There are a lot of odd, ill-conceived, and often brutally violent thoughts out there when it comes to the concept of the ego.
- You should kill your ego
- You shouldn’t have an ego
- Destroy your ego
- If you didn’t have an ego you wouldn’t judge
- If you didn’t have an ego you would see everyone as the same
- Basically, that the ego is a bad thing that should be killed, maimed, murdered, or brutally attacked until it is no longer present in ourselves
I have watched this sort of brutality when it comes to talking about the ego with interest. The above sentences are all ones that have been quoted to me or said by people who I have conversed with in some manner. We are brutal to our egos.
I am of the general opinion that we should love ourselves, and love all aspects of ourselves (yes, even our darkness, our primal natures, our emotions, and our physical bodies). And yes, even our egos… There is no need for brutality.
What is needed instead is expansion. By talking about what ego expansion is (and yes, the phase of dissolution) we can understand what a healthy non-murderous type of relationship to our egos can be like.
Most of us are stuck in the “I” phase of spiritual awakening (or lack thereof). We are unable to see outside of ourselves. The whole world is centered around ourselves. Any opinion, insight, or action that goes against our personal sense of ethics, our personal cosmology, our personal direct experience of this world is simply wrong.
As an aside, in many, many cases of spiritual awakening people get stuck. This is because they are afraid to move any further (to unfold), because they are claiming to be enlightened or know the totality of the cosmos (which means that they cannot learn any more, of course), or they are so stuck on what classes they have taken, what courses, with what teachers and a sort of intellectualism without direct experience that they simply have not progressed. This is called an Ego Awakening.
Ego Awakenings are way too common, and unfortunate. They are the number two reason why people do not spiritually progress (fear or perhaps lack of surrender being the number one).
Many of us begin to expand a bit out of the “I” phase. This is where cute kitty and puppy videos come in. We are able to have compassion and perhaps even see the view (a bit) of both our own illusory reality we have constructed out of “I”– our thoughts, needs, fears, emotions, and traumas– and have expanded to consider the plight of kittens and puppies. This is where most people are, and where they remain.
Some of us expand our “I” even further– and form the ability to see the world through the eyes of our children, our community, or generally people just like us– from the same race, culture, and educational status.
It is a rarity, and a beautiful thing when we can expand our “I” any further of this– and see people who are not “I”– meaning the same education, sexual orientation, cosmology, thought patterns, political status– and whatever other illusory constructs we have come up with for our own personal “I” centered universe. It is a rarity to have an open enough “I” to consider the beliefs, direct experiences, and understandings of people essentially different than us and the illusory constructs we have chosen to create for ourselves as valid, and true. It is difficult for most people to even read the thoughts or interact with people in this category. It would disrupt our illusions, our cosmologies to do so.
This is why there is so much anger and hostility in the world (one of the largest reasons, anyway). When we get confronted by other thought patterns, other understandings, beliefs, other “I”‘s– people who have also constructed their own illusory universe out of their “I” and it is so much different than our own we react. We get angry, we get fearful. We realize, even if for a momentary second (or at least until we return to our own comfortable sphere of “I”) that we are not as in control as we thought, that the world may not be as we have constructed it to be. Anything that threatens our illusions of the world causes a reaction. We react, and then we go back to the safety and illusions we have constructed– often constructing even more illusion after each reaction to ensure that our personal cage… our person “I”… our beliefs and illusions we have created for ourselves and our version of the world… remain intact.
Some people are able to expand beyond this layer of “I” and it is beautiful to witness. They are able to sit with dissimilar opinions, thoughts, and people without it causing a fear response. They are able to see where others are coming from who are dissimilar to them– in thoughts, in beliefs, in understandings. This is still true even if they do not agree with them. There no longer is that backlash to keep themselves encaged. People in this category do not need the cage of believing that only their universe that they have created is right. They no longer need to understand themselves as the sole creator of the universe, and are able to recognize that they have many co-creators of the universe.
