It’s been 20 years now since I had my first earth shattering consciousness-expanding experience, and 17 years since my second one. The first one was positive, but the second one scared the crap out of me.
In my experience 17 years ago, my ego identity/sense of self began to become uprooted, and quickly. I was doing intensive amounts of meditation. While on some level I was ready (intellectually for sure) to loosen the attachment I had to what I thought my identity was — an attachment we all have — I was not ready for it at that speed and to that depth.
When you feel like your identity is being uprooted, you feel like what you know of as “you” is dying. This is a massive shift to undertake. And if this is not done at the proper time/circumstance, it can lead to massive confusion and even potentially psychosis.
At some point I started experiencing intense fear and like I was “going too far,” so I retreated. I figuratively “packed up” and quickly fit myself back into the current identity box that I identify with in my everyday, normal awareness. Because the level of anxiety I was dealing with by the time I stopped meditating, rendered me nonfunctional. I couldn’t sleep or eat. I thought for sure I was on the brink of insanity.
No amount of spiritual/consciousness development mattered anymore. All that mattered was that I returned to “sanity” and properly dealt with my anxiety.
Ever since then I’ve been living in and interacting with my “identity box” while knowing that I’m more than that. We are more than that. We are so much more massive than we can comprehend, until we have experienced it in some form, whether it be through drugs, meditation, near death experiences, or some spontaneous experience.
Just recently, I’ve felt little nudges around me reminding me in a sense that maybe it’s time to remember. To remember what it felt to be more massive. That I am not this body. I am not my thoughts. And to really remember the gift I received of something so important and not commonly understood. The gift of meeting my “higher self” at the young age of 18, when I didn’t even know what any of that meant. I know things now I never thought could be possible, and when I experienced them it simply felt like remembering something I had forgotten.
But I’ve not been directly living in that reality, all due to my body’s overactive fight or flight response. Our egos are designed to keep us grounded and engaged in this human reality. It’s a survival mechanism. But we are not just our egos.
I’m reminded just how much I’ve brushed aside all that I experienced, all for trying to “survive.” And it reminded me what incredible insight you gain when you can explore higher consciousness in a safe way.
While I don’t intend on rushing back into meditation in the way I did in the past, maybe little by little I can embrace my own true nature behind it all once again.
In this world we will continually experience battles between the ego and the “soul” or higher self parts of us, whether we realize it or not.
Personally, my first most obvious battle in this way happened when I was 21, when I reached a very crucial point in my meditation sessions (I had been meditating constantly at this age). I had been spending two hours per day, five days per week, at a Zen Buddhist center in New Mexico where I had been living. I had been doing this for months.
Later on that year, I went on a camping trip where I camped out at a music festival for a week with my mom. I was dedicated to my meditation at this point, so I really didn’t do much except meditate there. It became kind of like a meditation retreat, meditating for most of the entire days I was there.
The more I meditated, the more I began to progress into this higher awareness state. This is when everything began to change.
For one thing, my senses were greatly heightened. I remember being able to hear a cat’s footsteps as it was walking around outside, and I could hear them so insanely acutely. The cat wasn’t even that close to me.
I began to sleep in a completely different way. I didn’t like this at all, because I could never tell if I was actually sleeping or not. Some part of me always felt really awake even while asleep, and this was maddening. It was nothing like a lucid dream, in fact I’m not sure I was dreaming at all during this time. If anything I would probably say I was constantly awake, and this worried me as I truly didn’t know if I was ever getting any real sleep whatsoever.
The pressure in my forehead (which I guess would be called the “third eye” area) would become so overwhelming at times that it would practically force my eyes shut, and I would often then fall into those sleep states.
I also became hyper-aware of the concepts we understand ourselves and the world through, and how limiting those can be. They literally serve as a box that keep us from experiencing the true expansiveness of ourselves and the world.
