There are many kinds of experiences on the path to spiritual freedom, and one of the interesting ones is this loss of a sense of individuality.
This “loss” can be encountered at any stage of the spiritual journey, and depending on how someone engages with it, it can be a beautiful experience or a terrifying one. Sometimes, the loss of the “I” is met with enjoyment at the beginning of someone’s journey because it’s more like a vacation and not a permanent move. Later on, the same person may be terrified, not because they don’t know what this is, but because it’s time for the full relocation away from the ego self. Things just got serious.
Certainly, plenty of people are scared of this experience in the beginning and less so later on. Any combination of responses are possible for people through this ego dissolving process as everyone’s egos and issues are different.
On that note, I wanted to talk about this experience of losing individuality–losing the ego–and how best to acknowledge it.
In writing this blog for over 7 years at the time of this posting, it’s become obvious that a spiritual awakening is nothing but a beginning. For some people, that beginning can be marked by a moment of losing individuality. For a moment, the person realizes that they are interconnected to a much vaster reality than they’ve ever experienced. Then the moment passes, and in a true spiritual awakening, the dissolving process begins.
For those with a spiritual opening, the moment comes and goes, and then they have to get to work. Otherwise nothing happens. Herein is my basic distinction between a spiritual opening and a spiritual awakening. One requires a person to put forth effort to break out of their ego habits. The other one starts to do the breaking for you. While the later sounds “nice,” breaking down the ego is typically an intense process, and it shows people how much they hold on to their individuality. Again and again, awakened energy crashes into the ego to dissolve it, and usually, that freaks out more than a few people. So they hold on.
Disoriented and Confused by Oneness
Since few people are prepared for the experience of oneness, the loss of ego can be very disorienting and confusing for many. The more a person holds on to the sense of the “I,” the more frightening oneness is. Generally speaking, the person just needs to be with the dissolving of the sense of individuality. Allowing the experience to arise and pass is key to integrating it. The more someone is at peace with the experience, the more they let go and rest in the space of oneness. That’s all that’s really necessary. Simply rest with the experience. Although maybe you don’t drive a car for awhile to let things settle down.
However, the ego is likely to try and grasp onto something again. It doesn’t believe there are other ways to engage with life. It doesn’t really understand or trust the person’s true nature. The ego is based on past experiences, desires, and fears. However, the ego doesn’t typically know this, and it generally thinks its perceptions and understandings are all correct. From this mess of stuff, the ego is constantly projecting past experiences and understandings onto the present moment instead of engaging with the present moment as it is. That causes people all kinds of problems, as many of you already know.
When someone has been deep in an experience of oneness and is returning from that experience, this ego grasping creates all kinds of disorientation for the individual.
Continued Loss of Relational Perspective
Any initial experiences of oneness are usually the tip of the iceberg. Few people touch that space once and drop all ego. The ego is a powerful force, and it is built on even more powerful primal instincts. Those primal instincts have been built up over millennia. They don’t go with just one little experience.
However, with dedication, people can continue to slough off more ego. As that dissolves, you often enter more experiences of not feeling like an individual. You may have more moments of oneness such as:
- Looking at another person and feeling like you are looking at yourself
- Feeling connected to all of life
- No sense of having a body or no sense of the body ever-ending
- Loss of preferences and desires
There are plenty of other oneness experiences. Some may feel really good, but good feelings are not inherently part of oneness. The good feelings are often a kind of a relief response coming from no longer acting as such a small, constrained ego. The deeper states of oneness simply are. Any additional feeling-states that someone has are secondary.
Down for Spiritual Repairs
There are transitional phases as people get used to letting go of ego. Losing relational perspective–the ability to relate to oneself, others, objects, and so forth–is problematic for daily living. That’s why space is often necessary. The human body needs time to be disoriented and confused as they adjust to these deeper realities. As the person adjusts, the confusion dissolves, and the ability to relate comes back. But it returns in a new way.
How long a person is down for spiritual repairs varies by the person and the attachments they are dissolving. But the inability to engage with life is a passing phase. If it sticks around too long, please see a trained therapist. As always, I am concerned that some people try to self-diagnose actual psychological issues as spiritual.
Dropping into deeper reunion with oneness allows the person to see reality, and then a kind of practicality arises out of seeing life for what it is. This allows the person to make conscious choices, and in general, the person becomes more effective at wisely engaging with the world.
Freedom from Individuality
The freedom from individuality is not the loss of it. If you are wearing handcuffs, you are not free. If you know how to pick the lock, you can take them off. If you want to put them back on again, you can do so. When you have the handcuffs on and don’t know how to pick the lock, you are not free. You only know how to wear the handcuffs.
Such is the metaphor for the ego and the sense of individuality. When we are trapped in individuality, we cannot pick the lock. We are not choosing it. We are chained to it. As the spiritual person learns to dissolve the ego, they learn about freedom. They can then choose how much “individuality” they operate from versus how much they operate from deeper spaces of knowing. As always, spiritual freedom gives people more choice, not less.
The upshot of losing individuality is not the inability to function. It is the ability to function in more ways and to live from reality rather than ego delusion.
For more on a related topic, you may enjoy the below post. As the ego goes away, the ability to evaluate progress and success dissolves too. Here are more thoughts on that: