Of the many discoveries and spiritual realizations people often have, one of the most jarring is this:
You are not who you think you are.
Put aside for the moment the reality that we are not thoughts, we are energy and bodies. Thoughts are derived from conscious energy and bodies working together. Instead, what is more important here is to appreciate that our self-concept is often very skewed or outright wrong.
Our perception often does not match our reality.
But our ego self gets used to telling us the same story over and over again, and we are used to believing that story. It can be a happy story about how nice and kind you are, or it can be a sad story about how depressed and miserable you are. It can be any kind of story, but the key thing here is to remember that it is just a story. It is also partially or wholly wrong.
On the journey to spiritual illumination, we find out again and again that we have misled and continue to mislead ourselves. We find hidden pains we didn’t think we had. We find wrongs we didn’t realize we’d made. And we find love we didn’t know we have. At each step of the way, we have to be willing to see these things. We have to be willing to be honest with ourselves.
At the center of today’s topic is the understanding that you are not a story. The beliefs and memories that your ego recycles are only part of your whole experience. They are carefully–albeit unconsciously–selected to maintain a cohesive identity. Experiences and memories that do not fit with the macro-ego story are quickly marginalized or forgotten as people attempt to maintain their story. So the person who thinks she’s a kind person quickly forgets cutting people off in traffic or denigrating someone else’s belief system because it doesn’t agree with hers. She conveniently forgets judging and gossiping about other people, or her ego considers them to be justified. When the ego justifies something, that means it is okay to do even if it violates other beliefs. We see justification all the time being used to make it okay to go to war or generally screw over other people.
It’s quite elaborate the lengths to which people go to create a cohesive story, to defend it, and then to do whatever it is they want to do. So lo and behold, when a serious spiritual shift arises, they can suddenly be face-to-face with the reality that they have not been a nice or kind person. The person in this example can find out that, actually, she is quite mean.
Many Ego Stories to Unmask
Everyone’s story, beliefs, judgments, and justifications are different, and I can’t do justice to them all in this blog post. That is why self-honesty is vital to being able to see the truth and see what you have been doing in creating and re-creating your ego story. You have to be wiling to see the truth of you. I’m not even talking about any big spiritual truths like oneness and how we are all interconnected.
I’m just talking about being able to honestly see the whole of you. Without that desire for honesty, it is easy to keep looking away. It is easy to critique others, as many spiritual people love to do. It is easy to go seeking more fun spiritual experiences and spiritual highs. The spiritual path can be easily be turned into another form of self-denial, ironically enough.
It is not so much fun to sit in with reality and be confronted by all the lies and self-deceptions you have created. But if you want to truly understand spiritual truth and life itself, you have to understand you.
The Willingness to Accept Yourself
By being honest with yourself, you will first likely notice that there is a lot you do not know about yourself. That level of humility is key, but we do not stop there. Instead, continue to go inwards. Do your inner work. See and ACCEPT the truth you discover about you.
That acceptance is the key next step. Plenty of people see the truth, but then they choose to deny it. They say, “Oh, well, that’s not right. That couldn’t be true.” And so many people get stuck in a denial stage as they side with their ego story rather than the reality they discover.
Sometimes, what people deny are dark, terrible things inside themselves. Sometimes, people deny beautiful things inside themselves. Once again, it depends on the ego and how you were trained to construct a story about yourself. What matters is that you choose the road to wholeness, and that means being honest with yourself and accepting the “whole” of you.
Cleaning the Lens to See Deeper
In accepting the whole of you and looking for your blindspots, you begin to clean your lens. By this, I mean, the more clearly you see and know yourself, the more clearly you can see the rest of life. With fewer blindspots and projections, other people and situations become very easy to see. From that clarity, it is easier to interact with any difficulty or opportunity that life presents you. You can also engage with life much more honestly, and that can have amazing impacts on the people around you.
So self-honesty is also the road to radically helping the rest of the world, but it always starts with you.