Healing the body is a profound process that is not merely limited to changing dietary and lifestyle choices. Before dis-ease manifests in the body, it begins as some form of negativity or resistance in the mind, which often forms in reaction to painful events that have occurred over the course of one’s life. This resistance can take the form of negativity against other people, yourself, circumstances, or the experience of life itself. This defense mechanism is commonly referred to as the ego, and exists as the voice in the head that is constantly judging, labeling, and commenting on the experiences of life.
This voice in the mind is so strong in some people, that they are identified with it to the point that they are unable to see it. If you are reading this now, most likely you can recognize this voice in your mind and see how destructive it can be at times. Many people become hypnotized by the voice in their mind, to the point that it often creates a great deal of inner turmoil and suffering. This causes emotional stress and physical tension in the body, contributing to poor health and, ultimately, dis-ease. This compulsive stream of thoughts can be dissolved through spiritual practice, which over time, will increase your levels of happiness, joy, peace, and physical health.
What Is The Ego?
The ego is a function of the mind that developed over the course of human evolution for the purpose of survival. The foundation of the ego is negativity, in all its forms. The ego thrives on separation, believing that you must fight for your survival. By seeing the “other” as the enemy, or even life itself as the enemy, the ego creates a state of anxiety and fear. From the viewpoint of the ego, as long as you are in a state of fear, you will likely do whatever it takes to survive. Living in this state of anxiety and fear, however, does not create a happy and vibrant life, nor does it allow you to feel very much joy, peace, or compassion for yourself or others. By learning to witness your ego (the compulsive stream of thoughts in your mind), you can disrupt these patterns, and reconnect with more of who you really are. Every time that you take your attention away from compulsive thinking, and refocus your awareness on your breath, the present moment, and the inner energy field of your body, you are incrementally dissolving the ego. You can also take your attention to the natural stillness existing between thoughts. Begin paying greater attention to stillness and silence, and in this way the ego will dissolve naturally.
The ego is not personal, as it operates in a systematic and predictable way, and can be observed in almost everyone to varying degrees. The more that you become familiar with how your ego operates, bringing your attention away from the ego and back to the present moment, the more the energy field of your body will become stronger and healthier. By taking your attention away from compulsive thinking, returning your attention to your breath and the inner field of energy in your body, you are allowing more life energy to flow into you. This life energy heals and balances your emotional field, and brings peace and health to your physical body. The following information is meant to guide you through the process of understanding the ego and how to move beyond it.
Who Are You Beyond the Ego?
Every time that you interrupt a compulsive thought and come back to the present moment, you are connecting more fully with who you really are as a field of awareness. You are consciousness itself. How do you know this is true? When you have a thought, ask yourself, “who is aware of this thought?” In the following moment of stillness while you wait for an answer, you have a glimpse into who you are beyond thought. When your next thought arises, and you are able to see that you just had a thought, then there are suddenly two; the thought, and you as the awareness of the thought. You are only able to have a thought, because you are the awareness in which the thought can be perceived. The thought could not exist without the field of consciousness that is you, to experience it.
You are that awareness, beyond thought, beyond emotions, and even beyond your physical body. The experience of becoming aware of yourself as this ever present field of consciousness, frees you from the mental and emotional suffering that keeps a person feeling stuck in limitation, suffering, and dis-ease. Catching the ego in action, observing it, and choosing to come back to the present moment, is the key to moving beyond compulsive thinking.
How Do I Observe the Ego?
The ego behaves in a predictable way; it always creates negativity and a sense of “separateness.” It always resists life in some form, most commonly by making judgments of others, judgments of self, and judgments of life situations. The ego also strengthens itself through identification with form (material possessions, as well as thought forms about who you think you are–your personality traits that become like the story of who you are). Here are some common ego patterns to be aware of. When you see these thought patterns in your mind, become very alert, bringing your attention back to your breath, and relaxing the body.
-Judgements or criticisms of others, circumstances, or life itself
-Dissatisfaction with the present moment
-Over Identification with a role; the perfect child, the giving mother, the good employee, the rebel, the successful one, the failure, etc.