When I talked to people, I felt myself responding with my whole self, rather than just my mind. This is difficult to explain. But usually when we are talking with someone, our mind is conjuring up in the background how we want to respond, or how we want to word it, or just feeling out the response conceptually in general. With the constant meditation I was doing, my mind was not in the way nearly as much as usual, and it was like the responses to people came from the depth of my being without my mind in the way at all. It’s almost as though I had no awareness of myself as I responded to people. I just responded. I was one with the response.
I also began to be able to see all of my mental states happening simultaneously, as though I were watching a movie where these “worlds” were being created. There was a world that my speech created, a world that my thoughts created, and a world that my actions created. Then, there was the pure awareness state outside of all of these, that I was merging with more and more.
I felt intuitively that I needed to have the world of my speech, thoughts, and actions completely in tune. It felt extraordinarily important for these to be completely in harmony, or else I would not be able to maintain higher awareness.
However, as I kept myself in this awareness state through meditation, I also began to become increasingly dissociated. Thoughts felt slower, and I began to feel very disconnected from my body. And the more that I became disconnected from my prior concept of myself, the more I felt like I was walking on air, and not the ground. I was becoming ungrounded. This went on for days. I told myself this was my new mode of being, a new experience of love and expansiveness. The problem was I realized over time that I was becoming out of balance.
I started to feel anxious, and like I was playing with fire. The anxiety spiraled with the pressure of knowing that the fear-filled thoughts I was having was keeping everything out of harmony, and I wouldn’t be able to keep higher awareness this way. But I couldn’t control it. I was beginning to experience a world where I didn’t know the rules or what anything was anymore. I also didn’t know how to consistently operate in a world where my conceptual understanding of things was falling away.
My ego felt the need to cling, to hold on to my prior understanding of myself and the world.
I got to a point where I got a very clear intuitive message that told me in order to continue, I would have to abandon everything I “knew to be real.” I literally had to abandon my understanding of my self, and any conceptual frameworks I had developed of things. Because ultimately, these concepts were limiting me.
The fear that I was feeling took over. It won. It had felt too much to me like I was traveling into no-man’s land, where I was out of control, and the fear of the unknown progressed into full blown panic attacks. For a year or two. I thought I was going insane at this point, because I felt like I had gone too far into this strange land to even come back the same person (I wish I had known at the time that this was just the fear talking).
A counselor I saw later on that was knowledgeable in spiritual things, told me that because I was so young and my ego had not developed yet, if I had “jumped off the deep end” into the unknown, it may have resulted in massive confusion and psychosis. She said very matter-of-factly, “ironically, you have to have a very stable ego in order to be ready to explore the realms of the soul.”
To this day, I still don’t know if that’s true. It is very clear to me now that the intense fear I was feeling came from the loosening of my entire framework of reality. Honestly most people would be scared shitless if, for example, they were to be thrown into the massiveness of space suddenly, feeling as though they were at the mercy of whatever. I did not know how to trust that process. How to trust that if what I understood as my self died, that I wouldn’t really die. Just my sense of self would.
In the moment, our ego can’t differentiate. We don’t realize how tightly we hold on to our sense of selves, because it is what we use here on Earth to operate as a self. It’s all we really know, unless of course we have a taste of our higher selves, and of higher consciousness states.
It was a very scary battle between who I thought I was and everything that encompasses, and my real, higher self. But, this battle was happening at a very rapid pace. At one moment I was embracing my new experience of life, a higher sense of love and oneness, and a temporary new way of operating. Then the next moment I was cowering in fear, extraordinarily scared I was losing control, and losing myself.
My ego won. I stopped. But that’s okay. Because I felt I did indeed delve too quickly and deeply into this new world, and I needed to take a step back. I think the whole process of loosening ourselves from our clinging to our concept of ourselves and the external world is something that needs to happen slowly, over many, many years of time.
It has also taken me years since that experience to even understand that my inherent desire to reach new heights of awareness was due to having a natural awareness to some degree of the higher self, and longing to return to the richer experiences of life that are available through these higher awareness states.
It’s a part of my self that is consistently wanting to bring my “lower” or ego-self up to the higher self’s level.
