There’s No Such Thing as Ego

November 22nd, 2010

I don’t have an ego. And nor do you.

That doesn’t mean you and I don’t get caught up in egocentric thinking and behavior, but that we are mistaken in thinking of the ego as some separate individual self. some “thing” in the mind.

When I observe my own mind, I notice there is an ever-present sense of “I-ness”. This has been there all my life, and has not changed. The feeling of being “me” is the same feeling I had when I was ten years old. My thoughts, feelings, likes, dislikes, attitude, character, personality, roles, desires, needs, and beliefs may have changed considerably over the years, but the sense of “I” has not.

I do not find a separate ego, another “self” that sometimes takes over. What I find instead are various patterns of thinking that condition how I decide and act. At times, I may feel fearful or judgmental, and I may behave in ways that are manipulative or self-protective. I may think that if I could just have things be a particularly way I would be happy. I may feel insecure and want attention from others, seeking to feel important. I may draw a sense of identity from my social status, the roles I play, my character, or my lifestyle. And when this is challenged in some way, I may try to defend and reinforce this constructed sense of identity.

In each case, past experiences and conditioning create beliefs, attitudes, needs, desires, and aversions. These become the lens through which I see my world, affecting how I interpret my experience, the thoughts that arise in my mind, and a whole set of stories about what to say or do, in order to get what I think will bring make me feel better. However, the “I” that is interpreting and thinking is the same “I” that is always there. But its attention has become engrossed in some or other “egoic” pattern of thinking, leading to correspondingly egocentric decisions and actions.

What we call the ego is not another separate self so much as a mode of being that can dominate our thinking, decisions, speech, and actions, leading us to behave in ways that are uncaring, self-centered, or manipulative.
Our exploration of ego would be more fruitful if we stopped using the word as a noun, which immediately implies some “thing”, and instead thought of ego as a mental processes that can occupy our attention. For this a verb is a more appropriate part of speech. I am “ego-ing”.

The difference is subtle, but very important. If I see the ego as a separate self, some thing, then it is easy to fall into the belief—common in many spiritual circles—that I must get rid of my ego, transcend it, or overcome it in some way. But seeing ego as a mental process, a system of thinking that I get caught in, suggests that I need to step out of that mode of thinking—to look at the world through a different lens, one less tainted by fear, insecurity and attachment.

This is a much easier and more effective approach. When I notice myself caught up in egoic thinking, rather than berating myself (or my imagined ego), I can notice what is going on and step back from it. This doesn’t mean I have eliminated that way of thinking. It will surely return. And when it does, I can choose to step out of it again. Transcending the ego thus becomes an ongoing practice rather than a far-off goal.

See also: Another way of seeing in Prayer for Peace

Facebook Twitter MySpace LinkedIn Digg StumbleUpon

From Hafiz:

November 19th, 2010

It happens all the time in heaven,
And some day
It will begin to happen
Again on earth—

The men and women . . . .
Who give each other
Often will get down on their knees

And. . .with tears in their eyes,
Will sincerely speak, saying,

“My dear,
How can I be more loving to you;
How can I be more Kind?”

Facebook Twitter MySpace LinkedIn Digg StumbleUpon

Gaian Perspective on Gulf Oil Leak

May 29th, 2010

The Global Brain is Watching.

(This is text from video. Watch the video.)

The live video feed from the fractured oil pipe a mile beneath the surface is allowing anyone with Internet access (currently more than 1.7 billion of us) to watch the plume of oil pouring into the Gulf of Mexico. And, moreover, to watch live the various attempts to plug the leak. It has become, in the words of Associated Press, “an Internet sensation.” Thank you Obama for insisting that BP didn’t cut the video feed.

When I wrote The Global Brain, 30 years ago, I (and just about everyone else in the field) was imagining the embryonic Internet in terms of text and data processing. None of us foresaw the rich audio-visual medium it would become. Or that we, the neurons of the global brain, would be able to watch live as global catastrophes such as this unfold. Our eyes have become the eyes of Gaia, collectively observing our unfolding collective destiny.

