Spiritual teachers, saints, sages, shamans, mystics, and wisdom traditions all agree in principle that you are not (or only) the familiar story of who you think you are, which we commonly call the ego. Furthermore, The possibility exists for you to recognize, or know, a much deeper aspect of reality as yourself, true nature, and with such self-realization comes the end of personal suffering. We already have enjoyed moments of such contented well-being but these experiences are often fleeting and are soon replaced by the return of familiar, thought-based stories that pull attention away from the present moment into stories about the past or future.
It is not unusual to read or hear mention of the idea that in order to progress on the spiritual path that we need to destroy the ego, or at least to somehow rid ourselves of it. But that’s just the ego wanting to get rid of the ego. The unreality of this possibility was expressed by Adyashanti when he wrote "Trying to get rid of your ego would be like trying to get rid of your shadow," suggesting it's not something we can hope to dispose of.
The ego in its common usage can be understood as that which we call the ordinary self. The product of childhood conditioning, the ego is the fluid collection of perceptions/experiences of thoughts, beliefs, memories, feelings, and activity that seems to be limited to, or associated with, one's physical body. This mind/ body perspective, the ego/self, gets affirmed by the consensus of other ego/selves and our perspective on reality becomes rigid and limited by this view. We identify with the ego/self and develop a “story of me” that defines us, effectively denying the possibility of knowing ourselves from other perspectives.
The mind is a story making machine.
The promise of a spiritual path is the possibility that we can understand or see beyond our familiar story, shift away, or awaken from our habitual thought patterns, thus becoming more available for true nature to express itself through us. There is nothing you can do to become free of the ego. When that shift happens, which is a shift from thinking to awareness, from story to presence, an intelligence far greater than the ego's cleverness begins to operate in your life.
Are you able to recognize your multiple stories as story? Are you willing to ask if your story really matters? Have you noticed all the judgments of self and others in your story? Can you see how your thoughts, beliefs, and opinions are merely habitual, your automatic default? Are you willing to let go of your stories? What do you fear about letting go? Without your story, who are you?
The biggest challenge for most spiritual seekers is
to surrender their self importance, and
see the emptiness of their own personal story.
It is your personal story that you need to awaken from in order to be free.
The word 'person' comes from the Latin word 'persona',
which referred to the masks worn by actors
in which sound would come through.
The 'person' is the maskーthe role you're playing.
And all your friends and relations and teachers are busy
telling you who you are and what your role in life is.
~ Alan Watts
How would you know yourself without your story?
~ Stuart Schwartz
Notice the difference between being lost in a thought and being mindful that we’re thinking. Becoming aware of the thought is like waking up from a dream or coming out of a movie theater after being absorbed in the story.
Through mindfulness, we gradually awaken from the movies of our minds.”
~ Joseph Goldstein
We are trained to know who we are and what reality is through our definitions, through others' definitions, through cultural parameters, religious parameters, and even spiritual parameters. We limit ourselves when we rely on knowing ourselves indirectly, through predetermined thought.
When I met Papaji, he told me to stop. When I let that stop in, I recognized that he meant to stop every habit of defining myself. He meant to stop creating and recreating myself. What a monumental task that is, and yet it is absolutely immediate and simple. The truth of who we are is freshly revealed when we take responsibility for its direct discovery.
The ego thinks it gains something by getting attention—it wants to validate itself. It wants to be visible because then it feels real, so it looks for attention to make itself experience visibility. In this way ego has created a story, and the attention it receives enables the idea that you are that ego, that you are the one seeking attention. Then mistaken identity happens! See how this game works?
The world is nothing but my perception of it. I see only through myself. I hear only through the filter of my story.
~ Byron Katie
When you are present in this moment,
you break the continuity of your story, of past and future.
Then true intelligence arises, and also love.
~ Eckhart Tolle
Life will always touch you in some way .. but who you really are cannot be touched.
Opening wide to allow the paradox of this means you become vaster than who you think you are. And in this vastness, you live from the space within which everything happens.
Now you are free of your story.
~ Amoda Maa Jeevan
In the story of you, you believe you are going somewhere, to some future moment of awakening. But you are not going anywhere. More precisely, there is no "you" to go anywhere. There is only thought happening.
