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Ego – The Fearful Sense of Separation

Ego-big-red-black-yellowLately I’ve had a number of people come into my office talking about ego. It got me thinking. All problems arise from this sense of limited fearful separation — what we call ‘ego.’ I started contemplating this daily on my morning walks. I examined my fearful concerns and saw that my problems and suffering were due to considering myself limited and separate from needed support. I became aware of a more subtle process of insisting that this condition is true, and of a stiffening in response to this belief that occurred. This I realized was  ego attachment.

It’s an insult to “ego” to think that problems, defined as unnecessary emotional suffering, are optional! We are not required to have them, and in fact, we never have a justifiable reason to suffer fearful emotional distress! Of course we will experience sadness and grief at the loss of a loved one, but without a sense of ego, of limited separate unsupported self, we do not suffer distress — in the sense of being diminished or weakened or deprived by the experience of loss. Without the ego, we don’t create a mournful story which we constantly replay to depress ourselves.

Once on one of these walks I realized that I was being pulled into a fearful state because a particular outcome I wanted had not yet appeared, nor the funds to realize it. Then I realized that not getting what I wanted did not require me to shrink in any fearful way. I saw how insistently desiring this outcome was creating a temptation to feel fearful and small. As this attachment arose again and again, I repeatedly released it, relaxing as best I could. Patiently doing this repetition, I was able to enjoy a growing sense of lightness and openness in my chest, and clarity in my mind.

Then I went further, examining the desire to grasp ‘Jack’, to be ‘Jack’, to identify as this body/mind. I repeatedly practiced releasing my hold on being ‘Jack’, on wanting to survive as this body. Releasing at the root of ego in this way made it very clear that stress, and having problems are entirely optional. Don’t get me wrong — it is fine to want to survive and thrive — but getting into fearful tense states is not helpful or required to survive and thrive!

Does it seem outrageous to think in this way — to question the idea that you are your body/mind/personality? Since we all will have to release this attachment at the moment of death, why wait until we are forced to let go? If we wait it may seem very scary at the moment of death. Don’t you think it would be better to practice now, so that letting go of the body at the moment of death could actually be effortless and without distress?  Not only that,  practicing releasing this attachment now makes it possible to live a life free of suffering and full of joy!

This is one way to define an enlightened being: someone who is completely free from body/mind/personality identification. Some people hear this and think it means you become a zombie. Actually, body/mind/personality functions just fine, and even much better, once the grasping identification is released. Releasing attachment doesn’t destroy anything of importance, rather it is like taking all the kinks out of a garden hose so the water can flow freely and powerfully.

Try repeatedly asking yourself, “Can I let go of being (your name), can I let go of thinking I am this body?” It doesn’t matter whether the answer is “yes” or “no.”  Either one is OK. Just notice your inner feeling each time you ask. No need to be compulsive about repeated asking – it is better if it is relaxed and occasional but with genuine interest. Good luck!

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