ego

The Threads of the Ego Experience Pulled Free

"Due to its nature as a construction, rather than as a metaphysical entity, the sense of being an ego can be radically deconstructed. Accomplishing this deconstruction requires noticing and tracking the sensory phenomena that together make up the construction of the self, and then patiently untangling them from the whole. One by one, as the threads of the ego experience are pulled free, perception shifts to encompass all of creation."

~ Michael Taft, highlighting key themes from his talk "Deconstructing The Perception Of The Ego/self" at the Science and Nonduality Conference, October 26, 2013

See also: The Atomic Components of Narrative Elements

Accommodating the Full Range of Mysteries

Vinegar Battery, Caleb Charland, 2011

“Events happen to reveal the truth of what our life is about, a truth we try so hard to evade, cancel, or reverse. Yet, is also a given that we will never understand why certain things happen. In fact, the comfort we derive from explanations makes us wonder about the authenticity of our explanations.

Perhaps the need to know is part of the ego’s demand that it be in control. That way of living does not accommodate the full range of mysteries we meet up with in life.

A psychology or religion that explains everything cuts us off from a sense of wonder about the world and from growth in humility about ourselves.

Saint John of the Cross, a Spanish mystic, happily declared his spiritual predicament in this way: ‘I entered I knew not where, and there I stood not knowing: nothing left to know.’ ...meaningful growth comes at the price of pain. Why? That is a mystery, and the fact that there is no satisfying answer is related to the first noble truth of the pervasive unsatisfactoriness of human life. It can only be greeted with a yes, not deconstructed with a reply.”  

~ David Richo, from The Five Things We Cannot Change: And the Happiness We Find by Embracing Them

The Story Begins to Live and Breathe

Excerpt from Resurrecting Jesus: Embodying the Spirit of a Revolutionary Mystic by Adyashanti

Topiary Park, April 20, 2014Transmutation is what transfiguration and relinquishment make possible. In it, your orientation to life is entirely selfless. It's not that you want to be selfless or you're practicing being selfless: rather you're selfless in the sense of no self. 

For this transition to happen, one has to go through the death of the ego. Certain aspects of the transmutation may occur earlier in our own journey, but the crucifixion or relinquishment must be complete for it to happen in full. At that point, really, the only thing left to do is to be a selfless, benevolent presence in the world—there's really nothing else to do, nothing else that makes sense. Whatever that may look like—and it looks different for different people—that's where the whole process ends up. 

In the Jesus story, this stage is termed the resurrection. Out of death is resurrected a new life, which really means a new orientation. That movement, that long turning from self-orientation to selfless orientation now comes to fruition. This is where the journey culminates for Jesus, and this is where it ultimately culminates for anyone who's taken the journey of awakening.  

The story of Jesus mirrors back the journey of spiritual awakening for anyone who has the eyes to see it or the experience to notice it. I believe this is among the most powerful lenses through which to view the story, because from this perspective the story begins to live and breathe as a metaphor. 

Jesus doesn't live anything out in a small fashion; everything in his story is writ large. This makes it easier for us to see that he's depicting a journey of awakening. We shouldn't expect to live out our own journey in the same fashion and, fortunately, we don't have to, though our journey will certainly have its own challenges and intensity. 

The mystery of the story of Jesus is the same as the mystery of you and me and everyone: we are all God appearing as man and as woman, divine being manifesting as human being. They're actually two sides of the same coin. They're one and the same thing; it's only our minds that separate divinity and humanity. We separate them in our mind and in our experience, but the whole spiritual journey is finally to see that they aren't separate, that they never were separate...

And when you reorient your life toward this realization, then you understand: you so loved the world, you had so much compassion, you had so much love that you poured yourself forth into life, and that pouring forth was your birth. You are here to redeem whatever you encounter in this life, to wake up within everything the deep reality of its divine existence. 

