Two young Zen monks were traveling on a muddy road under a heavy rain when they saw a pretty girl in a silk kimono and sash looking at the road. She was clearly hesitant to cross the intersection and get her clothes dirty. One of the young men offered to carry her over the mud, lifting her in his arms and then gently dropping her on the other side of the road.
His companion didn’t say a word until that night when they reached a lodging temple and he couldn’t restrain himself any longer. “We monks don’t go near females,” he exclaimed, “especially not young and lovely ones. Why did you do that?” To which his friend replied, “I left the girl back there. Are you still carrying her?”
The ego-mind is sticky. The same mental function that differentiates humans from other animals gives your thoughts a revolving quality that creates patterns of perception and action. Each thought holds the creative seed of a similar thought, which produces another thought, and then another, and this chain of thoughts tends to continue unless you willingly concentrate the mind on a single object (see 3 Reasons Why Daily Meditation Is Essential).
When you’re having a conversation, your mind is busy listening to the other person and observing emerging thoughts to respond with, while also paying attention to what’s going on around you. Ego is always active, and it thrives when the mind is focused outwards, because this is how it becomes aware of the world—through your life-movie. After the conversation is over, it lingers for a while. You continue thinking about it, coming up with other things you would or should have liked to say.
Most people navigate life without self-awareness, continuously engaged in the external appearance of things, seeking happiness and fulfillment outside of themselves, and blaming others for their pain or discontentment. This results from being completely identified with the body-mind complex. But you are not your body and you are not your mind; you are the awareness behind them. The identification of the mind with the body produces ego, and this ego-mind takes control of your experiences.
Truly, until you become aware of your thoughts, motivations, and overall perception—constantly observing them to know yourself—the ego-mind owns you. It owns your thoughts, emotions, impulses, actions, and experience of life. It can bring back memories of past events or conversations without your control, to disconnect you from the present moment and keep you in the past. It can push destructive desires to sabotage your goals. It can bombard you with negative feelings, out of the blue and for no apparent reason.
The Purpose of Life Is To Know Yourself
The problem is not the mind itself, since it reflects Divine Consciousness, which is pure awareness. The problem is your identification with the ego-mind, that is, the illusion of an identity made up of memories and a sensory perception that creates attachment. You may wonder, if I am not my thoughts, memories and feelings, then who am I? But ‘Who am I?’ is the question you should be asking on a regular basis, because everything else fluctuates or keeps you in the past. You are not your past experiences, and yet you keep revolving there!
You hold on to events and situations that no longer exist, because your ego makes you believe that without them you don’t exist either. But what wouldn’t exist without them is your ego. Imagine you’re completely relaxed and your mind is quiet, because you’re on walking in the woods or watching the ocean waves without interacting with people, or in deep meditation. Do you cease to exist? Are you no longer there? Or are you actually fully present in the moment, one with the object of your attention (the woods, the waves, Consciousness)?
The ego-mind pushes you to seek happiness outside of you—through work, relationships, family, money, recognition, sensual gratification, or power. Since you won’t find lasting fulfillment there, it also pushes all sorts of distractions and stimuli to make you feel alive. I grew up surrounded by alcoholics and addicts, so it never stops to amaze me how people continuously reinforce destructive behaviors to disconnect from themselves, because they’re afraid to feel what they’re feeling.
More importantly, thanks to ego, they’re terrified of what’s behind all their emotional fluctuations: pure awareness and love. The ego-mind will do everything it can to prevent you from accessing the clarity about yourself that grants you the power to transform your life. This is why it keeps you looking outside for love or a sense of purpose and direction. And yet, only by looking within and being present in the moment will you ever feel fully alive—that is, connected to the flow of your own life.
The purpose of life is to experience things to know yourself—the good, the bad, and the ugly—so you can make choices as to what to leave behind and what to develop or nurture in you. Without this clarity, life simply becomes a series of dramas and obstacles peppered with moments of enjoyment that don’t last. Ego thrives in discontentment, so contact me today to embark on a soul-guided journey of self-exploration and energy management to experience the peace and joy of your full presence!
© 2019 Yol Swan. All rights reserved.