And what, from a Gaian perspective, is this oil that threatens, not just the fishing business in Louisiana, but, far more importantly, the coral reefs and sea floor life that lie at the base of the ocean food chain?

Oil is but highly concentrated life. Dead forests from hundreds of millions of years ago, compressed by immense geological pressures into this hydrocarbon rich liquid that we prize so much for all the energy it contains. As Tom Hartmann points out in his book Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight, it is, in the final analysis, energy captured by plants way back in the past.

To the energy of the trapped sunlight was then added the energy of the immense compression it underwent beneath the weight of continents. That compression changed the chemical nature of the vegetable remains. The hydrocarbons we prize so much are seldom found in nature. It took unimaginable pressure to force the chains of carbon atoms to be found throughout life on Earth into rings of carbon atoms. (Today we have taken this a step further, using intense pressures in the laboratory to create spheres of carbon atoms – so-called Buckyballs.)

These hydrocarbon rings don’t fit well with life back on the surface of Gaia. Being immiscible with water, they clog up the metabolic processes of most lifeforms. To us, liberated oil is pollution.

A few bacteria do like this dense nutrient-rich material. They live on the sea floor happily gobbling the trickle of oil that oozes through numerous cracks in the ocean bed, breaking down the carbon rings into more hospitable molecules. But they never evolved to cope with hundreds of thousands of barrels a day pouring out of a single vent.

Where will it end? No one knows. Eventually, microbes on the ocean floor will slowly break down the carbon rings, feeding them back into the food chain hundreds of million years after they were first formed. And life will, in time, cope with the dispersants that have been added to the mix (themselves a product of the oil industry.) In the long term, Gaia shows a remarkable resilience.

Meanwhile, the world watches with baited-breath, half mesmerized, half devastated – and perhaps just a tiny part glad that it may take such a catastrophe to bring this crazy bunch of monkeys to their senses.

Facebook Twitter MySpace LinkedIn Digg StumbleUpon

The Death of the Mouse

April 3rd, 2010

The mouse that sits in our hand so much of the day is on the way out. It has served its time well. But the future is mouse-free. Thanks to the iPad.

Apple launched the mouse nearly thirty years ago as a way of pointing to places on a computer screen. It freed us from having to navigate by keyboard strokes. (Remember MS-DOS?) The mouse was the best that could be done back then. Now with the touch-screen capabilities of the iPhone, iPad, and similar devices, we don’t need mice anymore. We can use our fingers directly, and with much greater power.

It will not be long before laptops and desktops also have touch-screens. We will be interacting with our computers in the way we see in Avatar, manipulating the screen directly with our fingers. In five year’s time the mouse will be “so twentieth-century” we will come across them tucked away in boxes in the closet.

This is one reason I believe the iPad will spawn as great a breakthrough in computing as did the original Macintosh.

Facebook Twitter MySpace LinkedIn Digg StumbleUpon

2012: Temporal Epicenter of a Cultural Earthquake

December 14th, 2009

In recent times there has been growing interest in the possibility that the global crisis is coming to a head in the year 2012. It will be a time when we will see major changes, major transformations of humanity, perhaps an awakening of the human spirit. Most of this focus on 2012 stems from the Mayan calendar and the fact it completes its 5125 year cycle on December 21st, 2012.

There are other predictions in the world which may not be so precise in terms of the date, but which also suggest we are facing major changes. In ancient India the Vedas talked about an age of Kali Yoga which lasts thousands of years and is dominated by greed, corruption and materialistic values. They say this age is coming to an end and we are entering an age called Sat Yoga, a golden age.

In North America the Hopi Indians talked about the coming of an end of an era, when there would be a great purification. Astrologers talk about the Age of Aquarius that we are entering into, a time when we learn to live in peace with each other and with the planet.

Many other people have had similar visions that we are moving into times of catastrophic change which will be accompanied by a great spiritual awakening and a shift to a wiser, more loving, more compassionate way of being, perhaps the emergence of a global consciousness.

Whether there will actually be momentous changes in 2012, or even on December 21st, 2012 remains to be seen. For me the exact date is not so important. I see 2012 as a symbol of a critical period in human history. The first two decades of the 21st century seem to be the time when this crisis is really coming to a head. In fact many environmentalists say that if we don’t change by 2020 we are going to be in deep trouble.

