The ego knows itself because of what is around it. That’s how egos work. That’s the essence of duality. There is me, and there is the other (everything else). Here’s an example: I am smart. I know I am smart because I have a series of reference points of other people and a framework with which to judge them by. I got an A in math. Doug got a B, and Chet got a C. Therefore, I am smarter than both Doug and Chet. From this point, the ego builds more and more of “me.” Because being intellectually “smart” is valued, an ego will decide to do more math, especially since the reverse–failure–is not socially approved. Pretty soon, this ego will be a math major and get into related jobs simply because of that first reference point that also brought along with it social approval.
Social Approval: A Key to Understanding the Ego
In many respects, most people’s egos are built up for some kind of social approval. Even people who go counter-culture usually have a group of people with whom they can identify with and get social approval for going against social norms. Social approval is a kind of success and reassurance to the ego. Failure of any sort is degraded in this society, and since more and more stuff is being put into the analytical test tube of judgment, every choice you make is a chance to succeed or fail. Why do you think there are so many self-help books out there about how to succeed?
But the spiritual path isn’t about getting social approval or succeeding by society’s rules. It isn’t about giving the finger to everything in society either (“giving the finger” is a form of insult in the United States if you aren’t familiar with it). It’s about coming to terms with who you really are, where your passions are, and what your truth is. When you do this, in many respects, you are becoming a greater champion for all of humanity than you might know, but you will also be undermining a lot of faulty social structures. Simply put, you’re gonna piss some people off.
Finding and Owning Your Truth Outside Social Values
This subhead won’t be true for ever. Social values change. You can look at images of beauty through the centuries to see just how much the idea of “beauty” has changed. So too will the social values of our time continue to change. As a spiritually-aware being, you can be part of that conscious change to bring more love and light into the world. But first, you’ve got to find out what your truth is.
Above all else, no one can give you your truth. You’ve already got it inside. The work that I do with people is to help people clear away misconceptions and unconscious social belief systems so that people can hear their own inner truth. I don’t have anyone’s truth. No teacher, healer, guru, or self-help maven does. Certainly, there are helpful tools and ideas out there to assist you in getting a clear reflection of who you are and what you need to do. The outside world can be a really important ally, but most people haven’t approached it that way. Society has taught most people that their fulfillment and answers lie outside them. And again and again people are disappointed by their lives, or their brief successes are so short-lived that they are constantly striving for something–after awhile they don’t even know what it is that they are striving for.
The Spiritual Big Bang and the Ego Blows Up
Spiritual awakening is like a big bang. It realigns everything inside your heart, body, mind, and soul. You aren’t the same again. It’s a brand new universe for you, and you can’t go back, although a lot of people may try initially. It’s not that people want to go back to their old lives, but since no one has ever been taught what to do when their ego dissolves into a little pile of ash on the carpet, they don’t know how to be with that. They may immediately go back into searching and striving, which will lead to another cycle of karma and pain until such time as they’re ready to fully let go. And then the spiritual ego can step in.
To me, the spiritual ego is the ego that knows s/he isn’t doing the driving anymore. It’s a helpful marker. It’s helpful to have my name. It makes it easier for people to find me online and talk to me. It is, however, not who I am. I am much bigger than “Jim.” So to the spiritual ego will have preferences, but you know that you’re making those choices. You know that they can change, and you know that you can let go of this ego when you need to. You also may intellectually know all this, but you may still feel really disoriented since that big blow up. You may wonder if you’re doing anything right or going in the right direction.
Ego Value-Structures Lose Meaning, You’re on Your Own; You’re Also Free
In a very real way, you are free after you awaken. You no longer need to be right or wrong, good or bad. This won’t be confused with hurting other people because you don’t care what anyone else thinks or some sort of nihilistic impulse. I know that some egos would want to twist these words that way, so I encourage you to walk down this path and find out what’s in spiritual awakening.
My experience is that I don’t need to be a good or bad writer. I don’t really know how I’m writing. I’m simply writing. It’s a nice feeling to have people compliment my writing, and it generally lets me know that what I’m offering is resonating with people. But I’m not writing to be good at it. I hardly edit what I write. I know I’ll have mistakes and gaps in reasoning in logic. But that doesn’t matter. I don’t need to compare myself to other writers or other spiritual teachers. In the space of awakening, I simply do this because it’s what I am called to do, and I do it as honestly and passionately as I can. The end results will be whatever the divine plan chooses.
In many respects, this is a lot about letting go of control. Without the value structure of good or bad around something, you have WAY more freedom to just be what you are and do what you’re doing. It’s really scary for any remaining ego that is holding on inside of you. You really have no idea what’s coming next. You’re just doing what comes. You’re painting what comes. You’re dancing how you feel drawn to dance in the moment. You’re spending more how you feel you want to spend money–you won’t care about getting the best deal or the best product; whatever you choose will be okay. And if something breaks down, you’ll make changes and address that situation then. This isn’t mindlessness; you’ll know how to do research, etc.,etc. Instead, it’s the release of the iron grip on valuing everything in your life.
Disconcerting Turns to Deeply Freeing
Still, you may wonder what you’re doing or where you’re going. This is where the gift of the present moment comes in. You only have to worry about this moment. You don’t even have to worry about it. Just be with it. If you’re hungry, then eat. If you don’t have food, find the means to attain it. After awhile, you’ll find that you can do so much more with your life. I remember talking to a friend about how wonderful it was to play a sport or game and not care if I won or lost. It immediately makes it way more fun than caring if I’m doing it right or well. There’s so much more freedom and joy with the loss of the ego and the need to value everything.
If you’re no longer worried about pursuing tons of money in your career–assuming you can pay rent and provide for yourself, you’ll suddenly notice just how much freedom you have to do any job that you like. Sure there may be licensing and education for some (you can’t just walk into surgery tomorrow after leaving your accounting job), but you get the point. You no longer need to judge your career success against your neighbors, father, mother, brother, sister, President Obama, or Alan Greenspan. You can do whatever you want to do.
Spiritual Freedom and the Path of Awakening
For most people, they aren’t free. I find it ironic that people talk about “freedom” so much in the United States, yet they are shackled to a way of living. You get on a commuter train after a long day of work and tell me how many people look happy versus fatigued, angry, and despondent. That’s not living your dreams or being free. Living what you truly enjoy and living in your truth is hardly an easy path in the way that people seek luxury, but it is immensely rewarding. It leaves a sparkle in the eye at the end of a long day, and really, we’re all ultimately here to light up the world. So I leave it to you if you want to hold on all these external reference points that tell you how beautiful, intelligent, or successful you are, or if you are ready to let go into a new, unknown reality.