Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Humbling of the Ego

It's been awhile since I talked directly about the ego, and yet thanks to popular spiritual teachers and discourse, it's now a regular subject among spiritual path wanderers, wayfinders, and travelers. In truth, the ego is just another facet of being a human being. It is no better or worse than a foot or an elbow. However, in its unconscious state, the ego certainly can cause a good deal of trouble. The more we identify with our ego-selves, the more trouble we can get into.

That's why so much discussion has popped up around destroying, removing, incapacitating, obliterating, or otherwise undermining the ego. But it is an important distinction to say that we're doing this to the "unconscious" ego. It is fully possible to have a conscious ego--which is an ego that knows it's just a part of the whole and doesn't know everything in the world. So when we take apart the old, re-inventing the new is also important. It is part of coming into the natural flow of things in life. Eventually, even the ego becomes an evolving expression that emerges from oneness into individual expression and then can easily dissolve back into union.

Inhale and exhale. The beauty of the natural rhythms of life.


After the Spiritual Awakening

However, many people are still really committed to their old ego habits and patterns even after a spiritual awakening. It doesn't really matter what the story is--victim, perpetrator, comedian, leader, beauty queen, mother, father, mover, shaker, whoever. If you are attached to a certain idea of yourself, you are in for quite a ride--usually a painful one. Because the true you is not an idea. It is not a certain dress or shoe size. It is not a certain type of feelings or expressions. You are. That's all. From that space of being, you can re-create yourself in a thousand different ways, and you also realize the freedom of destroying (but in a nice way) the old creation to make way for the new. Too often we forget that the sacred destruction of our old selves is equally a part of making space for new growth. That is part of the sacred process of life--birth, growth, decline, death, rebirth.

Here in awakening, you are at the death and rebirth moment. In my really popular post about "Facing Your Ego's Death," I talk about letting go and letting this old false you die. But today, I'm writing for those of you who are fighting and are co-creating the process of being humbled. This humbling is part of the medicine you are creating for yourself so that you can fully embrace you.


Finding Attachments Here, There, and Everywhere

The proud ego is attached to many things. Maybe it attached to trophies, awards, and accomplishments. Maybe it is attached to relationships. Maybe it is attached to feelings and experiences. It certainly is attached to ideas. All of these attachments will bring pain. Because in awakening, you know and see the truth, but the unconscious ego in you is fighting this truth. It's like being drawn and quartered by four horses (It's hard to believe that people did this to others as a form of capital punishment). You're going to be torn apart.

Yet, this is needless. Awakening and dissolving into this new space does not have to be so painful. Only the ego wants the pain anyway. Some egos think they need an ordeal or initiation to validate themselves in some way. But 30 years of seated meditation rarely gets anyone anywhere, and most spiritual tools really are meant to simply cut away old lies so you can live your life in love. Holding onto spiritual tools often becomes part of the folly in embracing an awakening. But regardless, whatever you are attached to, you can expected that it's connected to a 100 pound anvil coming quickly to strike you on the head.


Depletion of Energy and Resources

I've talked a little bit about how spiritual awakening can bring a lot of fatigue because of how much is going on inside. But if you add even a little bit of resistance to this concoction, and then you're flat-out floored. This kind of fatigue is a sign of inner resistance. Few people truly have that much inner trauma that this should be a natural phase, and for those that do, I believe that it is imperative to find the loving support of others to help you clear and heal. Most people's energy body is very alive and vibrant, and it naturally heals and opens when it is allowed to. But that's the problem, you see. The unconscious ego keeps getting in the way.

If I often talk about awakening like a flood of energy into your life, the ego is like the crazed little builder who keeps damming it up or forking the energy into dry river beds that go no where. You will see that much of your fatigue is caused by your own misconceived ideas. These ideas can be things like:

  • I need to help others--No, you need to learn how to help yourself first. Then you will naturally serve life.
  • I don't have the time for this spiritual stuff--Of course you do. And your inner division will continue to stymie you, and you'll self-sabotage yourself until you make time. This can even lead to serious illness.
  • I feel too overwhelmed--This can happen. So stop trying to understand it all. The over-active mind thinks it can intellectualize everything; it can't.

So long as the inner split continues, you'll run out of more and more energy. This often means people run out of money. Sometimes, this is simply a time to find a spiritual caretaker to help support you and allow you to go through your process. Other times, the lack of money is indicative of going the wrong way and not trusting where the flow is going. When you are united in yourself, life will take care of you or guide you to the appropriate support.