This stage of “I”, if we allow it, expands until we can have understanding for everyone and everything in our world. It is easy to understand someone who has the same exact viewpoint as us. We often surround ourselves with those people. We read materials that are not “scary” to us– ones that come from people who have similar cosmologies to us. It is also easy (but also difficult emotionally, I realize) to see the world from the viewpoint of a kitten who needs a home. It is much more difficult to understand the worldview of someone who is a highly violent alcoholic, someone who is homeless, or someone who is incredibly close-minded (such as people who picket funerals). To understand who they are, to understand their point of view, even if we don’t agree with it allows for us to expand our “I”.
We then go through the phases of expanding our “I” with compassion. Again, it is easy to feel compassion for others who have the same view, the same socio-economics, the same race, culture, location as our own. It is more difficult to feel compassion for someone who dislikes you, for someone who has murdered someone, for someone who is filled with hate.
At a certain point we do expand our “I” enough that we encompass the world. We have reached oneness and there is a brief dissolution. This is actually a really disorienting time where we feel and breathe with everything. Without our egos we have no concept of “I”… of who we are as individuals. We are intended to have egos, to have “I”‘s. When our ego returns after a brief (or somewhat brief) period of time after dissolution it is with the realization of “I” and the realization of all “other” and oneness at the same time.
After this point we no longer create illusions (or don’t to the same extent). We are still an individual, with an individual purpose, beliefs, and understandings. But we have compassion and understanding for other beliefs, even those diametrically opposed to our own, at the same time. We can love the people who hate us. We are no longer encaged by our own “I”, we are no longer creating a cage for ourselves that shuts out any other views or any other “I”.
There are a lot of illusions that are created about the dissolution or “killing” of the ego. What it really means is that we have expanded to the point that we can see ourselves in all other people… that we can see the divine in all other people… that we can see the same divine in ourselves and other people… even if they cannot see it in themselves. Even if they are still encaged, enraged, and filled with illusions.We can sit with dissimilar opinions with compassion, with understanding, and there is no longer polarity between two opposing thoughts. They do not make us feel rage, and fear, and have us crawl back to our personal cage of beliefs we have constructed for ourselves.
One of the biggest myths is this idea that we no longer “judge” once the ego has been “killed”. This is false. What happens is that we may see someone filled with fear, anger, and hate… someone so afraid that they cannot sit with any other opinions than their own… someone unable to grow past who they are. We are able to see all of that and have compassion for them. It must be really hard to struggle with all of that. It doesn’t mean that we do not see those things– it just means that we have compassion for the unique cages that people construct for themselves out of their “I”– their personal illusory universe.
I encourage people to see how they are reacting to others. People can be our greatest teachers. Are we reacting out of anger to them because they are threatening our own “I”? Are we reacting out of fear because our “I” wants us to? When we come to a state of peace, of compassion, of expanded “I” within ourselves those reactions to individual people will be gone. They will simply be seen as people struggling with their “I”… their cages. We will still have emotions (all of them), we will not be vapid and shallow beings who never feel anything, but the anger at individual people and our internal reactions to them will cease. Anyone that does cause that reaction is a teacher, and can be looked at to reconcile some small or large part of ourselves… to expand our “I” even further.
I encourage people to visit, make friends with, and read things from people of different cultures, belief systems, and understandings than our own. We grow not by reading something that tells us what we want to know, what we already believe, and what we want to hear, we grow through reading and learning from people who have different views, different understandings, and much different “I”‘s than our own.
Most of us are still in the stage of only reading things that we agree with– anything else creates a reaction of disdain, fear, or we are simply unable to process it. We come up with surface understandings of why it may be wrong without even allowing ourselves to read it or or to listen to someone who has a different “I” than us. This is our ego protecting itself. If we want to grow we will question if our reaction is one of fear, of not wanting to change or grow, of wanting to protect ourselves and our illusory “I”. We will read anyway, we will listen anyway, if we are at a point we are able to consider other beliefs than our own… and deeply consider them… and then take what works for us to help us grown.
And feel compassion for your “I”. Your ego wants to protect itself. It is deeply afraid. It wants to protect you. It does not need to be “killed”, it needs love, and gentle expansion. It needs to be thanked for attempting to protect you. Have compassion for it, have love for it, and let it know that it is okay if it expands… even just a little.