Deirdre said: "John, I have a question for you if I may . . . you seem to have been on this road for awhile . . . so in your opinion, is true egolessness possible. I have had some very interesting experiences while meditating, but not what I can describe as egolessness as I don't know that I remember WHAT that is. There is no easy answer to this I know. I have read many individuals take on this, but if I am going to learn from you . . . I would very much like to understand where you are in this great search. It is ok to ask you this?"
John says: Yes, of course! It's a wonderful question. And this is your "true self" talkin', Deirdre, *in egolessness* (although you may not have realized). Come back here and read what you said again when you have finished this class, and you'll see what I mean. "I would very much like to understand..." That is true self talk all the way! Yet you may not have been aware you were dwelling in egolessness at the time.
True egolessness is not a hollow idealism. Yet, in the ordinary human condition in which we live (without waking up in mindfulness during the days) it is not a possibility, either. I know this may seem paradoxical, yet as we go farther along here, you may be able to see both sides.
We *all* cultivate egos as we are growing up. Only by learning how to wake up and be able to watch one's own ego when it is in operation (exactly as one may watch a butterfly, if one brings it into focus and has real awarenesses of it) is it possible to do anything about one's ego. And so, it can honestly be said that--"as we are," in the "ordinary human condition," we are likely, at any given moment, to be wholly in our own ego's control as we go about doing the things we do each day, including sitting here talking now. And we are unaware of it.
Unless . . . . . we wake up on it when this automatic "ego in activity" is happening, and recognize it, as an awareness. With this, and with this alone, it is possible to "dwell in" true egolessness . . . for awhile, that is, until we forget and go to sleep on it again. For when we are recognizing the ego, we can "step aside from it," and dwell in our "true self" (which is "egolessness in action") instead--even if only for a little while. When we can see what is actually going on, we have moments in which we are free to make this choice.
There seems to be a great misconception among some new students, when confronting the question of the ego, that what this means is taking on the whole gigantic "mountain" of one's ego at the same time. That would indeed seem very daunting. But in work on one's ego, you don't have to deal with "the whole thing," that is, every aspect of the way that ego is active in your whole life. Not at all! That *would be impossible.* However, in ego work, you only have to deal with that small piece of your ego that is in activity at the present time. That's not so hard. And little by little, by working on small pieces of your ego in the present, the overall ego begins to weaken its hold on you.
If you choose to do this kind of "growth work," you don't have to deal with every ego habit that you've got all at once, but just whatever ego activity is going on right now, when you notice it. It might be a lie that you see you are about to tell for some secret advantage. That's just one little thing. And you can deal with it. You can just stop talking for a little while, and say nothing. That's slipping your ego, in itself. Or you can tell the truth. Or you can tell the person that you can't tell them the truth. There are lots of ways to "change the mix" on your ego patterns, when you see them for what they are. The ego plays so that you don't have any choices. You can play so that you do.
And work on one's ego is not a matter of being in egolessness all of the time. I don't think even the greatest masters claim that. A master isn't a master because he or she has no ego. A master is a master because of the ability to recognize being in the ego for what it is (and often, by practice, being able to "step out of it" by "changing the mix.")
Just as mindful awareness does not "just happen" for us during the days (unless we put in some practice, deliberately), egolessness does not "just happen" either. And so, if I keep waking up as I am writing along here, I can sort of monitor if my ego is coming up and getting into the picture while I do. That's because I'm familiar with what my ego looks like, and how it operates. If I see it, I don't write that part down! And if I don't see it, you may find it here, after all. (Let me know what you see--in Classroom Talk. I'm always interested in finding out more about what my ego's doin'!)
As you have noticed, Deirdre, there is much disagreement about this term "ego" in the writings of all kinds that address this subject. You deserve (from your wonderful question) to know, in a straight-forward way, exactly what this term "ego" means as it pertains to these coachings here.
I realize, from the pertinence of your question, that the next class in the "advanced" section in the kindergarten is going to be called "kinderegolessness," in which I will copy this conversation with you. I hope you will find this response there soon. Sorry for the delay.
