Transcending, or going beyond the ego is the most important thing you can do
to remove stress and anxiety from your life and unleash peace, happiness, and joy. But to understand how to go beyond the ego, we first need to clarify the definition of ego and to contrast it with our true selves.
The dictionary definition of ego is a person’s sense of self esteem or self importance. To go further, the ego is the mind made sense of self as opposed to the actual, or true self. Think of it this way – the ego is a mental summary of what happens in your life along with interpretations and judgements about what happened – sort of like a novel about your life, stored in your head. We often attempt to use this novel to anticipate future events.
Here’s an example. We have a deep desire to find a life partner, but it hasn’t happened. Our ego develops an elaborate story in our head about why this hasn’t happened. The story might say it’s because we aren’t beautiful enough, smart enough, rich enough, young enough, or charming enough. Our friends and acquaintances, better able to see our true selves, recognize that none of these are true. They see we have low self esteem and try to convince us that what we believe, what our egos are telling us, isn’t true.
The true self, on the other hand, is the real situation as it unfolds. Often our friends are better at seeing this true self more clearly than we are, because they don’t have access to the egoic novel, or mental baggage stored in our heads. However, our friends can never get the entire picture of our true selves, this is something reserved for us, if we can figure out how to do it.
What if we were able to remove these stories?
When you dismantle the ego, it is like taking all the old books out of your mental library and throwing them in the trash. You are left feeling lighter, and able to see more clearly. From this space, you will discover that life at its foundation is built on peace and joy, and you always have these underlying all other sensations. This is who you truly are.
The best way I know of to dismantle the ego is through self inquiry
or doing the hard work of looking inward with honesty. Most of us avoid this all together because we are afraid we won’t like what we find – either we suspect we have an inflated ego, pretending to be something “better” than we are, or we have low self esteem, convinced that we are a “bad” person, or perhaps a bit of both in different areas of our lives.
The key to the practice of self inquiry is to access the place of the witness, or the place of the true self beyond the mind. Instead of getting lost in your thoughts, cultivate the awareness that you are having a thought, and that that thought may or may not be true. Once you get the hang of the practice, you will find that, in the beginning, a lot of your thoughts are so beyond untrue that they are hilarious! Don’t be surprised to have thoughts come into your head and to recognize they are totally irrational. And be glad that you are now able to see this, as opposed to the old mindset that used to automatically accept all thoughts as true.
When you are first learning these techniques, it can seem like you are caught in a maze, and that can be unsettling. Don’t be afraid to seek out a meditation teacher, therapist, or spiritual teacher to help guide you through this process. You will have to do the work yourself, but a guide who has been down this path ahead of you (and who now lives with all of its benefits) can be invaluable. An expert guide can keep you on track and getting you to tangible results more quickly.
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