As you study meditation and spirituality in general, most people find themselves bumping into this icky, lousy, buzzword: “EGO”. Ego this, ego that. Ego death.
What do they mean by “ego”, you wonder? What role does it play on your spiritual path?
Well, as most stories throughout history go, it all traces back to the very moment when you were born. Remember when you had just come out of your mother womb and you suddenly knew which one was the doctor, which one was the nurse, which one was the lady who had just given birth to you, who you should be, and what you should do for the rest of your life to avoid sufferings and maximize pleasures so that you won’t feel like a disappointment to the indifferent universe that couldn’t care less about you?
Me neither.
Nah-ah. We all started out as blank pages. And those blank pages are, as you might have guessed, awareness. Just pure awareness. And then, all of the sudden, YOỤ were given this body, in this realm, called the universe. You could see everything around you. You could feel your mother’s hands as she taught you how to walk. You could feel pain as you tripped and fell. You could feel joy as you see the smile on your mother’s face and her disappointment when you broke the rule that she had given to you for the first time. The bliss of a summer day that lasted for an eternity. Grass looked so green and the sky looked so blue and everything seemed to be in relation with each other. You could hear the vibrations of the sound of language. You could finally understand what those sounds meant. You had a name! You’re Kathy, you’re Charlie, you’re John. And then, you started making sounds. You were finally able to speak and communicate with your fellow human beings, those who shared similar traits as you.
As things went on, you began to put things into group. You are a part of your family, just as how your family is part of a larger group called “society”. There were many types of society, so you’d been taught. You began to question. Where do birds come from? Why do you have to go to school and study well so that you could go to a good university for security of a decent-paying job and avoiding being one of those old-looking men who look at you funny in the alleyways? What’s all this? What is the purpose of your existence?
Then, you began to ‘know better”. You stopped questioning for the sake of society as a whole. You’re a part of it, after all. Gotta be a part of it. You’ve got to start finding your passion so that you don’t have to be a wage-slave. You don’t have to be a doctor, it’s alright. But by all cost you still have to be a part of this society.
The fundamentals for your ego (what makes you you and not your peers) started building up; you started to slowly lose the magical feeling of childhood as you deal with numbers much more often in adulthood. Your identity is born. You're a pilot. You're a musician. You're a lawyer, boxer, bartender, filmmaker, salesman, teacher. And that’s what you are (supposed to be) for the rest of your life. You start buying stuff that fit into the ideal of what’s considered standard in your specific field. A lawyer can't wear a T-shirt too work. It’d be deemed too unprofessional. Likewise, you can't be a tough bouncer with a necktie round your neck.
Just wait a minute.
Doesn't it all sound absolutely absurd?
Do you even know who you are?
Do you ever stop just for just one minute in your busy auto-piloted day to look within yourself?
When was the last time you were honest to yourself about anything at all, without any judgement stemmed from the ego?
Oh, the ego. It fears. That’s all it does. The ego does its best job to convince you that the problems that you face are any real as if its life depends on it...all because of its ultimate fear: the fear of death. Of non-existence. ( It craves your attention. It wants you to feel that you and your ego are one and the same, which just isn’t true.
The problematic thing is, there are often (more often than not, as a matter of fact), moments in life where you feel like that you ARE your ego. When all the emotions and sensations and thoughts that you experience feel so real you forget to take a step back and realize that they’re as real as you make them to be. Your friends have all got the latest iPhone as you’re still stuck with the iPhone 6 and suddenly it seems like your whole world has fallen apart.
Your identity is built around possessions, endless dopaminergic pleasures and the irrational fear of death.
What most people don’t seem to realize when they’re on a spiritual path is this: The harder you try to fight against your ego, the bigger it seems to appear. It’s a Catch-22.You can’t completely kill the ego. It’s an impossible task. You can, however, temporarily, put it to sleep (through the use of psychedelics or deep meditation). Now, killing the ego...It’d require actual physical death. Most religions seemed to come the same conclusion that to achieve eternal bliss (enlightenment, if you will), one must be disillusioned from their egos; to live with the ego and not be attached to it.
As long as we’re living, we have to accept the very existence of the ego. We have to be acceptant of everything that’s stemmed from the ego. We accept that there’s still the human part in us; that we too feel suffering, craving, jealousy, anger, embarrassment, or humiliation; as well as pleasure, joy, gratitude, hope, or pride. The most important thing is, have we got the will to NOT act on these reactions? Can we put our feelings and irrational thinking asides and instead to live for one another, to love everybody and everything unconditionally and to see the world the way it is, and to realize that we are all one and the same? Could it be done in this day and age, with the aid of meditation and mindfulness?
That’s what I AM trying still, to figure it out.