Having any awareness and experience of this higher self makes it more difficult to live in the contrast of the “lower” self. Therefore, it creates a sense of longing to return to the higher self’s reality. The reality that is far, far more expansive than the limited reality we typically experience here.
Another very important thing that hit me just recently is how real these higher experiences of love, of existence, of understanding, actually are.
The most unimaginable joy, pure love, and living with a higher level of awareness is very. fucking. real. These are not just dreams, a desire for an escape (though it can serve as that), or a plight of the imagination. It is totally achievable. But here on Earth, it’s very difficult. We have to be in such a place of mental freedom and openness before we can ever experience these things without our clinging to our conceptual understanding of things, as well as other mental obstacles bringing us down.
I also realized intuitively after this particular meditation experience that the different part of my selves were out of harmony. I was trying to experience a reality that I didn’t have the tools to integrate. Kind of like when you go on an acid or shrooms trip (which I haven’t done before), you gain great insights, but then you come back down and ultimately it fades into a memory, with very little or no integration into your daily life.
I had slightly more integration with this consistent meditation I was doing, but I also realized quickly afterwards that it was going to be a long road of developing my own tools and everyday awareness before I could hold and process the intensity of the reality I was experiencing during those temporary states.
Nowadays, as I go through this life, I get to experience that higher sense of joy and love much more consistently than I did before. The more I learn and grow, and the more aware I become, the more my mind expands and naturally allows for this reality to be experienced more regularly.
But all of this is where the battle of the ego lies. You might be lucky enough to be faced with the most unimaginable, otherworldly beauty you have ever seen on this Earth, whether it comes in the form of a higher consciousness state or a pure love, and you may experience it for a moment. But then if you have not worked on overcoming your mental obstacles, this beauty will simultaneously arouse all of your fears and any blockages you have that keep you from realizing higher awareness.
It can be scary. And if you don’t surrender, your ego will win, and you will shrink back down into your normal understanding of things, and you may even pretend what you saw wasn’t real. Or maybe you were just going crazy. You might even feel intense fear, anxiety, and anger, depending on the situation. It will all be your ego kicking and screaming, trying to hold on to what it thinks is real.
Believe me, I’ve been there.
But it’s all okay. It’s all part of the learning process. It takes many years, a lifetime, for us to surrender who we think we are and not allow the ego to have such a hold on ourselves. Some of us may never experience higher awareness states at all, until death. That’s okay too — we are all on our own personal journeys, and we experience the things we need to to help our own growth, at our own pace.
“In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond; And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring.
Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.
Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd when he stands before the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honour.
Is the shepherd not joyful beneath his trembling, that he shall wear the mark of the king? Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling?
For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?
Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing. And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb. And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.”
A long time ago, my talented best friend and spoken word artist Cory Russo wrote a poem about the power of pain and how it can change us entirely. For me, one of the most meaningful lines from this poem was, “I can make an atheist drop to his knees and pray — I AM PAIN.” (Click here to listen to her entire poem!).
This line is meaningful on many levels. For me, it has only become more relevant and meaningful over time, as I relate it to my journey of life’s experiences kicking my ass and deepening my character in the meantime.
It is my journey of a dominating skeptical attitude into openness, as I became more aware that this skepticism was primarily due to my own lack of awareness and knowledge, which in turn led me to believe that I was knowledgeable enough to assert my opinion on things I didn’t know enough about.
Like most people at one time of our lives or another, I was more aware of popular opinion regarding certain topics that seemed “illogical” and this is the stance I would take, without actually having proper experience regarding that topic.
Skepticism obviously isn’t necessarily bad — as everything should be examined properly and skepticism often exists for a reason.
However at the same time, it has the great potential to keep us closed, and doesn’t always allow us to actually examine from a neutral and open mind state. We don’t have to believe, but we don’t necessarily have to be skeptical, either.
Being open is ultimately about getting to a point in life where you have enough humility to understand that our levels of knowledge are always relative and life truly is a much more multi-dimensional place than we can fathom or experience easily here on Earth.
