When developing the Ego (a set of thought and feeling processes usually involving the word-concepts “I” or “me” or “mine”) becomes the end of our personal and societal development, we end up in a world where everyone is mistakenly defending a ‘self’ and ‘my own interests.’ The result is the chaotic scenes we see everywhere around us. Read the news headlines in the United States, and you’re likely to see that there’s been another shooting in the news, whether a single murder or a more shocking mass murder. This is ego defending itself by extinguishing other egos. Who wins? No one; everyone involved loses their lives.
In a less dramatic way, we see ego conflict in every day events. It’s raining and “I hate the rain” or there’s a line to checkout at the groceries and “I’m in a hurry, why can’t people get out of my way.” We argue to get “our” way and want to win a competition with others so that we can be the ‘best,’ as if somehow being the ‘best’ at a competition will prove the reality of a personal self and make it immortal. We want constant attention from other people to validate or verify the existence of our ‘self.’ When we don’t get the attention we want, we feel lonely or invalidated or unwanted.
While psychology and ‘self help’ books are helping us to unravel the constructs of ego, and can make life more bearable, ultimately even they miss the point if they don’t go far enough. When we don’t question what Ego is, and notice how insubstantial it is, we spend our lives trying to ‘prop up’ and ‘get satisfaction’ from something that doesn’t actually exist unless we’re thinking. If, however, Ego is seen for what it is: a set of temporary processes that are useful for interacting in the three-dimensional world, it takes its rightful place in our lives.
What is the goal, then, of personal development? In my experience, it’s to understand that we are fundamentally a Pure Awareness that has no boundaries, and that includes everything and everyone as arising perceptions, has no real interior or exterior, and creates a basis for fundamental morality. Since I am you, I’d better treat you as well as I treat myself!
Pure Awareness, being an underlying reality, requires no perpetual defense. It doesn’t need wishes fulfilled or aversions avoided in order to feel ‘satisfied.’ It exists without defense or offense, action, emotion, or thought. If we do the work to uncover the Truth that This is our nature, and is deeper and the foundation or field upon which the ego processes arise, we will gradually (or quickly) see through the ego-processes as if they are a shimmering mirage in a desert.
Ego is a thought-feeling-construct, a useful illusion that contains inherent thought-skills and feeling processes. It is not, however, a permanent ‘self’ that needs defending. Next time you’re tempted to defend your ‘ego’ or ‘self’ if someone seems to be insulting you, you might want to ask how it’s possible to defend a self that doesn’t exist.
It is possible to live from a deeper place, that which is the Foundation upon which all else rests. Why not make it your purpose to uncover that place in yourself? This is what we call Enlightenment.