Anger and the Rising of Shame and Fear

As we step deeper into this topic, many of the attachments, stories, and emotions that are part of the ego will arise. Anger starts to arise as the old ego realizes that it has no control--not even a little bit of control. We delude ourselves into thinking that we can control life and ourselves, and wherever we think we can do so, we will be shown that this is a lie. The awakened self leaves no aspect of ourselves untouched and no stone un-turned. So get ready for a lot more raw emotion to boil up. This happens to pretty much everyone to some degree--although that doesn't mean it will happen to you. As I often remind everyone, awakening and embodying that inner truth is a unique experience for each person. But most of us are walking timebombs--emotionally speaking, and when things start opening up, those emotions can explode.

But it is important to mindful of the exploding. The unconscious ego simply throws a huge pity party. It bewails its lot in life and wishes that this spiritual awakening thing would just go away. This is not embracing the situation. This too is a type of resistance, as if throwing a tantrum ever got us much from God. Especially for those of you who have not done much work with self discipline and emotions, it is really important to practice watching your emotions and taking a step back from the stories. It's one of the most powerful ways to  expand your awareness and to take ownership of this shift in consciousness.


The Removal of Life Structures

I think I'm making up a new term with "life structures." Haha. So life structures can be many things. They are things that we build in life. As I once mentioned in my post called, "How to Build Your Sandcastle," all things are impermanent. No matter how many times you build your sandcastle, the seas of consciousness will knock it over and wash it away. The unconscious ego doesn't believe this. It thinks that if it builds a tall enough wall and strong enough foundations, that it's stuff will last forever. Alas, this idea is in error, and it brings so much pain with it. Life structures like marriages, businesses, friendships, houses, and anything else that you've created will all one day be destroyed.

In awakening, anything that does not align with your soul path is destroyed. If you are working too hard to save something, you may want to pause and see if you are truly following your heart. A lot of relationships are forged upon need, desire, anger, shame, and fear. As you heal internally, the relationships around you are all dissolved. It doesn't mean you can't still be with some of the same people, but the social contracts must be re-forged. And this time, it is more important that you talk about what those social contracts mean because most of them are unspoken between people. Those unspoken contracts have caused many people more than a few issues through misunderstandings, so this is actually a very healthy thing to do, regardless of if you are embodying the awakened self.


The Hammer Swings Harder

Still, the ego may cling, frantically, to any and everything. It will cling to spiritual teachers. It will cling to victim identities. It will cling to old relationships. Depending on your path, you may be absolutely relentless with you. That's right. This isn't God trying to smite you; this is you joining with God to try and get you out of that jail cell that you're so attached to. Later on, this will all seem kind of silly. You may say, "How did I ever want to stay in there?" But if this is where you are today, you're probably more than a little mad. You want me to give you the six magic words or the location of the two golden pigs that will get you out of this intensity. Sorry. It's not like that. You just have to let go. (I suppose those are six words, but there's no magic in them. The real magic is in you).

One of my favorite allegories that I wrote is called, "A Chance Encounter With Love." I recommend it to any of you who feel this hammer striking you, and I encourage you to pay attention to what is feeling hit or hurt. That's a clue to what you're holding on to. There are so many fears, angers, and shames that we gird ourselves with, and we think that this somehow makes us safe. But instead we've caged ourselves in rusty armor with nails poking inwards. We are the divine architects of our own suffering. While the world may never be safe place nor free of difficulty, so much of the pain we feel is self-inflicted.

We must come to that important realization. Because when we see that we hold the hammer and we put on the rusty, nail-encrusted armor, we can start to have the humility to let go and take it all off.

The Shift Still May Feel Harder or More Intense

If you can at last find this humility to let go, you have come to a very profound space. Enjoy it, but do not expect that life will have gotten easier. All soul paths are different, and many of us did not come to this planet to walk easy, luxurious lives. We all have our reasons and our paths. What is important is that you continue to go inward for your guidance to sense if you are walking your path. Because if you are trying to let go as another ego game to get out of intense feelings, you may find yourself sorely mistaken. Your soul and God are far too wise to be out-foxed that way. If anything, you're just fooling yourself, and running to spiritual teachers to make it better won't help either. The ones who tell you that they'll make it better are caught up in their karmic issues around the idea of helping people, and the ones who truly understand will just point you back to yourself. It truly is not an easy path at times, but the love and the interconnection that comes with letting go is phenomenal.

I'm not much for promising anything. I know that any promise I can create are just ideas and words on this page. But I do promise you that being free feels indescribably better than being caught in a cage of ego ideas. So let this ego go. Let yourself be re-born, and trust that where this humble path takes you is where you've always wanted to go.

The photo comes from my friend and reader, Becky Stiller. You can check out her beautiful work on her flickr link.
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