Our ego tendency is to be preoccupied with our ego's little concerns and to be closed up or even locked up in these smaller concerns, even sometimes petty concerns. This has been our tendency or choice. So we must be willing to change this tendency, and make a new choice. The new choice is to become open, opening our heart and mind to Greater Mystery, Greater Being. Thus, opening becomes our own responsibility, and it is one of the most essential practices we can consciously do.
In the state of freedom, when one is free of the regular self-ego, its ongoing concerns, its endless thinking and planning; the self can change from a mechanical-active state to a state of voluntary receptivity. This voluntary receptive state requires active-will to get into it and active-will to remain in it; and yet the receptive state is virtually opposite to the usual active state of will.
In the receptive state, one is ready to receive whatever is being given from the divine world ‘above/within’ this manifest world. A deeper feeling, a finer quality, a higher presence is penetrating into our world.
But we so seldom even notice this, because of being wrapped up in the mechanical regular concerns of everyday ego stuff and our dealings with the world. We are lost in our little bubbles of concern and thought, which we call ‘our world’, and so there is no consciousness of that which is emerging from the higher world, the divine world. Yet true expansive vision comes from the higher world, not the normal world of regular consciousness - which is most often merely mechanical and repetitive. So unless we can reverse the normal active-mechanical mode and enter into the receptive mode, there will be no consciousness of this higher world. Unless we become empty, by voluntarily emptying ourself of our little self, there is no chance for real receptivity and consciousness of divine quality emerging into this world in the present moment.
Underneath our individual thoughts, memories and moods is the Transpersonal Mind. Self-observational practice watches thoughts and emotions as they express. Then they are allowed to subside or come to rest, as the conscious watchful mind finds its own inner peace, like a lake returning to calm. Eventually, with this self-observation and conscious breath, thoughts and emotions soon disappear into a voidness of mind, and mind is no longer identified in and consumed in these thoughts and emotions. Thus, mind is now free and also pure. The screen of mind is now clear. So now, mind sees deep into itself. And a greater space of mind opens up. It’s like when one stops fixating on what is close by and, instead, opens up perception to the wider expansive view. Mind without boundaries is a vast and beautiful spaciousness.
But is this one’s own mind? Or is this a transcendental consciousness? Consciousness has freed itself from the personalness of thoughts and emotions, so now there is only a transpersonal consciousness. It’s not just my little individual mind; it’s the larger mind underneath and precedent to individual occurrences of mind. This can also be known as the larger heart; for in this level mind and heart are not so distinct. Or this can also be known as larger Being. Yet in any words, this reality is transpersonal, meaning that it is not confined to just one person. For the reality experienced here is more than any one person.
There is importance in realizing that the essential experience of mind is transpersonal, because one can then move beyond the illusion of my mind as separately distinct from other minds. At this level of essential mind, as experienced when thought and emotion settle into peace, there is just one Transpersonal mind and no more is this just my mind. For the fundamental reality of mind is not personal and is the same fundamental mind reality as everyone else. What makes this mind reality seem so personal and mine alone is because of our particular thoughts, memories, and moods. When these are active, then this mind is personal and particularly distinct for others. And of course much of one’s life, if not all of it, is in this mode. But it is possible to reach the transpersonal essence of mind, or fundamental mind, when personal thoughts, memories and moods are dissolved. Leave behind this personal mind and enter into the greater Mind – that has always been the fundamental essence of personal mind.
The difficulty of selflessness.
Selflessness is thinking and action without egomania, that is, without an inflated sense of self importance and concern for just one’s own wishes.
Selflessness is losing oneself, then finding a spiritual purpose, or finding purpose in serving the greater Life.
Some ideas to reflect upon:
A Question: How much of my life, or my time, is predominately for myself ?
How much do I think, “what’s in this for me?” (vs. “what’s in this for them?) (Or us?)”
Consider the possibility of Not living predominately for myself.
The tendency and pattern of a person’s instinctual nature, encouraged by the narcissist culture in which we live, makes it difficult to transcend self-engrossment and self-centeredness. This tendency is to live just for oneself, or to predominately care about just myself and my wants. This is when our attention, desire, concern, and thought is mainly focused on our own self or on the next desire of our self. A term for this self-engrossment, or this me-mine focus, is self-contracted ego, or possibly self-centered ego.
