Ask yourself the question, “Who am I?”
Most people will answer “I am ME”
Before I introduce you to your “self”, lets begin with a disclaimer. This description or illumination of the inner voice may or may not be in complete alignment with terms found in psychology. You may or may not find descriptions of the Id, Ego and SuperEgo to correspond to the ancient concepts of self, self awareness and mindfulness. Perhaps one might consider id and ego as what the one aspect of material self as “ego”. Maybe the super ego is a very sterile way of considering the true self or spiritual self.
The important thing is to learn and become proficient in regulating the mind so that self control and management is held by the higher self or spiritual self. When one transcends the view of only experiencing the physical realm the feeling is like an awakening. It is an awakening into clarity. This higher consciousness is the highly awakened state of meditation. In this period many spiritual teachers have found a usefulness in grouping the physical experience, the emotional “me” self in a broad category and are calling ego. So in my original question of “who are you” the question is more about which identity is in control ? Which you am I talking to ? Is this the ego self or the true self?
One beginners metaphor would be to imagine the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other. Many of us have spent a lifetime being influenced by the devil’s voice on our shoulder and only occasionally hearing the voice of virtue, wisdom and spirit whose avatar is the angel. Many have only ever experienced the ego self identity and that may be all that they know.
Here is a test. Sit down in a chair, and try doing nothing for 30 minutes. As this you sits there and begins to feel restless, bored, antsy, irritated try to be mindful of this from a detached perspective. Is it possible to step back from the feeling of “i” am feeling restless or bored and just observe this feeling. It is possible to ask “oh look, what part is this that is feeling restless?” Is is possible to recognize the shift from being the feeling and observing the feeling. If so, perhaps this “me” can ask who is this observing and detached or removed from the feeling of restlessness. The question may arise what is the other part that is experiencing the feeling of restlessness. This return to observing or “being” is self awareness. One is aware of the feeling yet separate from it by choice. If you can first conceptualize this and then learn to practice and cultivate self awareness, you can transform your life. This higher state of consciousness, this waking up into self awareness is unifying with spirit. This is realizing your spiritual identity. Paradoxically, the true self is often lost to most people. Perhaps it is a kind of amnesia where we have forgotten who and what we truly are. We are a spiritual being having a physical experience called life. Metaphorically speaking, many of us have only listened to self desructive devil on our shoulder never having realized or remembered our spiritual self. Our spiritual self is connected to the Tao, the source of all we can perceive and yet never fully understand. Ego is the distracted state of mind, the aspect of self that only seeks the tangible physical experience. The physical is experienced through the senses. Sensual desire is characterized by a distraction called “sensation seeking”. Ego is heedless of cause and effect and seeks sensual desire fulfillment at any cost. More importantly ego is realm of self esteem. Self Esteem is defined by the ego. When ego dominates consciousness, the reactive nature of the ego mind is constantly defining the life experience by qualitative measure. Ego has its own unrealistic agenda to which it expects life to comply with. When ego agenda does not align with reality, the ego experiences a “problem”. For the ego, problems lead to suffering. Suffering leads to coping. Coping leads to sensation seeking and distraction.The ego is a distracted state of mind and consciousness becomes absorbed by ego thinking.
Ego has an unsustainable appitite. It is the antithesis of patience. So when the beginner sits down to practice meditaiton and waking up, the ego resists. Ego feeds off of stimulation. When one sits in meditation, the ego feels starved and experiences a feeling of boredom and agitation. There is this neediness to “do some thing”. It is often so powerful, that the failure rate for first time meditation students is near 100%. Ego need for stimulation is so powerful that it may choose electric shock desperate for some type of stimulation. So now you can begin to understand why people do some of the desperate things that they do. You may also use this same insight to understand others do what they do. Perhaps in this moment, the insight is reaching and you are beginning to glimpse reality for just a moment as the true self. If you are able to see your own behavior from the non “me” state and see the behavior for what it is, you are having a moment as the true self. Welcome to self awareness. Before you are once again lost to distraction and ego, perhaps you can take this opportunity to set an intention to wake up again. Leave your higher self a note, or set your watch alarm to go off at some interval and when you hear it, wake up and observe what is happening to the inner landscape. How do you wake up? Ask your “self” if you are breathing. When you look for the breath, you’re bringing your mind, tuning your mind back to awareness; self awareness (awakening). Practice this over and over until you, the higher true self you, realizes constancy, that is to say, staying awake.
The ego mind is the antithesis of spiritual cultivation and the virtuous path of the Tao.
The Tao Cultivator recognizes and accepts that ego is an aspect of the self identity and seeks to control its manic behavior by strengthening the identity of the wiser true self. Balance is the target, harmony is experienced.
Meditation is the practice of transcending the ego mind and realizing the true self. Paying attention to manage ego is the practice of mindfulness. The Tao cultivator pays attention to the choices one makes and chooses the wisdom of the Tao. In each choice, we manage our destiny. Paying attention, we can ask, “is this choice in alignment with wisdom? Or is it in alignment with ignorance which is the way of ego”.
The Tao Te Ching advises in numerous chapters on controlling ego in various situations.
Chapters 3.9.12, 13.16.17 are just a few to hear Lao Tzu warn us of how to manage the ego mind.
The Tao cultivator learns to manage ego and cultivate the spiritual self. Realization as the spiritual or true self allows self awareness to rise and control the crazy voice in the head, that devil on the shoulder. By paying attention in that non judging concentrated way we cultivate through meditation, we be mindful of mind, of ego influence and practice follow wisdom and virtue.
If you can pay attention long enough to realize what you are doing in any given moment, you will begin to see the ego mind/self at work. Awakening from the ego self is the awakening from distraction.
There was an article on the web that reported that a study showed that most participants chose electric shock when asked to sit quietly with no entertainment for a period between 6 and 20 minutes. Most people elected a shock over stillness. Why is this?
What part of us would be so impatient to choose electric shock over stillness? The needy, greedy, and oh so impatient ego. Once we highlight ego it becomes pretty easy to understand why it is so hard to just “be”. Meditation is the practice of overcoming the power of ego through unifying with the higher self (true self). We do this when we find breath and leave the ego to its insanity. How do you find breath? Just close your eyes and ask your “self”. am I breathing? Then… look inward and find the answer. Turning your mind away from the impatient mind is also TUNING your mind out of distraction and into the awakened state of self awareness. In the beginning Ego wins the battle most of the time. Yet, with practice and will power, one can learn to remain present. Once present, one can remain present by concentration. In presence we are free to choose all that life has to offer and free ourselves from the voice of ego. As shocking as that is (pun intended) if the article above is true, the ego mind would literally seek an electric shock as a means of distraction because it just cannot abide stillness (presence). Even as you read these words, ego may be raising its voice trying to keep your from waking up and moving into the light of awareness. Tired of the ego “me” calling the shots? Find the nearest mindfulness group and learn how to free your “self”.