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Copyright 2001 Realization.org.



To Be and Not to Be: The Koan of the Ego

When the ego constricts, we get stuck inside our own stories


An earlier version of this article appeared as a letter on the Kundalini-Gateway mail list.


TO ME , "EGO" is a sense of oneself as an individual, a distinct "me" in relationship to the world. It's a water droplet in the ocean. To the degree that the water droplet is aware that it exists as part of something greater than itself, it has a spacious ego-identity. There is a joy and freedom and sense of awe that comes of experiencing one's vastness and belonging to the whole of life.

The idea of ego as a bad thing is a misunderstanding of our spiritual potentials. There is nothing inherently negative in experiencing oneself as a discrete "me" and expressing individual characteristics. People who accuse others of displays of ego are usually using this as a cover to say "I don't like you" or "I don't like what you said." This has nothing to do with the size of egos; it's just interpersonal conflict. The word "egotism" gets thrown into concepts of ego, thus muddling the concept further. An egotist is self-centered (my dictionary defines it as "devoted to his own interests and advancement") and flaunts an attitude of superiority which can be abrasive to others.

In my opinion, the problem isn't having a sense of "me." It's being unconscious to so much of myself and the world. When my self-awareness expands, so does my awareness of everything else because it's all interrelated and inseparable. The more conscious I become, the more magical and surprising and incredible life reveals itself to be. To the degree that I shut down my consciousness, I experience myself and the world around me in a sort of stupor of "normality" where things are pretty much predictable and "same old, same old." In that shut-down state, I'm oblivious to my connection with everything else in existence. I may intellectually know I'm connected, but I don't experience it.

When I'm in my most constricted ego identity, my perceptions get frozen around whatever story I'm telling myself about who I am and what is happening. In that sense, I agree that "your beliefs create your reality." When you're hunkered down into a tight little mental scenario you've concocted to explain yourself to yourself, you're living inside a privately scripted world which is "reality" only to you. This is where most of us are in ordinary consciousness. But when you open up and begin to experience life and yourself as something beyond anything you believed or ever dreamed to be true, you realize that your beliefs were obstacles which prevented you from awakening. I don't mean so-called negative or limiting beliefs, but any beliefs whatsoever. All beliefs are defenses against direct perception and experiential knowledge. By this I mean that beliefs create a distance between what is and what we tell ourselves "is," so instead of being immediately and intimately engaged in life, we live as spectators, standing on the sidelines delivering a narration of what we think we're perceiving. It is very, very, hard not to do this, even in powerful mystical/altered states. And as with the ego, there is nothing inherently bad about doing it. It just reduces the spectacular vitality of life and keeps us in the role of commentator rather than true initiate.

I'm not saying that to live fully requires us to turn off our minds or never try to articulate our experiences, ideas, and perceptions. These have their value, but can't compare to direct experience. It's the difference between saying the words "I love you" and actually feeling the overflowing heart of loving. (Yes, sometimes they are simultaneous, but often not.) Angelique wrote: "Part of the difference is [that] the process of 'thinking about' is replaced by a Zen-silent mind that acts without thinking. Goddess does the thinking, and the body is a vessel of that Will." This is the "no-mind" or hollow- tube way of direct, unobstructed experience. If you're not at that level of clarity and ability to vacate the mind at will, it can also be done as a brave and curious explorer, letting life reveal itself to us moment by moment rather than trying to lead it with our expectations and preconceived notions of what things mean.

So, in my opinion, if you want to experience quantum leaps in spiritual growth and awareness, forget about dropping your ego and work at dropping your beliefs. Better yet, ignore anything I or anyone else says to do and let life/Spirit show you the way.

Copyright 2000 El Collie

El Collie publishes the Shared Transformation website.


This page was published on May 23, 2000.

Copyright 2001 Realization.org. All rights reserved.