The kingdom of heaven is spread upon earth and men do not see it. When you see this, you shift from being a victim of your life and assigning blame for the tragedy you encounter. The truth, I would suggest, is that you poured yourself willingly into form of infinite love in order to redeem the entirety of this life. When seen from that perspective, all of a sudden life looks different. You stop holding back from life, your inner life or the life around you, because the kingdom of heaven is within and all around you. That's the message of the Jesus story.  


See also: 

The Way We Daydream It Should Be

 

Cabeza Vainilla, Cabeza Córdoba, Cabeza Chiapas by Javier Marín

Excerpt from "Negative Capability: Kerouac's Buddhist Ethic," by Allen Ginsberg, Tricycle Magazine, Fall 1992:

The Four Noble Truths are as follows. First, existence contains suffering. Second, suffering is caused by ignorance of the conditions in which we exist—ignorance of the transitoriness and ignorance of anatma, the empty nature of the situation, so that everybody is afraid of a permanent condition of suffering and doesn't realize that suffering itself is transitory, impermanent. There is no permanent Hell, there is no permanent Heaven. Therefore, the suffering that we sense during this transition of life is not a permanent condition that we need to be afraid of. It's not where we're going to end up. We end liberated from the suffering either by death, or in life, by waking up to the nature of our situation and not clinging and grasping, screaming and being angry, resentful, irritable or insulted by our existence.

It is possible to take our existence as a "sacred world," to take this place as open space rather than claustrophobic dark void. It is possible to take a friendly relationship to our ego natures, it is possible to appreciate the aesthetic play of forms in emptiness, and to exist in this place like majestic kings of our own consciousness. But to do that, we would have to give up grasping to make everything come out the way we daydream it should.

So, suffering is caused by ignorance, or suffering exaggerated by ignorance or ignorant grasping and clinging to our notion of what we think should be, is what causes the "suffering of suffering." The suffering itself is not so bad, it's the resentment against suffering that is the real pain. This is where I think Kerouac got caught as a Catholic, ultimately, because I don't think he overcame that fear of the First Noble Truth.

Read more...

Mature Wisdom

Topiary Park, November 4, 2012

"Wisdom, the Buddha says, starts with a simple question: What actions will lead to my long-term welfare and happiness?

The wisdom here lies in realizing that your happiness depends on what you do, and that the pursuit of happiness is worthwhile only if it’s long-term.

The test of how far your wisdom has matured lies in the strategic skill with which you can keep yourself from doing things that you like to do but that would cause long-term harm, and the skill with which you can talk yourself into doing things that you don’t like to do but that would lead to long-term well-being and happiness.

In other words, mature wisdom requires a mature ego."

~ Thanissaro Bhikkhu, from "Hang On To Your Ego," Tricycle Magazine, Summer 2007

The Ego Will Be Asked to Open to Something Larger

"The ego wishes comfort, security, satiety; the soul demands meaning, struggle, becoming. The contention of these two voices sometimes tears us apart. Ordinary ego consciousness is crucified by these polarities. Again, the paradox emerges that in our suffering, in our symptoms, are profound clues as to the meaning of the struggle, yet the path of healing is very difficult for the apprehensive ego to accept, for the ego will be asked to be open to something larger than itself."

~ James Hollis, from Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life: How to Finally, Really Grow Up

Letting Ourselves Experience the Vulnerability

Inniswood Metro Gardens, August 23, 2010

Excerpt from The Three Marriages: Reimagining Work, Self, and Relationship by David Whyte:

We think that if we investigate the self we will find out there is something wrong at the core, and we want to defend against that revelation at all costs. The surface personality feels as if it is going to  die and becomes deathly afraid of the conversation. The task is to shift the identity more toward the movable conversation that stands behind us, a deep undercurrent we can tap into that carries on unconcerned with the surface tribulations. In this depth we try to create a real silence in which to keep our long-standing, well-established, self-protective stories away, to let ourselves alone so we can experience the physical vulnerability of the question and be transformed by it. We give these smaller protective stories away so that we can see how they come back to us once we have established a larger way of being in the world.