In pop-usage the term ego usually connotes a self-engrossed, self-centered, narcissic attitude; but in academic psychology language the term ego refers to our individual self-awareness and our self-capacity to control instinctual desires and reactions, and also to focus thought and make decisions. So in general psychology the ego has a comprehensive meaning, which is not necessarily negative. In fact, in normal psychology a strong ego is healthy and encouraged, because it keeps us from just being instinctual, with our desires and reactions taking over every moment of our life, and the ego also protects the psyche from being influenced haphazardly by anyone or everyone around, and the ego also directs the mental-rational decision-making faculty. The ego brings intention and decision into our lives, it protects our individuality from conformist communalism, and it has a capacity to transcend instinctual and momentary desires, as well as negotiate them. These are the positive functions of ego. So, metaphorically speaking, the ego is meant to be the master-rider of the chariot (symbolizing our physical, emotional and mental apparatuses). In this sense, we can understand and appreciate the positive importance of ego. Yet, we also need to understand its possible negative tendencies and how there needs to be a transcendence from normal ego in order to realize and live a fully spiritual life.
Yet, a spiritual life does not have to be in contradiction to the personal ego, for there can be a harmony here. But a truly spiritual life cannot be reached without some degree of ego transcendence; for otherwise, one’s life and focus will always be mainly about oneself: what I can get out of life and what I can achieve for myself. For one thing noticeable in normal psychology and in the ego definition as stated above is that there is no heart nor any expanded caring-compassion in the regular definition of ego. This is because normal ego does not have this expanded love awareness and compassionate concern for all others; rather it tends to be merely self-contracted, self-focused and self-concerned. Therefore, some degree of ego-transcendence is needed, in order for there to be an expanded spiritual realization and spiritual life. The positive functions of regular ego (as described above) would still remain and could even be strong, but there would be an added transcendence from this – which would include an expanded view and concern, as well as a heart-love for others and the whole world that is not merely for self-gain.
To reiterate, then, we can accept and appreciate the positive traits and practical usefulness of our ego; such as self-awareness and self-control of instinctual desires and reactions, and also the ego function of intentional focus of thought and decision-making, and also the ego’s protective capacity against psychic manipulation by others. So, it is not a spiritual goal to completely annihilate this ego, this individual selfness and its intentionalistic functions.
Possibly, we can develop and maintain a strong ego with its positive traits and functions, while concurrently transcending its negative tendencies of self-contraction, self-engrossed focus and predominate self-concern. This would be to step into a higher capacity/potential of self, which is transcendental to ego, yet without destroying or devaluing the positive functions of regular ego. This other/higher capacity and function of our self, which is transcendental to the normal ego, can function in a co-operative way with normal ego, whereby ego does not need to be annihilated, just as the body can usefully coexist and co-operate with mind. Ego-transcendence, therefore, does not necessarily require ego-annihilation; rather, it means that consciousness is not just merely absorbed in the ego but can now expand beyond the self-concerning self-centered ego, instead of simply being trapped in it. Similarly, the ego-mind was a developmental step that transcended consciousness-absorption in mere physical instincts and automatic emotions, while this development did not and should not completely annihilate all physical instincts, desires and emotions. All parts need to work together, though one aspect has to acquire leadership.
Now, what is this higher capacity or potential of self, or higher level of consciousness, which transcends normal ego? Probably, the best term for this is ‘heart’, in the common sense of ‘one who has heart’ or ‘one who knows their true heart’. Related terms or descriptions would be heart-consciousness, love-consciousness, compassionate nature, selfless love, expanded consciousness, and expanded self-knowingness. And in the most general sense, we can call this ‘spiritual consciousness’. Esoterically, it is the pathway to Divine Consciousness, God-Consciousness, or Self-Realization. But at this point it is best to avoid such lofty ideals, since these can sometimes be ego fantasies or ego-desired states for self-achievement. The goal is best understood as heart-consciousness, love-consciousness, compassionate nature, selfless love, expanded consciousness, and expanded self-knowingness.