As you say, regarding the number of students here, all that matters is "one." If it's actually happening in this school, I'm happy! At least, that's all that matters to me. And this is a perfect example of how the use of the Classroom Talk button by one student here *inspires* the old coach, and brings out the best in me. Anonymous asks a question, and I wrote and posted "Kinderthinking." Deirdre asks a question, and here I am writing and posting "Kinderegolessness." In these moments, this "virtual school" appears to be "working like a charm," as they say. I feel very proud of the three of us in this time. What a great time to be alive! (Whoop! Here Perk has piped up, too, in class. Wowee! What fun it is for me!)
Naturally, you have had many, many questions answered by teachers over the years to your satisfaction, Deirdre. And yet this one question of "ego" appears to still puzzle you. There are some who talk about cultivating a "strong ego," and the importance of that from their perspective. By this, they mean developing the ability to reach out into the environment for what one wants and be able to make it happen. This view is sometimes found in psychotherapy, and, properly applied, is psychotherapeutic (i.e. healing). There are others who look at the ego as all the desires that a person has. And these usually advocate cultivating a life's practice of "dropping the ego" whenever one can, to a point of being totally without motivation except to love and serve God, or the Absolute.
In some of these latter approaches, one might suppose that they paint a rather bleak picture of day to day life, in the sense that there are so many things and activities to enjoy and care about and have fun with in ordinary life (and this seems so wholesome and good), and many of these approaches are mainly suitable to those who are ready to enter monastic life.
But true egolessness does not mean a life that is drab. On the contrary, it is a joyous life, and a life that is brightened up. Even when troubles come up it is all only pain, and there is no suffering (i.e. emotional disturbances and upsets around it). And brightened pain is something one can learn to deal with in awareness.
It has been my life's work to take everything of what I've learned that is taught in monastic settings, and attempt to translate it into the language and settings of ordinary daily life--where we have to earn a living, hope to have some friends, wish for some fun and excitement, happiness, and so on. It's a good life, but life is often very difficult. The ego is so often present. And it is the ego, and only the ego that makes life so difficult (no matter what it is that is happening).
No ego: no suffering (although there may be pain, and pain can be dealt with).
If we look at your ego as all the things that you want, Deirdre, then you can see how entering a monastery takes a whole lot of that away from you all at once. Your hair, however you usually want it to look, would be taken away. Your name, neat as it is, would be erased, and you would be given another name, like Sister Theresa. The wardrobe that you have wanted to buy, cool as it may be, would become a brown robe. I think you get the picture. All the things you want to do today, would be gone. And . . . . . in that context, you would be back in kindergarten again!
But in a monastery, the problems are not over at that point. There are new problems that begin, new things to be uptight about, new things to daydream about, new desires and frustrations. It is not that one life ends and another life automatically begins when one enters a monastery. The student's same ego-driven life goes on, but now, the "props" are stripped down to a few simple basics that are quite easy to study in an environment of regular meditation and instruction. This is the "technical" purpose of the monastic "order." All that routine "chaos" in one's life is cleared away.
I've spent some brief times in monasteries, years ago, and I've liked it there. But that doesn't seem to be the life for me--so far, at least. I contemplate that if I'd spent the last forty years of my life waiting until I was ready to enter a monastery, and not practicing the things I learned that are practiced in monasteries during all that time out here in the ordinary world--as I have--I sense that that would be a great shame. By now, I would have cultivated such a mountain of an ego it's highly doubtul I would have any time at all for noticing these kinds of interests and pursuits.
In fact, it is the ego that *creates* time in our lives. Because, in the ego one is always waiting for something to happen different than what is already actually happening now. It is the ego's dissatisfaction with the present that creates time. If we didn't have egos at all, we wouldn't even *have* time, and we could live and be satisfied in the present always. (And yes! Everything would all get done.)