We call this unremitting wish to create a silence in which to see to the truth meditation. The outer form looks like silence as we see a practitioner sitting quietly, but meditation can take many forms, beginning usually with simply following the breath, getting to the very foundations of the way we physically give and take. It can be quite revealing to find out how much willpower we put into that autonomic bodily function; we find that we are controlling a process that can be left well alone and doesn't need so much outside intervention...

We could see meditation as the equivalent of the kitchen or a bedroom in a marriage. It's the place where most of the significant transformative conversations happen; significant conversations that may be silent but that can shift the relationship with the self to a new level. The act of physical transformation can at times be an almost ecstatic, sexual experience. It can also be a fierce, unrelenting and prolonged daily confrontation. 

...

What is needed in a marriage with the self is what is needed in the marriage to another: a radical letting alone of our partner, the deeper self, to let it live its own life without our necessity for a constant, overarching control. We must stop trying to protect that deeper, more vulnerable self from the way it feels things keenly and at their essence. This self that we are attempting to "marry" can look after itself as much as our partner can. Its vulnerability is not a weakness but actually a faculty for understanding what is about to happen. It does not wish to survive its encounters with its previous reality intact and untouched; it actually wants to be transformed by what it meets. In a sense it wants to be the conversation itself. 


See also: This Difficulty Feels Like This

 

Feeling What It's Like to Be Weather

rain.JPG

July 24, 2012

Excerpt from The Wisdom of No Escape (chapter titled "Weather and the Four Noble Truths") by Pema Chödrön:

The first noble truth says simply that it's part of being human to feel discomfort. We don't have to call it suffering anymore, we don't even have to call it discomfort. It's simply coming to know the fierness of fire, the wildness of wind, the turbulence of water, the upheaval of earth, the gentleness of the breezes, and the goodness, solidness, and dependability of the earth. Nothing in its essence is one way or the other...

Sometimes they manifest in one form and sometimes in another. If we feel that's a problem, we resist it. The first noble truth recognizes that we also change like the weather, we ebb, and flow like the tides, we wax and wane like the moon. We do that, and there's no reason to resist it. If we resist it, the reality and vitality of life become a misery, a hell.

The second noble truth says that this resistance is the fundamental operating mechanism of what we call ego, that resisting life causes suffering. Traditionally it's said that the cause of suffering is clinging to our narrow view. Another way to say the same thing is that resisting our complete unity with all of life, resisting the fact that we change and flow like the weather, that we have the same energy as all living things, resisting that is what's called ego. 

Yesterday I began to be very curious about the experience of resistance. I noticed that I was sitting there with uncomfortable feelings in my heart and my stomach—dread, you could call it. I began to recognize the opportunity of experiencing the realness...feeling what it's like to be weather. Of course that didn't make the discomfort go away, but it removed the resistance, and somehow the world was there again. When I didn't resist, I could see the world. 

Then I noticed that I had never liked the quality of this particular "weather" for some reason and so I resisted it. In doing that, I realized, I re-created myself. It's as if, when you resist, you dig in your heels. It's like as if you're a block of marble and you carve yourself out of it, you make yourself really solid.

In my case, worrying about things that are going to happen is very unpleasant; it's an addiction. It's also unpleasant to get drunk again if you're an alcoholic, or to have to keep shooting up if you're a drug addict, or to keep eating if you have overeating addiction, or whatever it is. All these things are very strange. We all know what addiction is; we are primarily addicted to ME.

Interestingly enough, when the weather changes and the energy simply flows through us, just as it flows through the grass and the trees and the ravens and the bears and the moose and the ocean and the rocks, we discover that we are not solid at all. If we sit still, like a mountain in a hurricane, if we don't protect ourselves from the trueness and the vividness and the immediacy and the lack of confirmation of simply being part of life, then we are not this separate being who has to have things turn out our way.