After 34 years on this Earth, I’m at a point now where I look back and see how much openness has given me vs. how much skepticism did. There is no comparison.
For example, if I had allowed skepticism to dominate what was happening to me during any consciousness-expanding experiences I had at a very young age (without knowing what the F was going on with me), I wouldn’t have learned from it the way I did.
During that sensitive time, I had to completely shut out the noise from the external world and really pay attention to what my own self was telling me about this experience. If I had listened to some others, I might have believed instead that I needed to be reeled in with some medication.
Now, to elaborate on pain and suffering.
Many of us that are trying to understand the mystery of our existence often wonder why, if there’s some sort of higher power, that pain and suffering are allowed to exist to the extent that they do. What is their purpose? Why would a higher power make us suffer seemingly needlessly at times, if there is one?
It is something I had pondered on some occasions myself, but as I grow in awareness I feel I’m starting to understand it a bit more.
There is not necessarily one easy answer, as there are multiple reasons why pain and suffering occurs. Sometimes we cause our own, from our own lack of awareness. In those cases it is just simply cause and effect.
For whatever reason, from a young age I had multiple consciousness-expanding experiences that shattered my reality as I knew it.
My entire life felt like an illusion as I had discovered new inner worlds on another consciousness plane, not produced by thought and conception, but as a literal direct experience.
While I learned certain things in the moment of those experiences, it has taken me years to process each one of them and really understand them more over time.
These experiences did not come from a firmly held belief in anything. They were simply something that happened as a result of listening to myself and following these “feelings” I was getting from my intuition.
I was always very eager to share them with people, but with these not being common or well-understood phenomena, I was usually met with responses like, “are you SURE you weren’t on any drugs?”. Thankfully, this did not make me question the validity of my experiences. They had shaken my world in a way that was unlike anything I could have imagined, and I felt like I needed to share what I saw with the entire world. I felt I had a very important message.
But, people learn things at their own rate and in their own due time. It was not my place to control that, as much as my ego desired people to understand. All I could do is tell my story and leave it at that.
After the first experience, I still did have many unanswered questions about life and existence (and still do). There are many things I simply can’t know yet and am not going to pretend to. Each subsequent experience would show me a little more context, but generally what they gave me was more insight into the nature of our true selves, or our essence.
They led me to understand that there is more to our selves than what we experience here on Earth.
Yet as significant as these experiences were, the insights gained from them felt very obvious and clear. This knowledge is something that is with us all the time! It is just blocked by so many elements of our humanly experience. All of it was completely familiar. It was just finding something so essential that I had just long forgotten.
The best way I can explain it is that it was literally like waking up from a dream (the dream in this case being your current understanding and experience of your entire existence) into a completely new “world” where you suddenly meet your “real” self and you directly experience that you had merely been playing this human role your entire life, thinking that the role itself was you.
What an illusion! And what incredibly immense JOY it was to encounter my “real” entire self again! To see that there really IS more than this human drama we are playing out; that all of our sorrows, our worries, our pain, would someday be put in perspective. It feels like such an insane relief.
I had never known joy like what I felt in that experience. I literally cried for days out of happiness in meeting this part of myself. There is no way I could respond except by just an endless release of emotion. In attempting to explain it to my mom, I’m sure she thought I was nuts. I had no words.
There is no comparison between way that I see and understand life after these experiences versus my perspective prior — i.e., the “me” at that time that thought, “I have no reason to believe there is any form of existence after death or let alone any higher power. Why would I?”
And honestly, at that time, I was right — I didn’t have a reason to believe it. I had no personal experiences or insight into any other mode of existence, and I was never the type to blindly believe things like this. I was never religious, never believed in God (especially not in the traditional sense), and I had been a self-professed atheist or agnostic. I was once actually almost prideful to proclaim that I thought we entirely cease to exist after death.
That being said, words never fully do an experience like this justice. Unless you’ve had a similar experience, it’s easy to underestimate how much this can shift your entire psychological landscape.
It’s not just, “oh I didn’t know this and now I do,” the way typical knowledge acquisition works. No. It felt like I got a whole new operating system — and it mentally opened up door after door to new realizations. My beliefs didn’t change; I was just simply awake.
