There are a lot of signs of true spiritual development. A greater sense of peace is one. A deeper sense of compassion is another, and there are plenty of others that show that someone truly is walking the path to spiritual freedom.
One of the ways someone expresses genuine spiritual progress sounds something like this:
“I don’t know who I am anymore, but somehow I feel more like me.”
“I’ve let go of so much stuff that I thought was important to being me, but now I feel more like myself than I ever have.”
There are other ways this gets phrased, but this should give you the gist of it.
Simply put, the loss of the ego is revealing a person’s natural way of being. In that space, there is less or no force being exerted to be somebody. The person is being more and trying to be someone less. If a person still trying to be spiritual and do spiritual things and the person feels good, that’s just a moment of contentment. The ego has what it wants, and/or its triggers are not currently being activated. The true progress is that this sense of being who you really are continues through easy and difficult times.
Let’s talk more about this.
I often say that this spiritual process is addition by subtraction. We subtract ego attachments and beliefs, and we find what is already here. It’s a little like looking for space in your home. You can only find more space in your home by getting rid of things. Not by adding new stuff. Not by re-arranging stuff, and certainly not by getting rid of old stuff and immediately replacing that stuff with new stuff.
That last one is very common. People find a little bit of inner space, and then they immediately feel called to fill that space with a new belief or attachment. It’s very common for people to create a new spiritual ego to replace the old one. But this just means the person hasn’t gone very deep in their spiritual work. Where does the desire to become a new somebody, a new ego, come from? That desire is a product of deeper, more unconscious ego issues, and they need to be confronted. When they are faced and released, this sense of being more yourself becomes even more pronounced.
The Ease of Being You
As I mentioned at the beginning, this sense of being “more you” is not contrived. It is not achieved. It is not a result of an elaborate new set of beliefs and practices. It simply is. It’s realized primarily through the loss of effort to be somebody. When we are trying to be an ego, we put an enormous amount of work in doing so. The superficial ways that we try to be somebody include:
- Clothing and other materiel choices
- Relationship choices
- Career choices
- Living space choices, etc.
The less obvious ways we try to be ourselves are all of our beliefs that we have to maintain about everything from the movies we like to our sense of humor to our politics to our spiritual beliefs, of course. We are so good at maintaining all of this by the time we’re an adult that we have no idea how much work we are putting into it.
And to no longer put so much damn work into this whole ego is greatly relieving, and it makes being in the moment so much easier.
Looking to Let Go of More
Arriving at this state of ease isn’t a one time affair because we don’t surrender the whole ego at once. We tend to give up one belief/attachment at a time, so we keep arriving at new levels of ease and realizations inside ourselves as we gradually go deeper. But each time we arrive at a new sense of ease, we know we’ve let go of another ego issue (if it wasn’t clear at the time of releasing). This has the interesting effect of making us want to let go of more. That aspiration to continue is a powerful one, and it reveals a certain level of spiritual maturity in the aspiring spiritual person.
Earlier on the spiritual path, many spiritual seekers are just waiting to get off the spiritual train. The ones seeking healing or an end to their pain are done when they feel healed or the pain is gone. This is regardless of if they are actually done healing or the pain is actually gone (Often the issue is just hiding because there is a moment where it is not being triggered). Others seeking happiness or safety bail on the spiritual path when they get those.
But every now and then, a few spiritual people experience releasing of the ego instead of appeasing the ego (when the ego gets what she wants, that’s usually appeasement; that’s not a smart route for dealing with a dictator, much less an inner dictator like the ego). If a person experiences how releasing an issue offers more natural freedom and ease enough times, there’s a point where they want to keep going. Something clicks in the mind, and the person begins to realize that no amount of ego can ever do anything but get in the way of their natural space of being.
And most of the time, the ego just brings suffering.
Suffering More Consciously
Despite a greater natural ease and deeper aspirations towards freedom, this is still only the beginning. The ego is a big iceberg, and just like in that metaphor, most of it is below the conscious waterline. There’s a lot down there, but it can be dredged up out of the unconscious into conscious understanding. And there’s something about “being more you” that does this dredging more and more naturally. Since you are far less attached to your illusions, your inner compass for truth gets stronger. Your mind gets sharper at looking within yourself, and things that were hidden or subtle become obvious. And the suffering these deeper issues and impulses cause becomes more distinct.
This arises a time where we can feel both better and more worse (yes, more worse, haha) as we develop. But because someone at this stage of development has already learned how to surrender to the suffering of other issues, they can bear the next new depth of ego suffering more deeply and completely. They hold back less. They suffer consciously.
In so doing, they can release a deeper attachment and find yet more freedom, love, and truth than they’d yet known was possible.
Seesawing in and out of Suffering and Ease
In some of my oldest blog posts, I talk about how awakened energy makes people seesaw in and out of conscious awareness. This is very true in how awakening pushes people into and through issues. But since this kind of insistent energy is rare, most people seesaw in and out of doing work and going back into ignorance and resistance. Heck, they do this after awakening as well.
However, at this phase of feeling more like yourself than ever before, the seesawing is different. There is a stronger commitment to becoming more conscious, and there is far less active resistance. That gives the person more ability to find unconscious resistance and process issues/let go of attachments. The ease they’ve rediscovered in themselves makes it easier to be with difficult triggers and attachments–stuff that they would have been overwhelmed by earlier on when they weren’t so into this whole spiritual path. This leads towards faster releases and deeper senses of ease and “you-ness.”
The Long Road to Total Spiritual Freedom
We human beings have a lot of attachments. It’s not pretty inside, but there is a way through all of this suffering, conflicting ego beliefs, and primal animal drives. It’s surrender. It’s spiritual inner work. It’s recognizing the awareness within us that is always free. As we do that, many, many kinds of gifts are discovered inside of us, and those moments of peace, love, and ease inspire us further. It’s not about finding some perfect state and holding onto it. Holding on to anything only brings further suffering. It’s about surrendering to allow all experiences to come and go without resistance.
Typically, the less ego we have, the less we suffer any experience whether it is the flu, doing taxes, or getting hit. Life continues to be life and to throw all kinds of things at us. But we can learn to surrender our ego and find a deeper, more easy way of being with all of it.
And you can learn what it truly means to be you.