Yet, without intervening awarely, the ego can only grow in our lives. The more we blindly pursue it, the more we empower it. You could say that the *activity* of the ego is found in habits. And habits are very pervasive in all of our lives--much, much more than most of us suspect. This is all happening in "the realm of shadows" that we are not seeing in awareness. When we can just begin to see this, it is a great victory for a student. It is the energy of the ego that is "shepherding" our bodies through all of *those* things that we do in sleep, over and over again repetitively for the sake of having what we want. (At least, this is germaine in understanding the "ego" in this approach.)
So, in order to "see" your own ego, a part of that is being awake and able to feel the *tangible* "urges" that get your body to jump up and go and do that thing, whatever it is. (This is subtle, and possibly only for advanced awareness practitioners, who have had quite a bit of practice having awarenesses as they are taught in the basic kindergarten classes here. It is a matter of distinguishing between "enthusiasm" and "excitement," which are on our "true self" side--that is, in egolessness--and, on the other hand, "selfishness" and "manipulativeness" which serve the side of the ego, and have a more "violent" vibration. Such distinctions are subtle, but that's what a school is for in the beginning, and practice is for in the long run.)
I sense you can have a try at recognizing your ego, Deirdre. When you always place a certain item in that same spot in the refrigerator, over and over again, the energy that guides your body in doing that is your ego. When you notice certain configurations of things that pile up again in the same places in your environment that you recognize are "historical." You may notice that you always drive a certain exact route in driving your car to some place you often go to. That's the ego, too. You may even change lanes at exactly the same place blocks before the last turn, every time you go there. You may be able to recognize certain phrases you use in speaking to other people that you say again and again in the same way. This is the ego, too.
All that sort of thing, if you happen to observe anything like this, is the energy of your ego "running your life" in repetitive ways, "moving your body around with your ego's consistent pattern of urges." These are not important examples given here, but they can suffice to help a person to begin recognizing the phenomenon that is being talked about.
All of those predetermined little "guiding urges" of your body, that get you to do (and say) the same things over and over -- like signing letters, "Take care." -- And, bless your heart, I'm not criticizing this expression of your personal concern, Deirdre. I am only pointing out that each of us have a whole storehouse of things that we do over and over again *in the same ways* that are "governed by the ego." And we can learn to pick up on this.
So you're right that it is good to "accept" one's ego. We might as well accept it because it is part of the Whole that exists, as you point out. You can let it be "a friend," even. Even as you are working to free your life from its control, you can respect it, and even "get a kick out of it," and acknowledge it as "a worthy adversary," indeed.
You can laugh with your ego. You can joke with it. You don't have to hate it, or despise it. (That would just be more ego in itself.) You just have to recognize it, in awareness, and things will begin to "lighten up" and change. And in the awareness game in kindergarten and the playground, you can even learn to *play* with your ego! This can be fun. Having the presence of mind to play with your ego means playing, on purpose, for harmony.
From what I've heard of your remarks so far in class, Deirdre, you oughta be "a natural" at this game. (I wouldn't wish to manipulate you in saying this--for in a class like this, it is all the more important for each student to exercise the free choice of their own true self for what they like, in either being here to participate, or not.)
I do not suggest therefor that we should be frustrated with ourselves about this ego. Or that we should be troubled about this! Or ashamed. Or feel guilty. The ego is just another thing that is. Everybody's got one! I only mean that this is a part of the ordinary human condition that we can learn to pick up on, and study. And, of course, the more one practices having awarenesses of all kinds, the easier and easier this kind of self-study becomes!
For many years I would trouble myself, when I would meet famous masters (and I've been very lucky at making many such connections over the years) -- and I would begin noticing, during the course of our interactions, that they have egos (at least, as I am defining the term here).
My own frustration about this, and anger, at times, was a manifestation of my own ego. We can see this, because I did it over and over again. It became a part of "my act" when I would meet these wonderful teachers. I would spot their desires, their needs, at times their seemingly blatant insensitivities, and even a wounding manipulation, or two. They were only being human. Even the best of these wonderful teachers can't model any more than that. (Where did I get off, wanting them to be "superhuman?" I have a big ego is the explanation.)