Self-Importance is Like a Prison

hot question by gratuit

The Facts of Life: Egolessness
by Pema Chödrön, from Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings on Cultivating Fearlessness and Compassion

The second mark of existence is egolessness, some-times called no-self. These words can be misleading. They don’t mean that we disappear—or that we eraseour personality. Egolessness means that the fixed idea that we have about ourselves as solid and separate from each other is painfully limiting. That we take ourselves so seriously, that we are so absurdly important in our own minds, is a problem. Self-importance is like a prison for us, limiting us to the world of our likes and dislikes. We end up bored to death with ourselves and our world. We end up very dissatisfied.

We have two alternatives: either we take everything to be sure and real, or we don’t. Either we accept our fixed versions of reality, or we begin to challenge them. In Buddha’s opinion, to train in staying open and curious—to train in dissolving the barriers that we erect between ourselves and the world—is the best use of our human lives.

In the most ordinary terms, egolessness is a flexible identity. It manifests as inquisitiveness, as adaptability, as humor, as playfulness. It is our capacity to relax with not knowing, not figuring everything out, with not being at all sure about who we are, or who anyone else is, either. Every moment is unique, unknown, completely fresh. [From this perspective], egolessness is a cause of joy rather than a cause for fear.


See also: "We Must Learn to Love Uncertainty and Failure, Say Leading Thinkers," by Alok Jha, The Guardian, January 14, 2011

Almost a Voice

"In the act of writing the poem, I am obedient, and submissive. Insofar as one can, I put aside ego and vanity, and even intention. I listen. What I hear is almost a voice, almost a language. It is a second ocean, rising, singing into one’s ear, or deep inside the ears, whispering in the recesses where one is less oneself than a part of some single indivisible community. Blake spoke of taking dictation. I am no Blake, yet I know the nature of what he meant. Every poet knows it. One learns the craft, and then casts off. One hopes for gifts. One hopes for direction. It is both physical, and spooky. It is intimate, and inapprehensible. Perhaps it is for this reason that the act of first-writing, for me, involves nothing more complicated than paper and pencil. The abilities of a typewriter or computer would not help in this act of slow and deep listening."

~ Mary Oliver, from Winter Hours: Prose, Prose Poems, and Poems

The Owl Who Comes
By Mary Oliver, from New and Selected Poems: Volume Two

the owl who comes
through the dark
to sit
in the black boughs of the apple tree

and stare down
the hook of his beak,
dead silent,
and his eyes,

like two moons
in the distance,
soft and shining
under their heavy lashes—

like the most beautiful lie—
is thinking
of nothing
as he watches

and waits to see
what might appear,
briskly,
out of the seamless,

deep winter—
out of the teeming
world below—
and if i wish the owl luck,

and I do,
what am I wishing for that other
soft life,
climbing through the snow?

what we must do,
I suppose,
is to hope the world
keeps its balance;

what we are to do, however,
with our hearts
waiting and watching—truly
I do not know.

The Journey
by Mary Oliver, from Dream Work 

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you 
kept shouting
their bad advice-
though the whole house 
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.

It was already late 
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company 
as you strode deeper and deeper into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do-
determined to save
the only life that you could save.


See also: Ten Poems to Change Your Life by Roger Housden

The Oneness Behind All the Religions

"Faith precedes belief systems. That means that faith is the consent or surrender to the divine reality — or to the ultimate reality or whatever its name is in the different religions — before it's broken down into different belief systems which are bound to be influenced by the cultural conditioning  of the person or the reformers who worked on that religion. So faith, when it becomes contemplative, begins to perceive the oneness behind all the religions — before the experience of God was broken down into various belief systems. " ~ Father Thomas Keating

The Sum of Your Parts

"There isn't actually a you at the heart of all these experiences. Strange thought? Well maybe not. What is there then? Well, clearly there are memories, desires, intentions, sensations, and so forth. But, what happens is, these things exist — and they're kind of all integrated, overlapped. They're connected in various different ways. They're connected partly — even mainly — because they all belong to one body and one brain.