The year 2012 sits in the middle of this period. Rather than being a precise date at which major changes happen, I see it as the temporal epicenter of a cultural earthquake. No one actually knows what is going to happen in the coming years. There may be breakdowns in the systems, major social disruptions, perhaps even completely unexpected calamities. And at the same time there’s probably going to be breakthroughs, some positive transformations, people letting go of old attitudes ands beliefs. In reality its probably going to be both. All that we can probably say with certainty is that there is going to be a lot more change, and some of it totally unexpected.

People sometimes talk about the winds of change. I think we’re heading into a storm of change. The question is how can we prepare ourselves for this, how can we cope with an increasingly unpredictable world?

We can get some clues by looking at what helps a tree survive a storm. First, it needs strong roots, so it does not blow over. Similarly, we need to be able to remain stable so that we are not shaken by every unexpected change. If we loose our inner balance, if we react emotionally to everything that happens, we end up getting more stressed and more likely to burn out.

Second, like a tree we also need to be flexible. We need to be able to move with the flow of change. This means letting go of past assumptions. We need to learn to think more clearly, allow new ideas in, let deeper intuitions and feelings come to the surface.

And third, just as a tree is much better off if it is protected by other trees in the forest, so too we will be much better able to withstand change if we have a strong sense of community. We need to care for each, support each other in times of need. We need to develop greater care and compassion, to open our hearts to kindness, and have our vision guide us in these turbulent times.

See Also: A Singularity in Time

Facebook Twitter MySpace LinkedIn Digg StumbleUpon

Seek and Ye Shall Not Find

December 8th, 2009

“Seek and Ye Shall Find!” In daily life this may be true; the more we search for something, the more likely we are to find it. Although, even in this realm, synchronicity sometimes plays an important role, opening us to possibilities we never could have planned for. [see: How to be a Wizard]

But when it comes to finding our own inner essence, the opposite is true. Whether it be settling into meditation, finding inner peace, or discovering the true nature of the self, seeking stands in the way of our discovering the truth.

Seeking has some goal in mind, something it wants to find. It creates a focus and a slight tightening of consciousness. It may not be obvious at first, but when the mind is quiet this faint background tension becomes apparent.

In such a state we cannot, by definition, be totally at ease. Only when we let go of all seeking, or any wish to find some other state of mind, can we be truly free. When we do let go completely, and accept our experience exactly as it is, the mind falls back into its natural unconditioned state. [see: The Natural Mind] We find what we have been seeking; and realize that it has been obscured by the very act of seeking.

But do not try to stop seeking, for that will only repeat the error at a subtler level. When you notice that an attitude of seeking has sneaked its way back in, simply notice it. Let it be. Accept it as part of what is happening in the present moment, and you will fall back into the truth that lies beyond all seeking.

Facebook Twitter MySpace LinkedIn Digg StumbleUpon

The Path of No Path

November 23rd, 2009

Spiritual teachers with non-dual leanings often say that there is no path to enlightenment. There is nowhere to get to; you are already enlightened, you just do not know it. There is no need for a technique or practice; they will only keep your mind trapped in the illusion of relative phenomena. Do not meditate; do nothing.

There certainly is a profound truth embedded in such statements. When awakening occurs, there is the realization that there really was nowhere else to get to, no higher state of consciousness to achieve. The world remains as it is, and your experience remains as it is. What shifts is your relationship to experience, or rather your non-relationship to it. The identification with a constructed sense of self is no longer there. “You” are not thinking, seeing, breathing; thinking, seeing, and breathing are just occurring. It is obvious that it always was this way; but all our wanting, striving, clinging, avoiding, and self-identification obscured this simple fact.

In this sense there is nothing to do. The very opposite: it is our doing that is the problem. When we let go of all attachments as to how things should or could be, we wake up to the truth of what is. Even the word enlightenment is misleading; it implies some other, “higher”, state of consciousness. This is what makes the statement “you are already enlightened” so confusing, But to say you are already awake, but not awake to your own wakefullness, or you are already aware, but not fully aware of awareness, makes more sense.

