It is the belief in the personal self that has been the cause of all of our woes. All of the suffering of mankind can be traced back to believing in “I” as an entity that is the subject, and all that you encounter in life as the objects, outside of you.
The personal self is often called the ego. There are many misconceptions about the ego, that it’s bad, or that it is analogous to conceit. But really, the ego is only a false mental construct that is present whenever you refer to the small, personal self that resides within a body. The personal self has beliefs, opinions, preferences, stories and judgments. The personal self has a body that seems to always be not quite right, and it lives in roles, such as mother, daughter, lawyer, student, friend etc.
We are not this separate I with a personal identity. Take away the roles you play, are you still you? If you take away your opinions, would this mean that you are not you anymore? If you lost both legs and both arms, who would you be then?
We are all born as perfect neutral vessels. As tiny babies, we don’t know that we are separate from anything else. The ego is installed in the terrible two stage, when toddlers start to define themselves as separate by exercising their own personal will. This is a notoriously difficult time for caretakers.
Unless we are blessed with Divine assistance and grace, humans don’t actually ever leave that toddler like stage of strong preferences and stubbornly asserting our personal will. We have stories about the past that we feel make us who we are today. We have opinions about what’s going on in the world, and we are always right about these things, which means that anyone who disagrees with us is wrong.
Almost everyone has many preferences that tug them towards perceived pleasure and away from perceived pain. Ego places us on a rollercoaster of pain and pleasure. Beliefs, even if they seem positive, always limit us, because they place boundaries on the infinite. We make judgments about ourselves and others. It seems like either, “they” are bad, and should change to be more like me, or I am bad and should change to be more like them.
The majority of humans believe that they are the body, and will someday die. Many of our human behaviors are subconsciously enacted to avoid death. So often, people unconsciously play the roles assigned to them throughout their entire lives, and they never know who they truly are. Worst of all, most of us are taught that we are separate from God, and that we have to win his favor in order to get to a place called Heaven that is somewhere out there, at a time that is far off in the future. I can only speak for my own culture, so I will say that, in America, most of us are not taught that we are infinite and Divine. We are not taught that the vast kingdom of heaven is within us. We are not taught that we can be in the world and participate, but not be a product of the world. We are not taught that the ego isn’t real, and that belief in the small, limited, personal self is the cause of all suffering. Imagine if as children we were taught that we may experience pain, but as Divine beings, we do not suffer.
What if you were taught in school that every misery you’ve ever had is due to resistance, and resistance is what happens when you don’t know the truth of life is - an ever present, all powerful, benevolent oneness? How would your life be different if you were taught to remove the resistance? Would you find it easier to trust that all of life is unfolding impersonally and perfectly? Would you be a more patient and loving person if you knew that life has never been personal, because there is no personal self?
Just because you weren’t taught about your Divine as a child, doesn’t mean that you can’t come to know that truth now. I believe that it’s your destiny to know that you are God, because you are here now, listening to this.
The instructions are ancient and clear and come from every culture in some variation of, “Be still and know that I am God”.
I created a morning meditation that can help you to get into a more Divine state. If you’re interested in using this meditation, click the link in the description below.
I’d love to hear your feelings and thoughts about the personal self being an illusion, so please comment below.