That thought paints a picture of past that you call, "Who you are." It paints a picture of future that you call, "Who you are going to become." But you are not thought. You are not the past or the future. Because you are not thought, you cannot find yourself through seeking, which is a dream of thought.
In seeing that the spiritual search is happening all on its own, there is the possibility that awareness will start to see it for what it really is -- a dream of thought. When awareness sees the dream of thought known as "you and your spiritual search" and sees that it is happening spontaneously and involuntarily, all of the mental and emotional effort drops out of the search. There is a natural resting into what is.
~ Scott Kiloby
Oftentimes when we are caught in the story it's very hard to come to the simplicity of the sensory present moment experience. But it is important because in the noticing of what is here, the mind can have a moment of rest. And that very moment can be a gateway to presence.
"One day I will be free of the ego."
Who is talking? The ego.
To become free of the ego is not really
a big job but a very small one.
All you need to do is be aware of your thoughts and emotions
as they happen.
This is not really a 'doing', but an alert 'seeing'.
In that sense, it is true that
there is nothing you can do to become free of the ego.
When that shift happens,
which is the shift from thinking to awareness,
an intelligence far greater than the ego's cleverness
begins to operate in your life.
Emotions and even thoughts become depersonalized through awareness.
Their impersonal nature is recognized,
there is no longer a self in them.
They are just human emotions, human thoughts.
Your entire personal history, which is ultimately no more than a story,
a bundle of thoughts and emotions,
becomes of secondary importance and
no longer occupies the forefront of your consciousness.
It no longer forms the basis for your sense of identity.
You are the light of Presence,
the awareness that is prior to and
deeper than any thoughts and emotions.
~ Eckhart Tolle
You need to hear the truth about yourself as frequently as possible, because your mind is so preoccupied with false self-images.
~ A Course In Miracles
Whatever mind presents is just story. Seeing it as story is one thing but really to recognize it as story removes its life-force. When you recognize a scenario as story, honor your own spiritual path by always dropping it. When we chose a story knowingly, having seen it is a story, and we still find it entertaining/interesting then we are turning our back on the truth.
~ Jac O'Keeffe
Because you see thoughts, feelings and sensations as inside you, you identify with them. . . .Take a deep interest in your own story. Face your reactions. Every time you face your reaction you cease to be an accomplice with it and without fuel it fades away.
When you live free from all reaction you find yourself in a new dimension that is always interesting. In life you must make a choice and the choice should be to live in beauty. So become more acquainted with beauty.
~ Jean Klein
The ego sustains its separation from life by telling itself stories about whether life is or is not trustworthy, or whether life is essentially good or bad. All these conclusions comprise our personal myth about life, and they are the prism through which we experience life. They perpetuate the ultimate myth, which is who I think I am—the imagined ego. So can life be experienced without any conclusion, any judgment, any story? What is life then? Dare we experience life with such directness and simplicity? Who are we without our personal myth about ourselves and life in general?
Do not answer this question in your mind. Do not say ‘consciousness’ or ‘awareness’ or even ‘love,’ because these are stories too. Just live in the questions. Let the questions reveal reality beyond all descriptions.
Let it be ok that nothing is happening. Let the show be over, let the movie, the story of 'I' as an individual person, be over. And see what happens. Truth will reveal itself, absolute clarity of how this matrix works, will show itself to be no more than a matrix. And somehow, a capacity to enjoy what ever is unfolding is always there.
~ Jac O' Keeffe
You can't make a decision. You can only experience a story about how you made it. Decisions make themselves; they are happenings; they come when the time is right. Who would you be without the story that you need to make a decision?
~ Byron Katie
The revelation of Being Here while residing in a human body is infinite. The dimensions and textures of ‘here’ only seem to expand with each breath and deepen with each day. Every moment of being alive is truly a miracle: An opportunity to open and receive the blessing of discovering the most intimate relationship we will ever have.
But unfortunately for most of us, no one told us this. No one could show us how to receive and celebrate the blessing of being truly alive. Rather, most of us inherited the DNA that carries the tragic cultural narrative: life is just something you are here to suffer, conquer and survive.
Add to that the fact that developmental trauma is a given for most of us, by virtue of where we are in evolution. No matter which way this narrative has played out in your personal, cultural and ancestral story line; the crux of it lands in each of as an unconscious core wound of separation from the Source of who we are. When our native innocence is not met, seen or affirmed in early life, a core misperception of our true identity ensues.
