Inner  Frontier
Cultivating Spiritual Presence

 

Inner Work


For the week of July 2, 2018

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No self

(Living in Oneness: 2)

Our understanding of ourselves suffers from a fundamental fallacy, namely that of believing that we are separate beings. On the surface, this fallacy seems instead to be an obvious truth, i.e., we are separate. I am here and you are there. I have a name and you have a different name. Our bodies and our histories are most certainly separate. We are each unique. I am a self and you are another self. These are the unquestioned and unnoticed axioms by which we live, on which we base our worldview.

To live in oneness, we need to move past this fundamental fallacy of personal separateness. This sounds both liberating and frightening. Frightening because it is difficult to envision accurately before we have any real experiential tastes of it, and because it seems like it will be a loss of self rather than a gain of freedom in the greater Self.

Will I become a nameless blob? Will I lose my will? Will I cease to care about anything? Will I get pushed around? Will I just be part of a Star Trek-like Borg, a mindless drone in some cosmic collective? Will I still take care of myself, my family, my job?

In the event, such fears prove unfounded, while the liberation proves very real.

We can picture ourselves as being made of layers, with the deeper, freer, more sacred layers obscured by the shallower layers. At the layer that preoccupies us so much of our time, we have our automatic, long-established, self-generating thoughts and thought patterns, emotional reactions and reactive patterns. Within that layer, there is a hidden, master pattern that superimposes itself on the entire layer. That is the pattern of our ego, of our pseudo-I, of our implicit belief that we are a separate self, and of all the self-centeredness that flows from that belief.

If we can expand our inner horizons, touching the layer of silence, the cognizant stillness well below the layer of automatic thoughts and reactive emotions, we begin to see what it means to live free of ego, free of feeling separate. We begin to see what it means to be, just be.

When we are quiet inside, or at least not engaging with or being carried away by thoughts or reactive emotions, we enter the realm of peace. Here we can relax and just be. In that peace of simply being, the superfluous evaporates. Thoughts of "I" and beliefs that the thought "I" denotes who I really am are superfluous. Our clever minds, under the influence of our culture, construct these ego and personality meta-patterns. If everyone says "I," we believe they must be right. But if we look for our I, we do not find it. We find instead the thought "I." We find an emotional attachment to the notion of "I." We find an unquestioned assumption of "I." We do not find "I" because it is an illusion: it does not exist other than as an ephemeral pattern of thoughts and assumptions.

When we can simply be here, without engaging with those I-centered thoughts, emotions, assumptions, and patterns, we find that a very heavy burden has been lifted. We breathe easy when we no longer need to busy ourselves with continually building up and feeding this illusory "I."

Does this inner realization change how we are in the world? First, we need not fear: our familiar ego and personality patterns continue as ever, though our attachment to them ceases. We then have more choice about whether to act on certain thoughts, whether to act on certain emotions. When we no longer believe that our thoughts and emotions truly speak for us, even when they say "I," their bite, their grip on us evaporates.

Then we begin to intuit, to feel our common humanity, our deep connection with other people and with all life. We find an ease, a flow in living that may have eluded us before. When we no longer live from ego, we take life more in stride. Yet we find ourselves more in tune with our conscience and living with fewer regrets. Our principles and passions guide us more than our self-centered desires. Without so much of our energy wasted in feeding and defending our ego, we live more awake, more present to this moment, and more appreciative of what is before us here and now. At the same time, we work toward a better future, for ourselves and for others. Life has more meaning and is more precious.

Yet our illusory "I" has its usefulness. Conventionally, it refers to what we do, our relationships, our body, and so on. If we are confronted with some significant life choice or problem, for example, then to think in terms of "what should I do" may be necessary. Nevertheless, even as we think that way, we are not fooled into believing that we are, in our core, separate. Seeing through the illusion of ego, we render it powerless.

For this week, look beyond your illusory self. When a quiet moment comes, see that you still exist and are just fine without your usual "I." This is quite simple, yet its ramifications are profound.

See Also: Illusion of Ego


        

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