Occasionally I would casually ponder as to why this knowledge regarding our selves is as uncommon as it is. Why is it for the majority of us that our consciousness levels are lowered to the point that we have no recollection of these things unless we have some sort of consciousness-expanding experience?
I have learned over time that there is a VERY good reason why we aren’t able to easily remember our existence outside the Earth realm. Continuing to play the “human role” after meeting the “essence” or “soul” of ourselves and seeing that it’s so much more massive than this and not confined to this body, can feel very odd at times to say the least. It can make it incredibly more difficult to focus on just having a normal human experience if we are not ready to properly integrate the knowledge with our existence here.
Regardless, I understood that we are here on Earth to have an experience, no matter what that experience entails. Within the experience will be many trials and lessons.
So, any pain and suffering we may go through — it may be seem needless or unjust, but it’s not us or even close to our entire story.
However, suffering WILL ALWAYS deepen our characters and give us perspectives we may not have been able to have had otherwise. It rounds out our character and strengthens our spirit.
Ram Dass speaks on this all the time. He is a former Harvard Psychology professor who turned Hindu spiritual teacher and later in his life suffered a massive stroke that paralyzed the right side of his body.
I’ll take this passage from one of his most recent articles:
“There is a line from a letter that I wrote to the parents of a young girl who was raped and murdered that I would like to share with you. It said, ‘Something in you dies when you bear the unbearable. In other words, you go beyond just the horror and pain of it because it takes you beyond it. You can’t bear it and it is only in the dark night of the soul that you’re prepared to see as God sees and to love as God loves.’
It’s the horrible beauty of the Universe and to realize that there is a wisdom inherent in it, and that wisdom includes suffering and that all suffering is not an error. Until you are resting in a place that understands that, it’s quite presumptuous to think you know best. I have watched in the work I do with people that are dying, where they suffer and suffer and suffer and if I could, as a human emotional heart, I would do everything I could to take away their suffering. It breaks my heart that they’re suffering and I watch as the suffering burns its way until they finally give up because the suffering is so great. I’ve watched as they give up, something emerges in their being that is so beautiful and so radiant and so spiritually innocent, that it’s like they meet a part of their being that has been hidden all their lives. It’s like an egg being cracked open.”
He also talks at length about what suffering through his stroke has given him, and that he wishes that all people could experience the grace that the suffering gave him, but without the unfortunate experience of the stroke itself.
It is from people like Ram Dass and my own consciousness-expanding experiences I was able to have that I feel compelled to share this message:
The experiences we have here on Earth are all for a purpose and there is hidden beauty in them that we will eventually be able to see. The greatest part is that it is not our entire story, so we must have hope that one day we will be able to see the greater context for why we are going through what we are going through.
My wish is that you may retain a glimmer of hope and that every minute, every second that you fight a battle you are strengthening your own spirit (even if it feels like the opposite) and the end result will be something beautiful.
If you’re currently suffering from anything at all, hang in there and know that you are not alone, and there is a bigger picture that you will see one day that will bring you a peace and understanding like you could never imagine.
”The wound is the place where the light enters you.” —Rumi
Living our lives and learning throughout them on this Earth is an incredible experience. Each of us have our own unique journeys in which we approach all differently based on our perceptions and understanding of what goes on around us.
Being Sensitive and Choosing How to Respond to All the Input
I have always been a sensitive person. Sensitive to noise, sensitive to light, attentive to the world around me and things could always easily affect me. Growing up, this wasn’t really a pleasant thing. I didn’t see the good in it, I was purely just affected by it. But as I’ve gotten older, I can see that it has been a blessing. It allows me to really observe and deeply process the information that’s constantly going on around me. However, when I was younger, I didn’t really have the tools required to be able to choose how I wanted to respond to all of this input. It simply just hit me, and if it was negative input from someone or something, it would affect me negatively and that was that.