~ Ajaya Sommers
Language helps us interpret the world in story. We tell ourselves stories all the time. The categorizing of information in terms of opposites: do or don’t, win or lose, good or bad, like or dislike, and so on. These dichotomies lend themselves to value judgments. Every belief, every value, is another story. See that language is a tool. Pick it up and set it down. It’s an interpretation of the world, of you, of life. It’s limited and inaccurate.
~ Jac O' Keeffe
The individual personal energy is convinced that it is acting, or making decisions and choices, and having at least a bit of influence in the flow of things. It believes that it is deciding to move the hand, or to put the kettle on, scratch the ass, or stroke the dog.
Maybe it doesn’t believe that it has all control, but it does think that it is influencing things in some way.
That is not the case at all, not true.
That personal energy of “me,” and the storyteller of it, is simply a by-product of what is happening. They are not creating anything, or in control of anything, They are just a part of the flow.
The designed program is to give the appearance that somebody is separate, and somebody is in control of his or her life, and living separately from everything else. That is not the case at all, not true.
~ Lisa Cairns
Who would you be without your story? Get still. Other than what you're thinking and believing, just now, are you OK? Just now, in reality, are you OK?
~ Byron Katie
Satsang is not an invitation to get more for "me." There are many opportunities in the world for that. Satsang is about the ending of the preoccupation with "me-ness." Mysteriously, in the ending of the personal story, you experience completion and fulfillment.
Within the story there’s no way out.
~ Stuart Schwartz
Awakening has no exact definition. This is because Awakening is about a process of shifting from the unconscious states of the ego driven identity to a conscious and experiencing state of Self as the eternal awareness and Oneness of all life. It is also because it is a state in which we transcend definition and become pure being.
In the ego driven state a person experiences life dominantly through the constructed identity and perception of being separate from others, and the source of all life. The individual believes in themselves as an actual personality – a ‘somebody’ defined by their body and events of their life.
In this state it is the logical left brain activity that is dominant. Life is experienced in dualistic terms: up down, right wrong, me you etc. Consequently, life is constantly defined and labeled. It is believed that life really is what the mind has defined.
The individual lives under the illusion of the mind, totally unaware that they are directed by a great big load of stories! This plays out through subconscious and unconscious feedback loops. Hence a person’s life feels like a constant swing between good and bad moments of pleasure and pain. Life is very conditional on circumstances. A person’s happiness is dependent on the circumstances and events of their life. And the person lives in the fog of the mind’s illusion, disconnected from the centred state of oneness in the NOW.
Awakening occurs through an ongoing process that integrates over many stages. During this process a person begins to experience direct states of awareness in which there is a remembering – a reconnection with knowing the true Self as eternal awareness and being.
Through various direct activities and experiences (such as meditation) the right brain becomes more active. A gradual state of entrainment between the right and left hemispheres results in deeper and higher conscious activity. The mind becomes very still. There is a deep centredness in the moment of the NOW and the individual enters a state free of the mind’s stories and projections.
It is then directly experienced and realized that this ‘Self’ is vastly beyond the body-mind of the ‘individual’. This Self is infinite and at One with all things. This Self is both the One which is undifferentiated and the manifestation of every unique expression in the universe. It is like a veil is lifted and life is seen in its full glory. All questions fall away, and along with it, the belief in a constructed identity: a ‘somebody’.
In this state a profound sense of liberation occurs – there is a realization of the perfection of all things in all moments as being the One Self. Happiness becomes a constant – a realization that the Self is always freedom, peace and love. The person is free of conditional attachments or aversions.
Awakening occurs in so many varying degrees. It is most common that people experience ‘Satoris’. These are moments that can last a second or a few minutes, hours, days or weeks (sometimes even months)– before the person subsides again into the thinking mind of duality. This ‘rise and fall’ in and out of awareness can repeat itself many times – even over lifetimes before there is a sustained integration in which there is no longer a shift from the state of ever present awareness.
When we reach a saturated state of integration we become the living, radiant, constant state of Oneness, awareness and LOVE. We simply enter the beingness of life itself – the play and process of consciousness in the ever-present NOW.