The purpose of life is to be happy. Dalai Lama
Tale As Old As Time
How do you answer when someone says, “Tell me about yourself”? Do you say that you’re the girl who wore braces in the 8th grade and you’re now a lawyer? Or maybe you’re the devout Catholic who attends church every Sunday and loves to bake veggie casseroles? Or the good Samaritan who just joined the Peace Corps? However you spruce it up, would you say that’s all you are? Why would you ever reduce yourself to the sum of the experiences you’ve been through? Are you holding onto something that happened 20-30 years ago? At what point did you learn to introduce yourself that way?
‘Tis the way of the ego, passed down from generation to generation. Ego learned to define itself in this manner because at some point it got a response it was aiming for. This ‘story’ became the way it related to other people, the way it felt a sense of accomplishment and the way it resolved itself to future aspirations. And page after page after page was written.
Naturally, ego creates a story to get along in this world. Since ego, as the analytical mind, cannot handle let alone fathom the infiniteness we belong to, it created an alternate reality of finite thoughts that remain fixed within the mind. This more ‘accessible realm’ allows for easy processing of external events and helps ego make sense of who we are and what we do in the midst of them. This is us as humans—this is how we create our own reality. Our reality is our opinion of what we perceive as real. We have taken the whole, broken it into pieces, selected a handful of those pieces and assembled them together in a digestible, fitting way within our minds. Michael A. Singer, author of The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself writes:
Basically, [ego] recreates the outside world inside yourself, and then you live in your mind. It does this by processing your current experiences in a way that makes them fit with your views of the past and visions of the future. Reality is just too real for most of us, so we temper it with the mind. [The mind] is a protection mechanism, a form of defense…[used] to buffer yourself from life, instead of living it.
Eckhart Tolle, author of A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose, tells us ego is evidenced throughout one’s entire human life, most noticeably when she makes her very first declaration, ‘My toy.’ (Object possessing object.) Identification with form is one of ego’s defense mechanisms. Attaching to something lends itself to credibility, legitimacy, and integrity; our ego supporting itself with meaning and function. Seemingly giving us a way out of our problems (which we’d never admit are self-induced). Singer says,
Our entire scope of our outer experience is based upon [mentally-perceived] problems. Your attempt to protect yourself from your problems actually creates more problems.
After you define yourself, you’re defending your identity and defending the fortress you’ve built around yourself to harbor the body and mind from unwelcomed forces. Any holes in your armor is patched up with more stories and new beliefs to sustain the old. Before you know it, life has become so complicated keeping your story together; you’re trying to heal yourself by creating more stories as to the reasons why you’re so complicated.
Yep, ego is a fragile little thing. We think, “I don’t want anything to happen that I don’t like or agree with.” In other words, we want to be comfortable as we roam this dimension. On the day we were born, our first cry was one seeking comfort. Seeking familiarity and bucking against anything that didn’t offer a sense of security. From there, ego goes on living in protective mode, worrying about its fate day and night, obsessing over others’ opinions, and searching daily for its definition of love. The foundation of its existence becomes to avoid pain. So essentially, ego is built on pain.
Preventing pain becomes the work of a lifetime. To keep everything disturbing from touching you ends up that everything that disturbs you runs your life. Here’s an exercise: Go a day without seeking and doing the things that make you comfortable. What you’ll quickly come to discover is why you started seeking and doing those things in the first place. You’ll come face to face with the method behind the madness. You’ll come face to face with your story. That narration supports ego in believing it’s safe and comfortable in the world. Ego’s going to do what it takes to hold tight to that narrative, its livelihood.
The Protagonist v. Antagonist
Ego is a guardian against the so-called pain, the antagonist. Ego labels an antagonist as anything that doesn’t physically or mentally feel good. So we learn not to touch a hot stove a second time. We learn to not call people names (but do it any way). We learn who not to date. Etc., etc… In the face of societal expectations, ego submitted itself to what everyone else was doing. Kind of makes you wonder from whose frame of reference are you living your life? Is it a limited point of view, or an ever-expanding one? Is it one that judges everything as dangerous or one that sees the goodness in all that exists?
In guarding against everything that could cause harm, ego resorts to fear. It becomes disturbed and haunted by fear. While ego doesn’t want to experience fear, it fears the possibility of it. So it directs life in order to avoid it—it sabotages, confuses and manipulates. But fear is just a thing, another object ego uses as an excuse to close our hearts off from more pain. Singer says, “Closing your heart does not really protect you from anything; it just cuts you off from your source of energy” and locks you inside your mind.
Ego insists there is an external antagonist, when ego itself has become the impediment. Further away from this truth and you’re competing with yourself to address the root of your pain. Ego v. itself. Life becomes something we struggle against. In resisting life as it unfolds, we’re unable to live fully because we’re so scared of what we deem intolerable. But who says the way life naturally unfolds is not perfect?