This at times created self-esteem issues or fears that would cause me to doubt myself. And this can easily spread to other things — second-guessing your own abilities in almost anything. Then if it goes on for too long without resolution, these habits of self-doubt, fear, and low self-esteem can become more thoroughly etched in our brains; more permanent. I realized this is what stifles people’s growth and causes so many people to build up walls around them, or to see the world more negatively and act out of fear. They don’t learn to believe in their own potential.
The world CAN be very negative, painful, and difficult…but ultimately it is us holding onto this negative, fearful outlook that will hurt us more than anything else.
Luckily for me, I grew out of most of these negative thought patterns (having an anxiety disorder didn’t help). It took quite a while.
Dealing with People’s Judgments
If people said something in particular about me based on their perceptions, or judged me in some way, the first thing that hit my mind would NEVER be that it was their problem. I automatically assumed that if they were saying it, it must be for a reason. And maybe it was. But I never really looked at (or saw) the root cause of why they were saying what they were saying. This put me through more emotional pain, so to speak, because it caused me to really analyze myself and see if what they were saying had truth to it. I literally faced it and absorbed it, and thought about it deeply.
I don’t think this is a bad thing either; as I think it’s important to keep our minds open. Someone who never looks at themselves or their own potential faults will not grow in awareness. They won’t become closer to really understanding themselves.
However, it is also very important to understand that most often, the way people see you is completely limited by how they perceive the world in general.
Most of us have limited/stifled our potential in one way or another — and it’s usually never wholly our own fault. It so easily gets stifled over our lives by potentially how we are raised, the expectations and pressures that might be placed us, getting overly fixated on money and letting that drive our actions. Or just by negative experiences and fears, or their own judgments of what they think is right or wrong.
Lately what has been sticking out in my mind is that over the course of my life to date, so many times I could feel that someone had a certain perception of me and I never really looked at it objectively. I always gave it perhaps more credit than it deserved. However, this was always something subtle and unmentioned — for example, if someone had said to me “you’re really stupid,” in that case I certainly wouldn’t have believed them. These were not obvious judgments or statements made, and they weren’t always negative. It was simply just the reflection of their own worldview projected on to me that became apparent through the natural dynamic of our relationship.
It was clear that they didn’t understand me for who I really was.
And I think more often than not, this is often the case for most relationships we might have, to varying degrees. And if we don’t know ourselves deeply, we’ll never be able to detect when someone’s perception of us is off. Especially because this is often just a subtle thing. We get lost in our own misperceptions, which are made worse by others’ misperceptions, and can get lost in a maze and may stray farther away from who we really are.
People’s Perception of You Has More to do with Them Than With You
Every once in a while I come upon that quote on the internet that says, “people see you as THEY are.” I never fully understood this until recently, to be honest. But it is so completely true: People so often project their own fears or negativity or even the nature of their own self on to you. People who make assumptions about you or judge you are often doing so because that is what lies in their own hearts, NOT because it has anything to do with you.
And the answer to this is not to judge them back. You can limit contact, but don’t hold negativity in your own heart, because in the end, negative thoughts will only do you harm. It is best to just pray or hope that someday they are able to rise above their own stifling thoughts and habits.
We must work on becoming more mindful of how we respond to the outside world. Even though it’s often not easy, we can choose our battles; we can choose how we respond. People assume that because they are interacting with other humans most of the time, that that’s who the battles are fought with — like it is us against them. This is never the case. The more we act out of fear, violence, vengefulness, and so on, the more we close our own hearts and are affected in the long run.
“War within ourselves is always a prelude to war outside ourselves. All war starts within our own hearts. When our egos are inflated or our desires insatiable, we go to war with the other for the sad joy of maintaining our one-dimensional worlds.”
― Joan D. Chittister, Wisdom Distilled from the Daily: Living the Rule of St. Benedict Today
“NOTE TO SELF – BOOMERANG EFFECT
My words, thoughts and deeds have a boomerang effect.
So be-careful what you send out!”
