Ok, so where were we? Ah yes, the ego and the self.
Let’s back this train up a moment to give you some context for writing this post. In our day-to-day lives, with tasks, to-do’s, and places to be, our default is to live in the ego, to respond through the ego, to be entirely grounded in the things of the world. Unless there is awareness consistently brought to the illusion that this ego is WHO I AM, it will own you and you have no chance at true and lasting happiness or making the contribution you were born to make. Period. Thats why I believe its of fundamental importance to distinguish the ego from the true self and then make a daily practice of creating space between the two, because unless you intentionally do so, your ego will rule the show, and that ain’t pretty. Pressfield asserts that “angels make their home in the Self, while Resistance has its seat in the Ego. The fight is between the two. The Self wishes to create, to evolve. The Ego likes things just the way they are.”
The Ego is the part of the psyche that believes in material existence. The Ego’s job is to take care of business in the real world. We need the ego. We couldn’t survive without it. When one begins a spiritual journey and sees for the first time that who they are is in fact much deeper than the ego, infinite where the ego is finite, and sees the ways their ego has limited them, it can be really easy to focus on beating it into submission, being embarrassed of, and attempting to reject it. Ha! As if that were possible! Getting pissed at the ego for only knowing and caring for its survival is like yelling at a leaky faucet for dripping or a cat for meowing. It just does what it was designed to do. In my personal opinion, we are best off bringing compassion to our ego, the places in us that seem to be forever fixed, stuck, and holding us back. The more love, compassion and forgiveness we can bring to ourselves and the constraints of the ego, the more space we will have to choose another path, to shed the layers of this false self away, to create space between our true self and the mask of the ego.
Here’s the story of the point in my life when I began to see the mask of my ego and walking on a new path:
I’m reminded of a particularly dark time in my life between the ages of 20-23ish, the last couple years of college and the year afterwards. At this point, I’m not sure I knew that I was more than just my thoughts, feelings and fears. I was completely identified as my ego BEING ME. Its not that my true self wasn’t there, it just wasn’t being identified or cultivated. I was broken and needed to be fixed, or so I thought.
I drank. A lot. I did some recreational drugs. I found my identity in being one of the “cool kids”, being desired by men, being successful in a challenging economics program at a good school, then post-college in being liked by my co-workers and in the party circuit. I really didn’t know any other way to be, and as these behaviors did bring some short-term gratification, that was just how it was.
Then it started to happen. The spirit in me was ready to revolt. The real Camille could stay bottled up no longer. She was like a pressure cooker who needed to release herself. The earliest memories of distinguishing that I had multiple parts were the moments right after waking up, oftentimes hungover, and feeling a deep sorrow and emptiness. “There’s got to be more to life than this” was the thought that often came, followed by hopelessness and despair because if there was, I certainly didn’t know how to bridge that gap. This was a critical time, though. The first awareness, the glimpse, however small, that life could MAYBE be something more than it had always been. I had these dreams from as early as I could remember of creating a loving family, health, happiness, and being the kind of person who others admired for their love and contribution to the planet. At this point, I knew I wasn’t on a path to those things, but at least there was a small thread continuing to pull me towards them, a little space between the “me” that I was identifying with and the possibility of something, someone so much more.
Then as oftentimes happens, life began falling apart. The relationship that I wanted so badly, the one that I was convinced would save me from myself, disappeared. My back, my body was full of aches and pains from the long hours of working in a restaurant, drinking too much, eating too little (to keep my SoCal body), and having no concept of really loving or caring for myself. My relationships were only as deep as the number of shots we’d taken together in a given night, nowhere to be seen in the sober light of day.
The breaking point came the summer of 2003, my rock bottom, if you will. I got my wisdom teeth pulled and had a very bad reaction to the medication they gave me. It looked like I was packing golf balls in my mouth. My mom came to take care of me a couple days, then she was gone and I was alone. I remember laying in pain on the couch with no real friends around saying to myself: “I could die right now and it would be ok.” It wasn’t that I was suicidal or anything, I just didn’t have any reason pulling me to live or belief that my life on this planet mattered to many. As my mouth healed from the surgery and the drugs wore off, I knew that I had come to a breaking point. Something dramatic needed to change. My life depended on it.
It was at this point that the wheels were put into motion to take a 7-month trip around the world. But that is a different story for a different time. Suffice to say in the context of this post that my Self began to rise up in the face of my Ego, to challenge it as sole owner of Camille’s world.
Lets now distinguish the EGO and SELF (taken entirely from “The War of Art”):
The ego believes:
1. Death is real. The Ego believes that our existence is defined by our physical flesh. When the body dies, we die. There is no life beyond life.
2. Time and space are real. The Ego is analog. It believes that to get from A to Z we have to pass through B, C and D, To get from breakfast to supper we have to live the whole day.
3. Every individual is different and separate from every other. The Ego believes that I am distinct from you. The twain cannot meet. I can hurt you and it won’t hurt me.
