Ego and its transformation into higher consciousness
“The most common ego identifications have to do with possessions, the work you do, social status and recognition, knowledge and education, physical appearance, special abilities, relationships, person and family history, belief systems, and often nationalistic, racial, religious, and other collective identifications. None of these is you.”
We all possess different belief systems, beliefs about our personality, opinions, experiences, talents and abilities, which become our yardsticks to measure things, persons and situations. They together construct our so-called self-image or self-worth, which is not static since our self- image keeps on changing as our yardsticks also keep changing. These so-called yardsticks developed by us constitute our ego. Therefore, ego is a false identity of our “Self”, which hides behind “I”, “Me” and “Mine” as shown in these statements – I am very good at Math; I am very handsome and smart; I am rich and people like me a lot etc. We have basically a bundle of mental-emotional thought patterns that have been conditioned by the past, looking to the future for relief of the emotional turbulence caused by them.
The ego is difficult to define because the ego isn’t one specific thing. It is actually made up of many different beliefs that a person acquires over his or her life. Those beliefs can be diverse and even contradictory. To further complicate it, each person’s ego is different. The ego hides behind opinions and beliefs that appear true. We all get attached to those identities of opinions and beliefs; our attachment to them gives strength to our ego. When the ego is threatened, it leaves a trail of reactions behind it, which can be emotionally powerful. The ego is self-righteous that knows better and berates others with emotional reactions.
So, the ego is a mental construct depending on our opinions and beliefs. Therefore, it is also a concept that has no true identity. The false identities of “I”, Me” and “Mine” are also concepts that are formed by our thoughts, emotions, name, body, possessions etc.
What is our true self? –
“Waking up to who you are requires letting go of who you imagine yourself to be.”
-- Alan Watts
Our natural state of being is devoid of the ego; it is without our false identities. It is still and quiet awareness of all around us.
Our true self has no ties to the images, thoughts and ideas which the mind currently holds. It works endlessly to reveal itself to us but our current state of mind always opposes it. The fear of losing the current way of thinking is too great to face, so we prefer not to be in our natural state of being. In fact, when we realize that all the images, thoughts and ideas that we have about ourselves are simply that and nothing more, we begin to reveal the true nature of the self to us. Then the ego begins to lose control it has on our life. We begin to realize that, in fact, each of those things, images, ideas and thoughts are the very culprits, which cause pain and frustration in life. We develop awareness that all things are impermanent; we begin to see things from a new perspective, from which we have never seen before. When our true nature is revealed to us, we find that it is only happiness and nothing else. On losing all the attachments to our images, thoughts, ideas, concepts and beliefs, we become egoless. Egolessness is our natural state of being. The state of total egolessness is rarely seen in an individual since the ingredient of egolessness varies from person to person and from time to time in the same person. That is why our natural state of being also varies from time to time and so is our happiness.
Bad and good ego –
“If you want to reach a state of bliss, then go beyond your ego and the internal dialogue. Make a decision to relinquish the need to control, the need to be approved, and the need to judge. Those are the three things the ego is doing all the time. It’s very important to be aware of them every time they come up.”
-- Deepak Chopra
When ego overwhelms us, we say words that we regret later and take actions that we repent later. Our inflated egos make people lose trust in us and respect for us. Our egos are busy doing this all the time without our knowledge because it controls us. But if we develop an awareness of ego, we will soon realize how much unhappiness, frustration and pain it causes us. Our awareness of ego will cause a dynamic shift in our perspective.
When we are simply aware of our possessions, social status, physical appearance, abilities, beliefs, opinions etc. and are not attached to them, our ego will not harm others in any way. Thus we will not hurt anyone even if someone tries to damage our self-worth because we are not emotional attached to them. So, the possession of ego without an attachment to our possessions, social status, abilities, beliefs etc. makes the ego harmless because we relinquish the need to control others, need to be approved by others and need to judge others. We are simply aware of our self-worth. Such an ego loses its bad ingredient and becomes good. It becomes our partner in our spiritual evolution as well as material growth.
How to sublimate it into higher ego consciousness? –
Now we are well conversant with the nature of the ego as well as our true nature. The ego always takes us on a ride of an emotional rollercoaster most of the time, leading to much misery and unhappiness. The ego takes us away from the present moment. It keeps us trapped in the past – rehashing old hurts, perceived mistakes and past regrets; it enormously influences our future decisions. Thus, the ego thrives on separating us from the moment and from others, who share in this moment with us. So, in order to mitigate our miseries, we have to lean to tame our ego.
Just be grateful – We all have so many things to be grateful for to the Almighty. Once we remember that everything is changeable and impermanent, we will develop an attitude of expressing gratefulness for everything we have in life, including our possessions, family, social status, material comforts, belief system and opinions. The gratitude teaches us not to be envious of those, who have more than us or are different from us in some way. It also develops compassion in us for those, who have lesser than us in life. It develops humility in us that is an antidote to the ego.
Develop an attitude of stewardship – The spiritual concept of stewardship implies that whatever we have in life belongs to the Almighty Power; we have been entrusted by Him with the responsibility to manage them efficiently. So, we have to act as a good and efficient steward. If we are not able to manage them efficiently, we lose the responsibility of their management, which is handed over to someone else. We are awarded to make judicious use of all we have as remuneration for the stewardship. If we develop this attitude in life toward all we have, we will never develop a sense of arrogance toward others; we will be more tolerant of other’s behaviors and idiosyncrasies; we will not be negligent toward things we have been entrusted to do.
Does voluntary work – By engaging in voluntary work for a good cause, an individual can learn to relate to the realities in the lives of others. One can take out some time from one’s busy schedule especially on week ends. It will be good learning experience for all if one participates in a social activity with one’s family. Such activities for a good cause awaken empathy and compassion in the individual as these feeling are gradually becoming extinct from humans. The emotions of empathy and compassion are strong antidotes to ego.
Self-reflection – In our leisure time, we can do some reflection on impermanence and changing nature of everything we possess. Such self-reflections on similar issues can also be done during periods set apart especially for this purpose. Such reflections effectively alter our thought patterns and belief system. And, thus, they help us in getting rid of negative attitudes toward others.
Develop love for all – In fact, love is the most potent emotion to counteract ego. One should make it a daily habit to send blessings and love to our near and dear, our friends in particular and everyone in general during our self-reflections. According to the law attraction, we will attract blessing and love from them in return too. Our ego will be sublimated when we realize that we all are sons and daughters of the Almighty God who loves us all unconditionally. So, the unconditional love should be form an interconnecting bridge between everyone.
Letting go – We can sublimate our ego by letting go the attachments to the past hurts and harms done by others, simmering anger, envy, jealousy or hatred towards others. Thus, we will make peace with ours ego.
When we were small children, we had no ego and that is the reason children are loved by all; their egoless state attracts everyone. But as time goes on, we all have different experiences in life, which form lasting impressions on us; we learn and observe so many things from our parents, friends, peers and others, which also form lasting impressions. Such impressions become our guidelines, on which we judge people, things, situations and cirmstances. Thus, we begin to develop the ego, which can be our good friend when we transform it into universal consciousness.