Heart-consciousness is consciousness in the heart, rather than just in the head or in the physical senses and pleasures. Love-consciousness is consciousness filled with love, wrapped up in love, and embracing all life with love. Love-consciousness is to directly experience love, the Great Love that is one is already in and the loving quality in oneself. It is also concerned that others experience being loved. Our compassionate nature refers to our natural capacity to feel at one with others and to care about others as much as ourself. Com/passion is a co-existing passion of caring with and for others. This feeling of communal caring also spills out as givingness and generosity. Our compassionate nature is an empathetic capacity which spills over into service and generosity.
Related to compassion is selfless love, or selflessness, which is love and givingness that is not primarily focused on oneself or intended for a self-reward. Selfless love gives love without thinking there is a bargain to gain from being loving. It is giving love for love’s sake or for the other, not for one’s own consequential reward. There is an absence of self-only love and self-only concern, whereby I am not predominately concerned just for myself, nor mainly interested in satisfying my own desires. A greater purpose and work lurks in the moment.
Another description of this next step, beyond the ego, is expanded consciousness. This phrase is rather ambiguous, but it helps describe an important trait, expansion of consciousness. Heart consciousness, Love consciousness, compassion and selfless love are all aspects of an expanded consciousness; which is a consciousness not merely limited in or wrapped up in this one personality and its desires. In other words, consciousness becomes free of self-ego engrossment, me-concerns, and this singular physical body existence. In this freedom, consciousness naturally expands; like a bird free from a cage, or like the air trapped in a little balloon. And, as consciousness expands there is much more of the whole world in its interest and knowingness. Consciousness is not anymore engrossed in just the limited interests and concerns of a single personality. The interests of consciousness/mind have expanded. One is now more interested in others, other lives, and the whole world. One is more interested in knowing more about others, nature and the world, and also more interested in the greater-expanded welfare of all. One is more interested in expanded time – in the overall history of life and in its future. And one is more interested in the larger Purpose of this life and existence.
This then leads to expanded self-knowingness, which means that our self-knowing (the knowingness of our self) is expanded from a previous limited thinking about oneself – that I am merely this individual body-emotion-mind and controlling will. At first glance, this does seem to be just who I am. I am this little self, surrounded by a lot of other little selves, who are all competing for attention, love, recognition, pleasure, and material success. But an expanded self-knowingness is beyond this limited ego belief. It is a realization, based on actual experience, that I am not just this body-emotions-mind and controlling ego. I am the one in all beings.
The way of ego-transcendence is,
first, to be able to impartially observe oneself. Of course, this itself is a transcendence. The difficulty, though, is to actually observe or notice the ego in action, because it is the ego that is normally observing the other functions of self. So the ego is already an observer, which means that self-observation practices can sometimes merely be ego-driven and simply part of normal ego functioning. It is far more difficult to observe the ego-in-action from a state transcendental from this ego. Nonetheless, some degree of impartial self-observation needs to be developed, which would need to include actual ego-observation.
Another aspect to ego-transcendence is expanded interest, opening up the mind and interest into a wider View and into a Larger Purpose. And another necessary aspect ego-transcendence is service; to be devoted to service or to helping others achieve love and excellence.
And finally, there is a heart aspect of ego-transcendence, which is to come into heart awareness, or into the loving nature of oneself. This means to get in touch with the natural love in our own heart, to get in touch with our own loving nature. As already explained above, the way beyond ego is to come into our heart-consciousness, our love-consciousness, our compassionate nature, and finally into selfless love. This requires two complementing aspects of ‘work’. One is practice with intention and effort. The other is sacrifice and surrender.
Intentional practice and effort is like working with archery. There has to be a pulling of the bow and a concentration and an intention to hit the mark. And one has to practice in order to get somewhere in this. Sacrifice is needed because the ego has to sacrifice its own little intentions, desires and concerns. The ego will not usually agree to this sacrifice, nor will it consistently agree to the practices, but transcendence and transformation requires ego-sacrifice. There has to be some degree of willingness for the transcendence and transformation. Related to this is surrender. There needs to be a self-surrender to the Life and Consciousness that is Greater, and to the Love that is Greater. Also related to sacrifice and surrender is allowing. Allowing is also needed because heart, love and Spirit must be allowed in. One aspect of the personal ego is the doorkeeper, which part of its self-protective function. Positively, the doorkeeper can keep out harmful and oppressive psychic energies, but it could also keep out higher energies. So the doorkeeper has to allow in the Spirit and Greater Love. One also needs to allow heart and love and compassion to be in oneself, and to do what they do.