4. The predominant impulse of life is self-preservation. Because our existence is physical and thus vulnerable to innumerable evils, we live and act out of fear in all we do. It is wise, the Ego believes, to have children to carry on our line when we die, to achieve greater things that will live after us, and to buckle out seat belts.
5. There is no God. No sphere exists except the physical and no rules apply except those of the material world.
These are the principles the Ego lives by. They are sound solid principles. Here’s what the Self believes:
1. Death is an illusion. The soul endures and evolves through infinite manifestations.
2. Time and space are illusions. Time and space operate only in the physical sphere, and even here, don’t apply to dreams, visions, transports. In other dimensions we move “swift as thought” and inhabit multiple planes simultaneously.
3. All beings are one. If I hurt you, I hurt myself.
4. The supreme emotion is love. Union and mutual assistance are the imperatives of life. We are all in this together.
5. God is all there is. Everything that is, is God in one form or another. God, the divine ground, is that in which we live and move and have our being. Infinite planes of reality exist, all created by, sustained by and infused by the spirit of God.
Dreams come from the Self. Ideas come from the Self. When we meditate, we access the Self. When we fast, when we pray, when we go on a vision quest, its the Self we’re seeking. When we deliberately alter our consciousness in any way, we’re trying to find the Self (which totally explains my years of drinking and partying)!!
The Self is our deepest being.
The Self is united to God.
The Self is incapable of falsehood.
The Self, like the Divine Ground that permeates it, is ever-growing and ever-evolving.
The Self speaks for the future.
That’s why the ego hates it.
The Ego hates the Self because when we seat our consciousness in the Self, we put the Ego out of business. The ego doesn’t want us to evolve. The Ego runs the show right now. It likes things just the way they are. The instinct that pulls us towards art is the impulse to evolve, to learn, to heighten and elevate our consciousness. The Ego hates this. Because the more awake we become, the less we need the Ego.
The Ego hates it because it knows that these souls are awakening to a call, and that the call comes from a plane nobler than the material one and from a source deeper and more powerful than the physical. The Ego hates the prophet and the visionary because they propel the race upward. The Ego hated Socrates and Jesus, Luther and Galileo, Lincoln and JFK and Martin Luther King.
Ok, I’m gonna let you simmer on all this. Look and see what areas in your life have been dominated by your ego, and the ones that may be ruled by your spirit. I know that for myself, it is (mostly) very easy to live in my spirit in matters of love and friendship, but quite more challenging in my finances.
If you are having a difficult time identifying what force is ruling you in this area ask: Do I have freedom to be and create however and whatever I want in this area? Or am I dominated by fear or “looking good” to others or striving to have-to-be-a-certain-way-to-be-ok? Then look and see what impact living out of your ego has had on yourself and the people around you. Write it down and get present to it. Let yourself really be with the impact. Tony Robbins says that people only make a change when remaining the same is more painful than making that change. You can bring yourself to that point by doing this exercise, really letting yourself be impacted to the point that making a shift is the only option: staying in this place would kill you.
For example, when I did this exercise on my finances, I saw that I was entirely dominated by my ego’s fear that I was just barely hanging on financially. It was as if I was being chased by a tiger every minute of every day. That this was just how money was to me and how it’d always been from a very early age. It continued this way despite all of my hard work and effort, despite how much money I even had in my bank account. Then I saw the impact:
1. My relationships: As much as I loved the people in my life, I saw that I believed they were a threat to my financial survival. That any time spent with them was spent not working and making money. The impact was that I wasn’t really there with anyone 100% because I was always thinking about getting back to work.
2. My health: Living like you’re constantly being chased by a tiger puts you into a fight or flight mode which wreaks havoc on your body. That is literally the experience I was having around money for YEARS. That the bills that needed to be paid each month were chasing me down and going to eat me alive.
3. My contribution: I know and I know that I know that my life on this planet is to be of service. I have structured my life entirely around making that difference: from the people I spend time with, to the books I read, the food I eat, the place I live. Its ALL about becoming the biggest version of me so I can make a huge difference. When I live in my ego-reality around money/scarcity, I am robbing myself of the pure joy of contributing to others and trusting that the money will come naturally. It steals my vision and purpose and replaces it with anxiety and fear. Blegh.
Even as I write this to you, I am present that this is a battle not yet won. I’ve experienced tremendous freedom at times, but I have some very deeply entrenched brain patterns around financial survival, none of which actually have anything to do with how much money I have in the bank. It is a daily practice to choose and create from my self instead of the ego. The good news is that we can build new muscles, new patterns, new habits. Our Self can become strong in the areas they were once week, so much so that this often becomes the area of greatest strength, where we can support the most people, where beauty can truly come from the ashes.
So as you look at the areas that have held you back, know that the journey through will provide so much not only for you, but also the people who will surely come alongside you to learn from the challenges you have transformed to your greatest strength.