― Allan Rufus, The Master’s Sacred Knowledge
“Very often in everyday life one sees that by losing one’s temper with someone who has already lost his, one does not gain anything but only sets out upon the path of stupidity. He who has enough self-control to stand firm at the moment when the other person is in a temper, wins in the end. It is not he who has spoken a hundred words aloud who has won; it is he who has perhaps spoken only one word.”
― Hazrat Inayat Khan, Mastery through Accomplishment
For as far back in my history as I can think of, living on Earth has always felt very surreal to me. As a child, I never thought much of it except that I didn’t feel like “a real girl” (my words back then exactly). As a teen, I still thought it was probably something temporary and that it would go away over time.
But as an adult, things have gotten even more surreal to me, to the point where I’m more aware that I’m not usually fully mentally involved in situations that are happening. There is a part of me that is living out my experiences, and another part of me deep within that is simply observing. I feel as though I have primarily come to identify with the part of me that is observing moreso than I identify with the part that is involved.
A large part of this stems from being persistently cognizant of the mystery of our selves; the fact that in any given moment, we are human beings playing a part in a world primarily created by us, with the rest being a mystery.
I am very much aware that the situations I find myself in — even the most subtle and normal of them — often exist as a result of some sort of expectation or following suit of the way things currently are. It is an order of operation of the status quo; a tiny combination of cause and effect in an infinite pool of possible circumstantial combinations.
I find myself then prodding into the unknown or the unborn of any given moment; first observing what currently is, then next dreaming up what could be or what should be.
So, what does this have to do with ego? Ego as I’m describing it here, is basically everything that we have come to define our own roles as in this play of our existence. Every action we take and every thought or perception we have is largely influenced by the entire framework of our experiences, of learning and conditioning, institutions we are a part of such as schools, our jobs, impressions of ourselves from others, how we are treated, patterns, addictions, wounds, or expectations of how we should be acting.
We become extraordinarily attached to who we think we are and often the situations we find ourselves in as a result — as the way we understand and interpret our existence is all we have ever known. Often we become controlled by or lost in these definitions and habits that come as a result of all of our experiences. We feel like we are more in control than we actually are, not realizing how much of our perspectives and actions are at times a product of expectation or conditioning, and aren’t necessarily coming from a deeper place.
All of this can lead into the life path we end up taking and what we achieve and why we achieve it, as well as who we end up associating with, and ultimately our sense of self-worth.
Our sense of self-worth is something that rather being subject to all the varying definitions of our existence, should ideally be uncovered only by our inner seeking and through the stripping of the layers of what we have built on top of our selves, to eventually the reach the core. The multitude of realizations we have of ourselves in this uncovering process is intriguing and will fill us with a new life energy we might not have had before.
In doing this, we begin to develop the satisfaction of understanding ourselves and our place in the world on a much deeper level that is unshaken by all of the varying and subjective perceptions and situations we find ourselves a part of.
We also slowly stop defining ourselves by what we have achieved or what group we’re a part of or anything else, but rather as simply defined by the universe. Our sense of self expands and we become capable of more love and personal power than ever before, which then allows us to live that much more wholeheartedly. This reveals a new kind of fulfillment.
The best way to start or enhance this discovery process is just simply spending more time being with ourselves. By deliberately listening to ourselves and shutting off all external noise and influences.
Meditation, or meditation-like exercises such as writing or yoga are fantastic for this, as they allow us to explore the inner recesses of our mind. With time, we then will begin to reach parts of ourselves we may have never otherwise touched.
“The ‘me’ — the Dan Millman who had lived long ago was gone forever, a flashing moment in time — but I remained unchanged through all ages. I was now Myself, the Consciousness which observed all, was all. All my separate parts would continue forever; forever changing, forever new.
I realized now that the Grim Reaper, the Death Dan Millman had so feared, had been his great illusion. His life, too, had been an illusion, a problem, nothing more than a humorous incident when Consciousness had forgotten itself.
I had lost all my roles, all my morals, all my fear back there on the mountain.
I could no longer be controlled. What punishment could possibly threaten me?