Clinging to selective thoughts and emotions cause respective memories and perceptions to rule your life. You become defined by what they taught you or the regret you sensed as a result. That definition of yourself starts to feel more real and stable than who you really are. This belief forms a self-concept…your persona, or personality. And it sticks. Ego wasn’t prepared to constantly shed old experiences and renew itself in Now (that’s Soul’s work). Its story relies on storing energy inside you. The story gains a footing when you don’t let energy of an experience pass through you—you relive it and relive it. You don’t let the situation subside with your moving into a new moment. A new you. The real You.
Your story is an illusion. It keeps you ignorant to the reality that all you need is and starts from within. In life, you go seeking what is originally your birthright: abundance, security, love and peace. Ego hides behind finances, people, fame, adoration and compliments to feel validated and encouraged. You begin to orient yourself to the multitude of physical objects that come in through your senses, losing your broader sense of ‘sight’ and creating an identity around it all. To find who you are isn’t about forming more stories on top of stories to determine reasons why everything occurs, but rather shoveling away all stories to uncover the real You underneath all the pretenses. To find yourself buried within, without story, without ego, as pure, unadulterated divine energy. In the deepest sense, this is how you free yourself.
Ego does not have the power to control every aspect of life, even though it tries. It maintains a limiting definition of what life is really all about and places conditions on your life. Any condition it creates will limit your perceived happiness. Place conditions on what you’ll tolerate, and you’ll end up limiting your enjoyment in this lifetime. Qualifying what makes you happy will end up making you miserable because that’s the very moment you’ll run up against something you’ve labeled as unhappy. Singer says unconditional happiness is the highest technique there is toward enlightenment.
If you’re going to be here, at least enjoy the experience. The choice to enjoy life will lead you through your spiritual journey. Life is a spiritual teacher. It can teach you to stay open. No matter what happens, enjoy life as it comes, as it unfolds, as it reveals more of itself to you. Instead of complaining, just have fun with the different situations that unfold. You will then walk through every moment of your daily life with the flow of spirit energy sustaining you, feeding you, and guiding you from deep within. Maintaining this connection as your lifeline, you’ll never fear again. Singer says,
If you can always feel excited about the experience of the moment, then it doesn’t make any difference what the experience is. Let your spiritual path become the willingness to let whatever happens make it through you, rather than carrying it into the next moment. Let what used to hold you down, [become] what wakes you up. Let all blockages become fuel for your journey. Embrace your ‘problems’ as agents for growth.
Suffering has no meaning. Why give it meaning and substance in your life? Instead, choose not to participate in supporting, maintaining or defending the story you conjured up. Instead, let go of the pent up energy. The protection it offers is another one of your inventions. The second you stop depending on the mind as if it were your savior, you will become the one who watches it. Becoming more of who You are involves challenging what is familiar, daring to release your time-honored need for safety, comfort and control.
Believe it or not, you can experience any human state or emotion without getting lost in it or resisting it. There are no problems, only moments. There is no fear, only thoughts. Just because you accept this as your reality doesn’t mean you don’t deal with things and are denying what’s ‘practical’. You do deal with them. You just deal with them as events that are taking place on planet earth and not as personal problems, says Singer. He continues,
Once you learn that it’s okay to feel inner disturbances, and that they can no longer disturb your seat of consciousness, you will be free. You will begin to be sustained by the inner energy flow….That’s how you become a free being—you transcend.
You do not have to give up clarity, presence or peace in order to deal with darkness. You just operate more as who You are, a light. Getting invested in ego’s concerns only feeds them. Rationalizing, blaming, judging and trying to figure everything out is the mind convincing you you have to. It all serves to bolster your story. You don’t have to get involved with life on a level of identification or make it more serious than it really is just to feel a sense of connection. You don’t have to be emotionally reactive just to feel alive. You don’t have to give up your position as Soul.
Imagine maintaining your awareness while life takes place. Ego would just be noise. You wouldn’t shelter issues inside, worried about getting psychologically damaged. You would be free to explore your human nature and source of your true Being from new and different perspectives. As you watch, you wouldn’t get lost in emotions or contrived commitments to integrity for something outside of yourself. You could “play with letting go and falling behind the sense of being bothered,” suggests Singer. No one can steal your sunshine unless you give it away. You never lose your power, you only forget it’s there.
Decide to let go of your conditions and theories so that you can experience joy. Decide to end your story. Accept life as it comes. Explore, witness, and enjoy. Have fun on this journey of yours. Everything will be okay as soon as you are okay with everything.
Photo by The Orange Windmill