From the awakened perspective, it is true that there is nowhere to get to. This is why many teachers say: Do nothing. Stop. Don’t meditate. Don’t try and get somewhere other than you already are. There is nowhere to go. Nothing to do. There is no path.

And yet… Many of these teachers did tread a path. Some spent years investigating the true nature of our apparent “I-ness”. Others followed a path of total surrender, or a deep deconstruction of experience. My own glimpses of the truth have come in periods of deep mediation, when the mind is totally relaxed and still. Then I see so clearly there is nowhere to get to. And yet, if had not followed a path that allowed me to drop into a deep stillness and let go of my habitual mode of experience, I would not have fully appreciated this truth.

So from the unawake perspective—which is where I am most the time, and probably most of you are most the time—there are paths to follow. And, until such time as they are no longer needed, the paths that help the most are those that develop the skill of letting go, allowing the mind to relax, releasing all effort, all trying to get somewhere. So, do not meditate an intent to reach some enlightened state of being. But do take time to let the “doing mind” die away, to sink into your own being, Take time to learn how to do nothing.

Facebook Twitter MySpace LinkedIn Digg StumbleUpon

Falling Back Into Love

October 5th, 2009

Two new short podcasts: “Falling Back Into Love”, and “Love: A Fundamental Quality of Consciousness”

Facebook Twitter MySpace LinkedIn Digg StumbleUpon

Praying for Peace – A Different Take

September 22nd, 2009

Each of us would rather experience peace than suffering. One reason we do not experience as much peace as we would like is the result of how we see things, the interpretations we put on our experience. If we see things through the eyes of fear and anxiety, caught in judgement or frustration, wishing things were different, clinging to some idea of what we want to happen, then we create discontent and discomfort – the root of so much suffering.

Yet this is the way our everyday self, the ego mind, tends to see things. It grasps onto what it thinks will make us happy, rejecting what it thinks will bring us pain. It may, from time to time, bring us temporary happiness, but it seldom finds real peace in what it sees.

If we are not at peace, then it just may be that it is our way of seeing that is the culprit. We may not realize that we have become stuck in our perception. We may not realize there is another way of looking at things. But deep down we know. Our innate wisdom, the quiet inner voice of the unconditioned self, knows. We have only to open to it, with an attitude of innocent curiosity, and ask: Could there perhaps be an other way of seeing this?

In doing so we are praying to our inner self for guidance. We are praying for peace. But we are not praying to be given peace. We are praying to be shown the way to peace within ourselves.

Facebook Twitter MySpace LinkedIn Digg StumbleUpon

Forgiveness – Seeing the World Differently

August 26th, 2009

The conventional understanding of forgiveness is of some absolution or pardon: “I know you did wrong, but I’ll overlook it this time.” But the original meaning of forgiveness is very different. The ancient Greek word for forgiveness is aphesis, meaning “to let go.” When we forgive others we let go of the judgments we may have projected onto them. We release them from all our interpretations and evaluations, all our thoughts of right or wrong, friend or foe.

Instead we see that they are human beings caught up in their own illusions about themselves and the world around them. Like us, they feel the need for security, control, recognition, approval, or stimulus. They too probably feel threatened by people and things that prevent them from finding fulfillment. And, like us, they sometimes make mistakes. Yet, behind all these errors, there is another conscious being simply looking for peace of mind.

Even those we regard as evil are seeking the same goal. It is just that for one reason or another—who knows what pain they may have endured in their childhood, or what beliefs they may have adopted—they seek their fulfillment in ways that are uncaring, and perhaps even cruel. Deep inside, however, they are all sparks of the divine light struggling to find some salvation in this world.

When we let go of our judgments of others, we let go of the source of much of our anger and many of our grievances. Our bad feelings may seem justified at the time, but they don’t serve us—in fact, they usually cause more damage to ourselves than they do to the other person. The freer we are of our judgments and grievances, the more at peace we can be in ourselves.

Facebook Twitter MySpace LinkedIn Digg StumbleUpon