You may have come across admonitions lately to have “no ego”, to be unattached and Zen, and to reach happiness by letting go of attachments, thereby reaching a state of pure or undistracted consciousness.
What is this desirable state of No Ego all about?
I was recently asked: “What is ego anyhow?” There is a modern use of this word to indicate someone who is full of themselves, boastful, or narcissistic. A big ego. That is a current use of that word. But its real meaning has less to do with self-puffery than with the simple definition of the personality, the identity of oneself, as opposed to what can be called the soul.
Ego is who we know ourselves as, and is derived from the Latin, meaning I or me.
Everyone has ego to begin with. As we grow up, we are taught what is mine and what is yours, or who I am vis-à-vis who you are. This is the basic meaning of Ego. But why would one get rid of the essential self and its identity… and why would that be desirable?
There is a Buddhist tale going around on Facebook in which a disciple asks the Master, “I want happiness. How do I achieve it?” And the Master says, “First, eliminate ‘I’, for that is the Self. Then, eliminate ‘want’, for that is desire. And what you are left with is ‘happiness’.” This parable explains Buddhist philosophy (which is not necessary to learn in order to not have Ego, but is merely useful in this context).
The “I” can present many problems. Most sentences begin with “I”. “I am this or that.” “I want this or that.” “I am doing this or that.” The person who is saying it can have a puffed-up sense of self, or a very diminished and insecure sense of self. And yet the Self is present in these sentence structures. It is possible to get yourself out of your own way by deliberately constructing your sentences to take the object of which you are speaking, and make that the subject of the sentence. Instead of “I want happiness”, one can say “Happiness is desirable” or “Happiness is available.” That is one way to get the Self out of the equation, to get “you” removed (temporarily) from the thought-construct. In practice one can also attempt to lessen the self’s importance and thus walk through life with less need, less want, even with less effort and certainly less suffering when life is seen as flowing and not necessarily controlled by the Self nor having to serve the Self.
When the small identity is lessened and life is allowed to flow without the snag of continuously intersecting with the Self’s needs, wants, fears and expectations, another aspect of the Self comes forward.
It is the higher voice, the more conscious and aware perspective that can see the game your little Self is playing, and can see how entangled you often get, how sabotaging your needs and wants sometimes are, and in general how confused and lacking guidance you might be.
When the Higher Self comes through, this is not the same as you or me in daily life, with our given names. This is a more detached or removed and definitely wiser aspect of the Self, wishing to guide, help, support and ease your suffering. Therefore, it is greatly to be desired to get your small Self out of the way, put it gently aside, do not beat yourself up but simply switch gears, prioritize a less self-aggrandizing behavior pattern, and learn to develop the lovelier and more helpful conscious that already exists in you.
This, then, is the benefit of having No Ego.
Judi Thomases is a contributing blogger for JenningsWire online magazine.
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