This week, I’ll write about the transformation of the ability to love, and the continuing disintegration of the sense of a Personal Self today, as promised.
At a certain point after awakening, once a lot of work has been done to ‘see through’ the thought-feeling schema that we call the Ego, and when once-secret Shadow patterns of unconscious behavior have become conscious and have evaporated in the light of day, the day dawned when ‘I’ no longer walked down the street carrying a load of ‘problems’ in my head and heart. It wasn’t long afterwards, that it became clear that the whole personal sense of self (ego-sense) can arise and disappear very quickly. No ego-self is needed to take a walk, drive a car, pet the dog, wash the dishes, stare out the window, or feed the chickens. It isn’t really even needed to talk to someone else.
Whenever inner attention is focused elsewhere, and not on the ego-chatter, the ego is seen as a mirage. Ego-identity, in terms of groups of words and their associated feelings, then begins to disappear. It’s not as if learned skills such as: being able to hold a conversation, relate to the unspoken cultural norms of our environment, drive a car, or check an online banking balance disappear. However, the skills remain and arise without the need for a personal ego-self arising.
At a recent silent retreat with my current teacher Adyashanti, about a year ago, I noticed that the whole ego complex could dissolve for long periods, and then be recreated as soon as I focused on a so-called ‘personal problem.’ I could then even become quite self-conscious again, to the point of wanting to avoid people (even silent people on a silent retreat). So, it became clear after many years (16), that the ‘personal self’ or ‘ego self’ is a temporary arising of phenomena. Particularly if strong negative emotions are triggered, and then the body goes into a contraction, it seems with all the tight muscles, strong emotions, and intense thoughts, that there is really an ego-self that exists. However, if it is a ‘permanent’ structure, where does it go when the body relaxes, the emotions relax, and the attention moves away from thought again? All of a sudden it doesn’t seem to exist again!
Simultaneous with the vanishing ego that appears and disappears like the grin of the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland, is the development of a kind of love that begins to arise for the ‘Other Aspects of Self’ that appear in all different forms. This gives the words “love your neighbor as yourself” a totally different context, when you realize that your neighbor is also the Self, and the same Self that you are. Suddenly I wanted to treat the dog like a person with feelings, wanted to preserve insects (at least the ones that weren’t going to bite me or make me sick), and was actually trying not to be angry and react to bad drivers (especially the ones who were texting while flying down the middle of the road so they could keep track of the yellow line and therefore the road).
The interesting thing is that although I may not ‘like’ everyone on a personality level, it’s possible to have love, compassion, and empathy for people. Since “I” and “Other” or “me” and “you” are both the same Consciousness/Awareness/Self, it’s peculiarly like loving oneself. Although I have a rather shy personality, there now appears a readiness in the body-mind to appreciate the unique qualities of others and over tine it is easier to see the same Self in them, in a real and down-to-earth way. Rather than trusting or mistrusting others, I approach them in a neutral way but, looking at the deeper Self being revealed in this very particular way…as this person in front of me. This doesn’t mean that I allow people to abuse or mistreat me; but, more on that at a later time. This blog post is long enough.