The Unbound Self & Going Beyond the Ego
When people are moving through significant life transitions, they often find themselves worrying about the past or future, over-thinking, having insecurities and doubts or feeling a sense of overwhelm. They tend to experience more emotional highs and lows and are more easily triggered by situations. Sometimes there is a loss of purpose or direction and with that can come feelings of fear and uncertainty.
The Quality of our Mind
Although the emotions and thoughts are often being triggered by external events, our ability to manage our response is dependent on the quality of our mind and also how ‘attached’ we are to our mind. When we’re in a connected and balanced space we have a higher capacity to work through these ordeals. We stay grounded, and there is a sense of equanimity that enable us to handle such challenges. However, when our mind is bombarded with persistent thoughts, overwhelmed with emotions and weighed down by a list of burdens it has less capacity to handle the difficulties that emerge. We have less patience with those around us, are easily pushed off balance or we want to run away from the difficulties because they seem too much. Our mind gets stuck in a loop of persistent negative and unhelpful thoughts. We feel stuck in the mind and this is also because we have formed a strong attachment to the contents of the egoic-mind.
What is the Ego?
Our ego is a combination of our emotions, thoughts and conditioned beliefs which all come together to forms our identity. It is what enables us to function in the world as healthy, human beings. For this reason our ego is important, and I believe that it is necessary to have a strong and healthy ego, one that is grounded, stable and feels whole in itself. However, problems arise if we are too identified or attached to this ego as we become limited by it and we can’t see beyond it. It also causes us to feel separate from the world around us where we feel a sense of isolation and we become overly attached to our own need for survival.
Stepping back from the Ego
Having a strong ego doesn’t mean we need to be consumed by it. We can have the ego, our identity and the stories that make us who we are, whilst also stepping back from them. When we step back from them we are capable of observing our reactive selves and noticing things such as how we’re triggered by our environment, how we respond to others in communication and what causes our emotions to arise. We can also start to recognize which parts of ourself we like and which parts we try to suppress or deny. Ideally we want to reach a point of being able to recognise our stories and our emotions so we can navigate the challenges we’re inevitably going to face throughout lives. When we observe the ego in this way, then we’re to operate from a calm, connected and expansive space.
How do we Observe the Ego?
The answer comes down to awareness and practice. The first step is cultivating the awareness that we are not our ego. We realize that we don’t need to be a slave to our mind, and we can step into a space of equanimity that is always present within us. This is the space of our true self, which is not operating from the reactive ego, but rests before the ego. It is a space of connection, calmness and clarity.
The Value of Meditation
This is where the practice of meditation comes in because it is through meditation that we can begin to observe our reality from a more objective space. In meditation, we use the breath to stay present to what is arising without going into future or past thoughts. We can also watch the body and the mind like we’re watching a movie screen. We’re not in it–but we can see fully what is arising at each moment. We observe what thoughts arise and notice what sensations are in the body.
How does this help us..?
Being able to step back from the ego and become the observer of our experiences is a process that involves practice. It means taking time each day to engage with the intention to create space between your true self and what arises in your mind. The more we practice and the more we stay in presence, then the more awareness we have to choose the quality of our experiences and to maintain a centered space of equanimity. This isn’t something we’re striving towards - like a goal we need to achieve. When we practice we will understand that these qualities are already the truth of who we are, they are just being masked by a false sense of self that has built up around our true nature. So, we are simply letting the layers of ourselves filter away, so we connect with this essence that is already us.
Reflect on your own Experience
If you are going through change or transition in your life and you’re experiencing a lot of overwhelming emotions, insecurities or doubts, then take a moment to sit with your breath and observe the content of your mind. Observe your body and notice what is present. See if you can create space and step back from your experiences and become the observer of them. Notice, how what is present is always temporary. How does this awareness shift things for you?