But there's also a narrative, a story about ourselves, the experiences we have — we remember past things...What we desire is partly a result of what we believe and what we remember also informs what we know.

And so really, there are all these things like beliefs, desires, sensations, experiences — they're all related to each other and that just is you.

In some ways it's a very small difference, from the common sense understanding; in some ways it's a massive one. It's a shift between thinking of yourself as a thing which has all the experiences of life and thinking of yourself as simply that collection of all experience in life. You are the sum of your parts."

~ Julian Baggini, from "Is There A Real You?" TEDxYouth@Manchester 2011

See also:

Fleeting and Illusory Arrangements of Molecules

Excerpt from The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen:

Meditation has nothing to do with contemplation of eternal questions, or of one's own folly, or even of one's navel, although a clearer view on all of these enigmas may result. It has nothing to do with thought of any kind with anything at all, in fact, but intuiting the true nature of existence, which is why it has appeared, in one form or another, in almost every culture known to man.

The entranced Bushman staring into fire, the Eskimo using a sharp rock to draw an ever-deepening circle into the flat surface of a stone achieves the same obliteration of the ego (and the same power) as the dervish or the Pueblo sacred dancer.

Among Hindus and Buddhists, realization is attained through inner stillness, usually achieved through the samadhi state of sitting yoga.

In Tantric practice, the student may displace the ego by filling his whole being with the real or imagined object of his concentration; in Zen, one seeks to empty out the mind, to return it to the clear, pure stillness of a seashell or flower petal.

When body and mind are one, then the whole thing, scoured clean of intellect, emotions, and the senses, may be laid open to the experience that individual existence, ego, the "reality" of matter and phenomena are no more than fleeting and illusory arrangements of molecules.

The weary self of masks and screens, defenses, preconceptions, and opinions that are propped up by ideas and words, imagines itself to be some sort of an entity (in a society of like entities) may suddenly fall away, dissolve into formless faux where concepts such as "death" and "life", "time" and "space", "past" and "future" have no meaning.

There is only a pearly radiance of Emptiness, the Uncreated, without beginning, therefore without end. Like the round bottomed Bodhidharma doll, returning to its center, meditation represents the foundation of the universe to which all returns, as in the stillness of the dead of night, the stillness between tides and winds, the stillness of the instant before Creation.

In this "void", this dynamic state of rest, without impediments, lies ultimate reality, and here one's own true nature is reborn, in a return from what Buddhists speak of as "great death".

[Thanks, Whiskey River!]

Sitting in a Pool of Me

Excerpts from Question Your Thinking, Change The World: Quotations from Byron Katie:

questionyourthinking We’re often quite sure about what other people need to do, how they should live, and whom they should be with. We have 20/20 vision about others, but not about ourselves. When you do The Work, you see who you are by seeing who you think other people are. Eventually you come to see that everything outside you is a reflection of your own thinking. You are the storyteller, the projector of all stories, and the world is the projected image of your thoughts.

*     *     *     *     *

We only fear what we are—what we haven’t gone inside and taken a look at and met with understanding. If I think you might see me as boring, it would frighten me, because I haven’t investigated that thought. So it’s not people who frighten me, it’s me that frightens me. That’s my job, until I investigate and stop this fear for myself. The worst that can happen is that I think you think about me what I think about myself. So I am sitting in a pool of me.

*     *     *     *     *

I like to ask, “Are you breathing yourself?” No? Well, maybe you’re not thinking yourself or making decisions either. Maybe it doesn’t move until it moves, like a breath, like the wind. And you tell the story of how you are doing it, so you can keep yourself from the awareness that you are nature, flowing perfectly. Who would you be without the story that you need to make a decision?

*     *     *     *     *

No one has ever been able to control their thinking, although people may tell the story of how they have. I don’t let go of my thoughts—I meet them with understanding, then they let go of me.

*     *     *     *     *

The ego is terrified of the truth. And the truth is that the ego doesn’t exist.