Yet, though I had no code of behavior, I felt what was balanced, what was
appropriate, and what was loving. I was capable of loving action, and nothing
else. He had said it; what could be a greater power?”
—Dan Millman, “Way of the Peaceful Warrior”
Let’s be honest: On average, the way we as human beings have learned to handle our emotions is very often a mess. We all have a myriad of emotions we might experience throughout just one day, and we are so used to our own emotions that we may not really think to look at them, or we might sometimes have a certain way of always dealing with them (that may or may not be healthy).
Some people may express one emotion more strongly in order to cover up the other, some people may hide them entirely, some people may have them but are in denial themselves over what they are feeling.
On top of that, the way we grow up may condition us to judge ourselves over what we are feeling, causing us to feel alienated from others.
Males are often taught to handle their emotions differently than women (part of which led to the idea that women are more emotional than men, but through all my life experience to date I can say with confidence this is not true). They are just often expressed and handled differently, and men and women sometimes place importance on different things.
Emotion is a touchy, emotional subject in itself. But the truth is, emotions are also a gateway.
The way that we handle and express our emotions can give us clues about our true feelings on many things, even if intellectually we may not admit it.
Through all my meditation ― i.e. exploration of the self ― and from ten or so years of being on the antidepressant Prozac, I’ve learned that recognizing and properly handling our emotions is an incredibly important step towards enhanced self-awareness that cannot be overlooked.
Prozac really muted my emotions, and while most people would think that is a blessing (and in some cases where people tend to overreact or over-stress, it might be), it actually at times led to confusion about how I really felt about things. It literally cut me off from myself in this way, and it was coming off of Prozac that made me really see the difference.
Our emotions can be the thing that tells us exactly what’s in our hearts, even if we don’t want to listen. They might in fact be the only thing that shows us our most fulfilling path in life, if we are willing to put our guard down, embrace them, and experience life with an open heart.
They may give us hints towards things we hadn’t yet intellectually considered, and if we analyze them a bit, we might realize there is a long chain of cause and effect that end up making us feel a certain way. Something that might lead far back to our past that was a traumatizing event and is now dominating our lives majorly, yet we may not have even noticed.
Even if we think the way we are experiencing emotions is completely fine and there’s nothing wrong, just paying more attention to them and learning to embrace them fully can release us in ways we may not have even imagined. It means we are actually willing to become more in touch with ourselves.
Accepting our emotions might also allow us to slowly let go of layers of emotional baggage so that we can be freer than ever before, because true freedom starts in the mind.
Some Tips on More Effectively Handling Our Emotions
- The most important thing: Pay Attention. That’s it. Buddhists have talked about attention as their greatest advantage when breaking the chains of the mind. It’s true. If we don’t watch over our own minds (and our emotions), we will be controlled by them. Take some time to really understand why you’re feeling what you do.
- Understand the intelligence and awareness that lies in vulnerability. In other words, don’t be afraid to be real with yourself, even if it breaks your pride a little bit. The things in life that break our pride are what shows us where we can improve, or might show us the true nature of things, even if it feels crappy. This is easier said than done, though, and I realize that. I don’t like having my ego deflated, either. But it sure has awoken me many-a-time to reality.
- Don’t judge yourself based on what you should or shouldn’t be feeling. Many people do this subconsciously and tuck their feelings away.
- Learn to express them fully, without question, then let them go. Go deep into your emotions and explore them. Live them out fully. When doing so, they will live out their life and then release. It is only by resisting and suppressing them that they might stay alive forever.
“You don’t need to control emotion,” he said. “Emotions are natural, like passing weather. Sometimes it’s fear, sometimes sorrow or anger. Emotions are not the problem. The key is to transform the energy of emotion into constructive action.”
― Dan Millman, Way of the Peaceful Warrior
“Emotions are the next frontier to be understood and conquered. To manage our emotions is not to drug them or suppress them, but to understand them so that we can intelligently direct our emotional energies and intentions…. It’s time for human beings to grow up emotionally, to mature into emotionally managed and responsible citizens. No magic pill will do it.”
― Doc Childre