Everyday Spirituality, I essentially outline a gentle way to take apart your ego. At the same, time the concepts in the book are meant to help you create a lighter and more loosely held sense of self--a spiritual ego, if you will. Because anyway you cut it, while you are living in this body, you have a point of view and collected set of experiences that you express as "you." And that's okay. It's just important that you know that you're doing this, and that you can choose to change how you are when it is time to make that shift in yourself and your personality.
But before we get there, the original ego that thinks the world revolves around it or that there is no other way of living has to go. The spark of awakening can light a fire under this ego, or it can be so strong that it fissures the ego away from the soul, leaving no doubt about what is real. Everyone experiences this differently, but let's take some time to talk about what ego death is, how it may feel, and what you can do to move through it.
My Ego's on Fire! Just Let It Burn
Awakening struck, and for a moment, you touched beauty deep within you and without. It's profound, but most likely, at some point, your old ego ran in to take hold of that experience. It decided to try and conceptualize it, own it, or get rid of it. The ego's days are now numbered however.
I love Plato's allegory of the cave. Initially, we all live in a darkened cave and have no idea what light really is. Once you step outside of that cave, you can never fully go back in again. Because you know what's out there. It begins a process of letting go, so that you can completely leave the cave and the darkness.
Of course, many people run right back into the cave completely freaked out by all the light and beauty. It was too much. In many ways, as a teacher, I like to build up a loose framework for my students precisely because when awakening hits, I want them to have been building a spiritual ego that can be okay with all this light and beauty. Without it, the old ego goes into shutdown and denial mode. It's not a pretty sight. And the truth of the matter is that awakening has just started to burn away the old ways of being. Much of the awakening process is a process of burning away old ego and learning how to let go. Ego death can be as smooth or as painful as our own abilities to release into it and to allow.
The Body Feels Like Its Dying
The more identified someone is with their ego, the harder this ego death can be. You may begin to have phantom pains in your body. In some ways, I feel like the ego is taking out its fear on the body. If the fear is intense enough, illnesses and disease can be manifested because your ego believes that everything really is dying. Not everything is dying, though. Just the ego. Your body is just fine.
Of course, because everything is going in six directions from Sunday for you, none of this is happening completely on its own. There's often a whole other set of experiences all moving at once. For instance, awakening is also clearing out the painbody and all the issues that have been stuck in your body and your energetic body. The release of that pain can make someone sick, which is a natural clearing process. In the space of awakening or simply in healing, after this happens, you feel lighter, clearer, and more energetic. You may also have to be learning how to stay energetically connected or else you're getting really drained by the world around you because so much is shifting inside you. Make no mistake about it; awakening often takes a lot of force and energy to overcome our resistance and the structures we've surrounded ourselves with. Consider how much energy it takes to move; if you're in a home that's not healthy for you, you have to move. It takes quite a bit of work to do this, and there's just no two ways about that (although getting help makes it go smoother--subsequently, getting help and support from community and a spiritual teacher is really beneficial during awakening).
You can go to a doctor if you feel really bad. It's always good to get checked up on, but in awakening, most modern science won't find anything wrong. Truly, nothing wrong is happening. So, you have to make mental space to understand that what is "dying" is an old way of thinking and acting in the world.
Rebirthing Your Spiritual Ego
As I've alluded to, we all have egos. The spiritual ego serves spirit. In truth, when you serve spirit, you are most truly serving yourself. I've found that in all the ways that I've aligned myself with God's plan, our plans have turned out to be the same. It becomes really easy to ask how to serve God because when I do this, I feel so much more fulfilled, happy, and connected than doing half of the stuff I used to think that I should do. In saying all of this, I am speaking from a spiritual ego. I have a perspective and set of experiences that I define as "Jim the spiritual teacher," but I also know that this can shift and go away when it is no longer needed. Older versions of my ego were completely dug in and entrenched willing to hurt others because "I" had to get my way. Not very enlightened at all. They kicked and screamed on the way out, I don't mind telling you. Parts of them are still kicking and screaming, but it's much easier to be with these days as I watch old elements around fear and control dissolve.
So as traumatic and uncertain as awakening can be, if you're in this profound shift, you need to bring intention to the new you that you want to bring into the world. Rebirthing yourself is part of the process. Everything gets rebirthed so that you can come into alignment with Truth, Love, and Beauty. It's just how it goes. In all the ways that you resist what's coming, you're going to find yourself in more agony than you can possibly imagine. Trust me on this one.
And I know that this isn't convenient. It's never convenient to your old ego because it knows that it's days are numbered. You are going to have to make big changes in life. The more you've been out of alignment with who and what you really are, the more changes you'll have to make. That's part of the process. While spiritual awakening isn't a process per se, we still have to figure out how to manifest and embody that awakening in a world that doesn't quite know what to do with awakened people yet. That takes a lot of patience, tenacity, energy, and love. It also takes a lot of courage.
Tools Assisting Ego Death
Many of the tools for doing this are much like the tools that I've mentioned all along. One can be writing down what your intuition is telling you to do. The spiritual information will help you to redefine who you are. If you're supposed to be a healer, then journal about what that might look like for you. It's okay to not know precisely, but it's also important to engage with your imagination and intuition around how you'd be a healer.
Then you need to act on that information to begin to see what manifests and what works. A lot of stuff won't work. This is also part of the process of trial and error. Acting on the information is a way to embody the shift coming into your life. The lower energy systems want you to do things. Being doesn't mean sitting in meditation day and night. Being and stillness actually are very active. Mother Teresa didn't sit around by herself doing nothing in India. The Dalai Lama tours all over the world. How you choose to consciously act brings your spiritual ego into existence, and it can make it easier to let go of the old ego.
In many ways, the transitional time is like building a bridge to another point. Some people will have such a profound shift that the old ego immediately dies, and a new one naturally arises. That's beautiful. Obviously, I'm writing to a lot of other people because I think many people will touch beauty and just have no clue what to do with it. This is the time to explore. Because facing your ego's death is a scary, scary thing when you have no way to understand it or a bridge to move away from it. It doesn't have to be scary though. And hopefully after reading this blog post, you'll understand that you are not your ego and that something really beautiful is about to give birth through you so that you can truly live your life in integrity and love.