A huge change occurs when the self-ego stops holding tight to itself and surrenders in faith to God. This is when there is an end to the rabid self engrossment and exaggerated self-concern of the ego. Now this is not so much a matter of stopping the ego from having such self engrossment and concern; rather, the ego itself finally just gives up and surrenders. A point arises when the ego just lets go of itself, willingly. Then, a transformation of being occurs, from ego-ness to selflessness. This may not be a permanent transformation, because one often vacillates from ego-ness to selflessness and back the other way. But every step without ego will further the next possibilities for transformation. Selflessness is a term widely used, which basically means a state without selfishness, self-engrossment, and exaggerated self-concern. The exaggerated self-concern is thinking that one’s own pride and achievements are of primary concern over anything else. But the selfless or egoless person is concerned with needs.
When we are empty of our own little ego concerns and self-pride, then we may enter the state of selflessness, which is sort of like disappearing while what remains real are the situations and needs around us. In this selfless state, one becomes like a serving instrument to the needs around. As real consciousness emerges from the ego-dream state, devoid of the ego-concerns and the ego holding on, there is then just the perception of needs and a spirit within that naturally wants to take care of these needs. One looses the sense of doing things primarily for oneself, and instead one wants to do things for others and the environment. Needs beckon, and the selfless one serves what is needed.
And needs are everywhere, both close by and distant. The selfless one just serves the need, just gives what is needed. There is nothing else to do. For this is the very purpose of life – to give and take care of needs. This is what God is in relation to us and the world; God is the giver and merciful fulfiller of needs. This is what we hope God is, and this is what God is. God gives and takes care of our needs, not just physical needs but higher spiritual needs as well. This is the purpose of God, the Divine Purpose. In the Presence of God, which is everywhere, there is an impulse to take care of needs; so, as we enter selflessly into this Divine Presence we too feel this impulse to give and take care of needs. In this space, we become the instruments or servants of God.
One other Great Essential is decision. This is important and essential in everything. But let’s consider the greatest decisions. Think about the most important decisions one makes in life. There are many grand important outer life decisions. No, not about the car. Then, even more deeply and profoundly, there are grand important inner life decisions. For example, consider the possible decision to live a life of service to the world, or to do what is best for the Greater, rather than just living for one’s own pleasures and ego gratifications. Or consider a possible decision to listen to and follow a higher guidance of wisdom, rather than continue re-enacting habits of the lower self ego. Or consider a possible decision to love in every single moment. Meditate on each of these, and also notice your resistances.
Look at oneself. Notice from reflection how we are often in an internal conflict. We have hopes to live a more spiritual life, loving more rather than resenting, following higher wisdom rather than just going along with habits or with reactions, serving a greater purpose rather than demanding from life just what we want. The internal conflicts are there. Sometimes we go up the mountain to a higher ground, but then sometimes we fall back down to lower levels where we feel a familiarity. This is known as the spiritual struggle. Yet the greatest power in all this is decision. The difficulty, though, is in making the decision. But in the final analysis, Decision is the Key! Decision is the final test, and decision is the key to real Initiation.
We might also make a decision to live in a Greater Consciousness. Man’s usual consciousness is contracted and self-enclosed, or we might say that it’s limited in its self fixation or in its little world of concern. Great and decisive effort will be required to break out of this limited world of consciousness, or this self-obsessed enclosure, A first suggestion for a way out is to consider the larger world and how to give to this world. A second suggestion is to somehow let go of the limited self-contraction. This second way is more difficult, but it more directly cuts into the root of our problem. For as we let go of our limited self-concern and limited self-identity, there is a spontaneous leap of consciousness into a Greater Reality. In other words, consciousness spontaneously expands into greater consciousness when we let go of our little self and its little self-engrossed concerns. With intention we can let go at times, but then we so often return to our petty problems. So the Bigger step is to make true decision to make this change. This has the most powerful effect.