-Anxiety, depression, self pity, boredom, or frustration
-Resentment towards others, jealousy, anger,
-Thinking you are better or worse than another, comparing yourself to others
-Thoughts of the future or past that cause anxiety, needing to control what will happen in the future
-Attachment to a particular outcome, creating stress and anxiety
-Attachment to possessions, people, a sense of power, or personal status
-Insatiable need for power, money, sensory gratification, or material possessions
-compulsive thoughts, behaviors, or feelings that seem to go beyond your control
-Any state of negativity, stress, or anxiety
Whenever you see the ego operating in your mind (and you will always know when the ego pops up, based on any feelings of negativity, stress, anxiety, or dissatisfaction) momentarily drop what you are doing and come back to the breath and the present moment. It may take time at first to establish this pattern of letting go of control with your mind, but it will dramatically improve the quality of your life, and bring a richness, depth, and peace into your experience that you may never have felt before.
How the Ego Can Interrupt the Process of Healing
The ego can interrupt the process of growth and healing by creating thoughts of fear, anxiety and distraction. When cleansing the physical body, for instance, the ego may tell you that you are doing something dangerous, that you should be afraid, and that you should go back to what is familiar and comfortable. Physical cleansing and healing may be uncomfortable at times, and the ego will likely tell you “this isn’t worth it,” or, “what’s the point?” Notice how your mind tries to distract you when challenges arise, creating thoughts of comfort and escape (a piece of chocolate cake, a glass of wine, or a cigarette, for example). Even though you know these things are not good for you, the mind may try to convince you that you should do it anyway, “this is too hard, and I need something to make me feel good again!” The ego often creates a sense of drama around physical detox and healing. This is a natural phenomenon and is not to be resisted. Instead, practice the following principles
Non Reaction, Non Resistance, Non Attachment
These three principles, when applies correctly, can free you from the suffering caused by the ego. Catch yourself whenever you see that you are becoming reactive, resistant, or overly-attached in life. Notice the compulsive habit of the mind which creates drama through reactions, judgements, and resistance to life, becoming overly attached to people, places, things, or specific outcomes. When you see that you are in any of these negative states, notice how you can return to peace, simply by letting go of the thought that was creating the suffering. This takes practice, and remembering the three principles or non-reaction, non-resistance, and non-attachment, can help tremendously in freeing you from the ego.
Viewing Discomfort Through A New Lens
Sometimes detoxifying the body becomes uncomfortable and even painful. It can help to start dissolve conditioned beliefs that you may have around what pain is, and compulsive reactions against pain and discomfort. It is helpful to understand that pain and discomfort do not cause suffering. It is the resistance to pain and discomfort that causes suffering. Suffering does not exist until you have a thought that there is a “problem,” or until you label the experience in your mind as “painful.” The compulsion to avoid any discomfort or pain is largely a culturally conditioned phenomenon. There are many cultures in the world where pain, discomfort, and even death, are honored and revered as a necessary part of life. In this way, they are experienced in a more harmonious way.
Pain is merely sensation, and can be experienced as a flow of energy into the body. As soon as the mind labels a sensation, you then experience the reality of that label. You can watch your mind create all kinds of drama around a physical sensation, but if you commit to staying present, you can have a totally different experience, one where you are not suffering. As you stay in a state of alert presence, the energy of pain can actually be experienced as a sense of vitality and life energy in the body. It takes practice to do this, but the process begins by staying present and resisting the urge to label experiences as “good,” “bad,” or “painful,” but rather feel what is being experienced in the body without labels or judgments.
Observing Your Ego
Take this time to write in your healing journal how you observe the ego operating in you. Remember, the ego is not personal. As you write out your list you may notice that your mind creates some negativity towards yourself for having these ego patterns. What is creating this negativity? It is the ego–just another compulsive thought pattern to become aware of. Observe yourself as though you are a scientist studying your own mind, without taking any of it personally, but instead, approaching the process with an attitude of curiosity and focus. The more you unravel the web of the ego, the more you will likely see how destructive the compulsive thought process is. You may find yourself beating yourself up for seeing how much you’ve been beating yourself up. Is that not ironic? Who is creating that drama? It is the ego, of course. Come back to your breath, come back to the present moment, and watch the drama disappear and peace return naturally. Again, and again, and again. What are some ego patterns that you see operating in you? As you write, focus on your breath, remaining peaceful, and in a state of acceptance and equanimity.