But I think we all, perhaps, go through that judging of teachers to a certain extent. We go and listen to (or read the books of) many teachers. And we find some that we resonate with, and these become "our teachers." And we find others we don't resonate with, and they don't--at that time, at least. Oh, we have friends that have them as teachers, yet they don't seem to resonate with us. That is why, traditionally, it is said that there are the "Many Paths." Each path that is a path will resonate with some particular people. The "Teachings" have to meet up with the Students where the students actually *are* in their lives. And that's why there are the Many Paths that resonate with some and not with others.
According to the well-known teaching--if we continue to seek then . . . . . we shall find. It takes a "conjunction" of a relatively ego-free seeker (that day) and a relatively ego-free teacher (that day). Remember, too, that other well-known teaching that: "When the student is ready, the teacher appears." Teachers do have to know their stuff. But in the final analysis, it is not the teachers who make students in this world, but the students who make the teachers. And you are doing a great job of that today, Deirdre.
So it's "okay." I seem to have been cut out to come through a number of--one might almost say "bizarre"--paths to be here now coaching as I am: being a hippie, gestaltist, Buddhist, Christian, Hawaiian in my principal background of growth and development over the early years. Now, in meeting don Coyotl on the Web, I've been exploring ancient Mexican Indian practices in the same way. Certainly I've been so very, very fortunate in the diverse teachers that I've found during my life. And I go on finding more. I am always on the look-out.
When I asked if you are a teacher:
Deirdre responds: "No I am not a teacher... I am ever a student."
Perfect! Nasrudin couldn't have said it better, or more humorously. For "I am ever a student" *is* a teacher in the instant such learnings are applied.
And in our very correspondence, per se, you are my teacher, too. For the fun of it--since you have "t'ai chi-ed" my question so neatly--I wonder if I may have a second chance: If you were a teacher, Deirdre, what might you be a teacher of?
I am not a teacher; I am ever a student -- appears to be an egoless statement, does it not? There is a certain humility here, in the nature of the statement.
Now, this is tricky. The ego, which is the arbiter of our habitual (that is, our *conditioned*) ways of thinking and doing things, can "latch on" to even egoless things, and incorporate them into its egoistic patterns by making them habitual. So only you can really know if this statement is truly egoless, or if it has a little ego in it, too.
And the way you can know this is: whether or not it is something that is habitual in your ways of coming across to the world. If you always want to appear modest, for some reason, and are "modest in the extreme," so to speak, perhaps even to the point of sometimes being self-effacing, if modesty is "your thing," if you habitually want to have the people who know you thinking, "Oh, there's Deirdre--she's the egoless one!" . . . . things like this, that's your ego, if you catch what I mean.
I'd be interested to know what you see about this? It may not "fit" at all!
One can be modest at times in all the purety of that, and be truly being egoless then. And one can be modest at other times as "a role," so to speak. And that part of it is interesting to study (and will be studied, in the playground when those classes start in late July, I hope.)
By the way, the nicest thing about this approach--I think--is that when those students who find (and I don't say this is you) that they are being egoistic in a particular way, such as playing a "modest role," and recognize this, they can immediately also see and *know* that who they really are (in the inside "behind that role" *is* this purety of modesty. So we don't need "the role of being modest" in order to actually be modest, after all. [This is a role you will see in me, rather too often, as this class is going on. Sometimes my "modesty" gets "a little thick." See if you can spot that, too. I still have work to do.]
The role is the ego. Just being it is egolessness.
Recognizing the ways that the ego works in us is not all a bummer, by any means, because it always tips us off to who we really are underneath that ego stuff at the same time. And knowing who we really are, in seeing it so clearly in awareness, is found by many students to be a blessed experience. One may feel "at home" in it. (So the path is through something a little touchy and a little difficult to see, until one gets used to this kind of self-knowledge, but it leads to a sweet realization of one's place in the scheme of All things.) (As I'm sure you will remember, "Know thy self," is one of the classical phrases for explaining what this whole kind of spiritual, mystical, metaphysical work is all about.)
In this approach, we describe two aspects of human motivation in the classes: the ego, and the "true self." The true self is the side that is egoless. It would be a great mistake to assume that the true self is drab and lacking in fun and excitement in life, or the usual things that one loves. For that is not the case at all.