The Combustion of Egoistic Delusions

Excerpt from “This Very Moment,” by Charlotte Joko Beck, from Ordinary Magic: Everyday Life as Spiritual Path:

Back in the 1920s, when I was maybe eight or ten years old, and living in New Jersey where the winters are cold, we had a furnace in our house that burned coal. It was a big event on the block when the coal truck rolled up and all this stuff poured down the coal chute into the coal bin. I learned that there are two kinds of coal: one was called anthracite or hard coal, and the other was lignite, soft coal. My father told me about the difference in the way those two kinds of coal burned. Anthracite burns cleanly, leaving little ash. Lignite leaves lots of ash. When we burned lignite, the cellar became covered with soot and some of it got upstairs into the living room.

What does this have to do with our practice? Practice is about breaking our exclusive identification with ourselves. This process has sometimes been called purifying the mind. To “purify the mind” doesn’t mean that you become holy or other than you are; it means to strip away that which keeps a person—or furnace—from functioning best.  The furnace functions best with hard coal. But unfortunately what we’re full of is soft coal. There’s a saying in the Bible: “He is like a refiner’s fire.” It’s a common analogy, found in other religions as well. To sit in meditation is to be in the middle of a refining fire. Eido Roshi said once, “This meditation hall is not a peaceful haven, but a furnace room for the combustion of our egoistic delusions.” A meditation hall is not a place for bliss and relaxation, but a furnace room for the combustion of our egoistic delusions. What tools do we need to use? Only one. We’ve all heard of it, yet we use it very seldom. It’s called attention.

Attention is the cutting, burning sword, and our practice is to use that sword as much as we can. None of us is very willing to use it; but when we do—even for a few minutes—some cutting and burning take place. All practice aims to increase our ability to be attentive, not just in meditation but in every moment of our life.

Ego-Free States

The hookah-smoking caterpillar in Tim's Burton's Alice in Wonderland.

Excerpts from “Hallucinogens Have Doctors Tuning In Again,” by John Tierney, New York Times, April 12, 2010:

Researchers from around the world are gathering this week in San Jose, California, for the largest conference on psychedelic science held in the United States in four decades. They plan to discuss studies of psilocybin and other psychedelics for treating depression in cancer patients, obsessive-compulsive disorder, end-of-life anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction to drugs or alcohol.

…Scientists are especially intrigued by the similarities between hallucinogenic experiences and the life-changing revelations reported throughout history by religious mystics and those who meditate. These similarities have been identified in neural imaging studies conducted by Swiss researchers and in experiments led by Roland Griffiths, a professor of behavioral biology at Johns Hopkins.

…“There’s this coming together of science and spirituality,” said Rick Doblin, the executive director of Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. “We’re hoping that the mainstream and the psychedelic community can meet in the middle and avoid another culture war. Thanks to changes over the last 40 years in the social acceptance of the hospice movement and yoga and meditation, our culture is much more receptive now, and we’re showing that these drugs can provide benefits that current treatments can’t.”

Dr. Charles S. Grob, a psychiatrist who is involved in an experiment at U.C.L.A., describes it as “existential medicine” that helps dying people overcome fear, panic and depression.

“Under the influences of hallucinogens,” Dr. Grob writes, “individuals transcend their primary identification with their bodies and experience ego-free states before the time of their actual physical demise, and return with a new perspective and profound acceptance of the life constant: change.”

Read the entire article here…

[Thanks Dōshin!]

Through Narrow Chinks

The Marriage of Heaven and Hell “If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things through narrow chinks of his cavern.”

~ William Blake, from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

“To be shaken out of the ruts of ordinary perception, to be Doors of Perceptionshown for a few timeless hours the outer and inner world, not as they appear to an animal obsessed with survival or to a human being obsessed with words and notions, but as they are apprehended, directly and unconditionally… this is an experience of inestimable value to everyone...”

~ Aldous Huxley, from The Doors of Perception