 1) do not personalise it, 2) do not react to it and 3) don’t set a plan to remove it.
So what do you do?
The ego is an illusion and to fully comprehend that, you have to see that it is not you by observing it and not identifying with it.
The ego is dissolved through gradually becoming aware of every aspect of it and then through starving it with non-reaction.
Its survival depends on your mistaking it for reality by reacting to it. If you can gradually recognize illusion as illusion, it dissolves. The recognition of the illusion is also its ending.
So we can look to become aware and non-reactive through three powerful pillars of the mind: awareness, forgiveness and humility.
Starve your ego through non-reaction.
The single most powerful resource you have in the world is your attention and your intention. Your entire life is the sum of how you wield these two faculties of the mind day by day, week by week, year by year.
Be that at work, in your relationships, in your hobbies, your life is governed by the quality of attention and intention you put into every moment of your experience.
Therefore, through using that attention you can shine the light of your awareness onto yourself to see what your ego is doing. This exercise is commonly referred to as mindfulness.
As you become increasingly mindful of your ego’s behaviour by observing your thoughts and emotions, you see after a while it’s actually startlingly predictable in its patterns, almost boringly so.
Its craves the same things. It wants to avoid the same things. It judges the same things the same way.
As you keep gently focussing your attention onto your experience, you start to create a sense of spaciousness around your thoughts and emotions.
This silent space is actually the real you, it is pure awareness, pure peace and pure knowing.
To help comprehend that, contemplate this question for the next minute:
Where are you in the space between one thought and the next?
As you develop this sense of spaciousness, it grows and grows and the ego feels smaller and smaller. This is what many people call the process of ‘waking up’ to your true self.
I used the term dissolve earlier to help describe what we are doing here. Really you are slowly and carefully zooming out of your overt-focus on the ego’s illusion of reality into the much bigger field of your total awareness, the ego then feels almost like it is dissolving into space.
It’s like standing on a planet thinking that the ground is your entire world and then jetpacking off into the sky, through the atmosphere into space and going further and further back until you can’t see the planet any more.
Now imagine the planet was the source of all your worries and suffering and the further you pull back, the more peaceful you become.
This is the manifestation of the truest version of yourself.
Meditation, asking questions and journaling are all highly effective ways of cultivating this type of awareness.
In the next post we will look at ways you can bring these into your life to cultivate greater awareness.
Forgiveness & Self Compassion
As we discussed above, the second piece to dissolving the ego is non-reaction. The most effective way to do this is with forgiveness and self-compassion.
The uncontrolled, conditioned mind can be a tyrannical force to reckon with. Anxiety, depression, ADHD, are all testament to its worst manifestations, but even in the middle of the spectrum it can create daily bouts of restlessness, discontent, worry and unease.
It’s not surprising then that you might get pretty fed up, frustrated and outright angry with the tedium of your mind. As you develop increasing awareness of its strategies, this sense of irritation and annoyance can build. It’s tempting to feel sorry for yourself, judge yourself, pity yourself. All of which are fuel for the ego, separateness and reactivity.
The answer to this dilemma is forgiveness and self-compassion.
You are just an ordinary human being like everyone else. Your mind has developed an ego, just like everyone else. You have the ability to see through it to find peace and happiness, just like everyone else.
The single most effective way to pour cool water over the heat of the ego is to reflect upon whatever dynamic has you charged up and forgive yourself for your reactive behaviour.
The more you do this, the more you replace the patterning in your mind from unconscious reactive behaviour to conscious responsive forgiveness. The pendulum of the mind moves the more you practice it in this way and slowly but surely all of the things that ailed you will simply fall off into nothingness.
Therein lies the true liberation of the self.
There are many ways to cultivate a mind-set of forgiveness and compassion and we will look at these in the following lesson.
The true liberation of the self lies in conscious forgiveness.
The final pillar of support we can fall on in the dissolution of the ego is to weaken our attachment to the idea of our ‘self’, through humble acceptance of reality as it is and ourselves as we are.
You may be bestowed with incredible intellect, beauty or athletic capability but these are just gifts. Temporary, wonderful, beautiful gifts. You don’t need to become identified with these capabilities in order to enjoy them and the more you do become identified, the more you lose yourself in them.
Albert Einstein, who was perhaps one of the most gifted and intelligent people to have lived, had a completely egoless perspective of his capabilities and achievements.
Despite revolutionising the way we understand the world, he remained humble and egoless. He eschewed all labels, praise and elevation that the collective ego (society) tried to put on him and said there was “a grotesque contradiction between what people consider to be my achievements and abilities and the reality of who I am and what I am capable of.”
When you can be with what you are, just as you are, without forming attachments to yourself or your appearance or your capabilities, you can truly enjoy things as they are. There is no pushing or striving to be something else. You become relaxed, peaceful and content with your own gifts. You also don’t suffer if and when they fall away.
Humility is the salve for ego’s tendency to create a superior identity based on your gifts. It is not to be confused with martyrdom or piousness, both of which are an attempt at humility, but used in order to gain something, usually recognition from others.
True humility comes from deep inner clarity of knowing who and what you are.