In the simplest of terms, the ego is represented in the things that a person wants. And the true self is represented in the things that a person likes. When you are liking what you experience, you are "celebrating," "worshiping," "rejoicing," being "happy." When you are wanting, there is a certain edge to it that a student has to learn to recognize by watching this activity in awareness. But you can sort of get the gist of it from these words about it alone.
Liking isn't asking the world to change. It is accepting something of the world, as it is, in the present, something that you can perceive, and like. You don't have to go anywhere for it, or do anything about it. It is already *here.* By waking up and having an awareness of it, you can see that liking is happening, in the present. Living for liking involves a whole different strategy for living one's life than living for wanting. And I will explain that more in detail in later classes.
In wanting, there is something aggressive about it. One wants to grab the world, as if in one's hands, and make the world change in some way. One wants to make reality different than it just is. There is a certain suggestion of subtle "violence" in this, if you get what I mean. You could say that wanting does violence to the Tao.
And wanting doesn't relate with the present. When we are wanting, it's because the present "isn't good enough." When we are wanting something, we always have to go somewhere, and do something, to make it happen. Often it may be wanting to get someone to change to be who we want them to be. Other times, it is waiting (yet, "graspingly," not patiently) and wanting things, or others to change on their own the way that we want, so that what we want can happen. Wanting throws us into the realm of time.
Unfortunately, this is a common--although perhaps occasional--way of life in the ordinary human condition of us all. To a certain extent, each of us is like this, because we all have egos.
In the awareness game that will be coached during the rest of this year in the kindergarten, a strategy will be laid out for dealing with this in a way that is both fun and practical. These methods can probably only be actually implemented by people who first learn mindful awareness and then actually practice it ("practitioners" of awareness, so to speak).
In our ordinary consciousness (that is, not being mindful), which leaves so much of the world around us and within in a realm of shadows--by default!--a person can still probably learn an intellectual description of the gist of this game. But without being able to practice mindful awareness, they would probably seldom have the presence of mind to actually recognize ("in high relief") the situations in life (in the present, when they are happening) in which the "moves" of this game are played. That's about all I can say about this for now, until a student has learned, by taking the basic classes, the advanced classes, and the class on "aware presence," exactly what awareness is, and how to work (and play) with it.
Many students of mine over the years have learned that it is definitely possible to play for what one likes in this world. It is possible to "step aside" from the ego when one recognizes it in awareness, and replace playing for what one wants with playing for what one likes.
Rather than cutting short the enjoyments of life (and of one's job, and relationships with others), it appears that playing this game actually is an enhancement of these enjoyments. Indeed, one may achieve greater harmony in personal relationships and even more profit in one's work or business. (Despite almost universal opinions to the contrary in the business world, the selfishness of the ego isn't even the best way to make a profit! And . . . . . what does it profit a woman, or a man to go on living in the ego's way, taking advantage of the earth and other people for the sake of having more and more and more of what the ego wants? Some people have to grow old before they finally catch on that this is not a very satisfying way of life, after all.
The ego is like a dynamic energy center that controls the body, through the brain and the spine, walking the body around and grasping, in the same old ways, *agglomerating*, collecting things in the same old piles, over and over again, trying to have more and more of what one always wants.
The ego is a tremendous energy waster in this way, getting us to act out all these soap opera dramas in most of our lives (maybe you haven't seen much of this in your life), while there is so much splendor and joy out there (in the realm of shadows) that goes unseen--because we don't use this energy for waking up. We each only have a certain amount of energy from the beans and corn we eat. Much of this energy we have is being used up in acting-out the activities of the ego, like knee-jerk reactions to the events of life. From the point of view of one who has learned to work and play in awareness, all that ego activity is just a sheer involuntary waste of energy. All that energy can be devoted to the deliberate actions of another kind of life.
This life in the light is just waiting for us--for the (awakened) taking! All our innate (and forgotten) natural skills are brought out in the realm of light. It doesn't take all that ego stuff to get the best that life has to offer. It doesn't take that song and dance of habitual ego games to get where we'd really like to be on this planet. In fact, that's what stands in the way of our full realization of the potential of human life. As Paul McCartney said on Oprah's show earlier this year, "People ought to stop doin' all this funny stuff, and just love." I've adopted that as the *motto* of this kindergarten.
Regarding experiences one may have while practicing sitting meditations: meditation stills the brain (which plans) and the spine (which walks the body around doing things), through which the ego acts-out its energies repetitiously through the "vehicle" of this human body. In doing sitting meditation, in itself, you are participating in a period of egolessness.
The ego would have your body out there walking around, looking for stuff that you want, instead of sitting there. In meditation you can give up most of that wanting for awhile. It's a very healthy thing to do. If thinking comes up, that's what your ego wants you to think about, instead of meditating. If you bring your attention back to your breath (or whatever the mantra) and go on meditating, you slip the ego again.
Sitting meditation is practice in dropping the ego, again and again, while you are there in the meditation hall. You are sitting, and your spine is deliberately held still and straight--so, for awhile, you are doing the opposite of all that automatic "unwinding" that your ego would have you doing. And you are stilling your mind in meditating, you are actually living through a period of time on this earth in which your ego is not broadcasting all these important ego desires into your mind. At such times--mind still, spine still--one is being free of the ego altogether.
Now, the question--in this school, at least--becomes, can you get up off that cushion, with eyes open, and walk out of that meditation hall, in awareness, and remember here and there, as you walk about in your life, that this ego *is*, and "takes you over" again? In sitting meditation, you have learned, again and again (whether you have previously realized it or not) to tame your ego for awhile. You have tricked it by putting your interest in your mantra and the meditating process, instead. This can be done outside, in the midst of the hustle and bustle of life, too: by putting your interest in mindful awareness.
Mindfulness is an advanced form of meditation. It is more difficult than sitting meditation because one's eyes are open, and one is moving, and there are many, many distractions in the world that "knock us into sleep." But with eyes-open practice, and patience in the beginning, mindfulness can be learned, even by beginners who start out with mindfulness and don't even practice sitting meditation at all.
Deirdre responds: "I do understand (I think!) the need for the "shadow side" . . . it is in the acceptance of all things as a part of ourselves that we are truly whole."
Yes, the ego is a recognizeable individual part of the shadow side. In the ordinary life of people, where they "dwell" is completely absorbed in this shadow side. "That's all people know," you could say.
With training and practice, where students "dwell" encompasses both the shadow side and the side in the light. It is the side in the light that people (no matter how well educated) don't know in the ordinary human condition. The "true self" is the part of the side in the light that corresponds with the ego on the side in shadows.
In the beginning of studying this, both the "shadow side" and the "light side" are actually "in the shadows" (like the background on beyond your computer monitor). And they go unrecognized, until a person wakes up in aware presence and is able to see them both. Then they are both in the side in the light--that is, whenever one wakes up and sees them.
But to be able to recognize them, even in awareness, one has to learn first, in conceptual terms, more or less what one is looking for on both sides of one's being. Then, in awareness, one "catches on." "Aha! Here I see it now! This is my ego. Oh yes, this is my true self!" Ultimately, it's in the direct experience of the ego and the true-self that you will *know* these in your being--and not in the conceptual explanations that are given here, which can only give you a kind of metaphorical "marker," or "coaching tip."
Here is a little more on the "true self" to assist you in being able to recognize when it is that which is happening. The true self is an *experience.* For instance, let's say you have two ice cream cones, one strawberry, and one chocolate. You take a taste of each of them and you realize, in the experience of it, that you like strawberry the best. You can't say "why." There is no "logical reason" for it. It isn't because one is pink and the other brown, or because one is from berries and the other from beans, or one is a bigger scoop than the other. Nothing like that matters here.
There are no ego trips going here. You couldn't make that happen by wanting it to happen. It is just a simple discovery. It's what's so. You just *know* it. You like it. It is an experience. You really *like* that strawberry. You know that. It's your true self, who you really are.
Metaphorically, the spectrum of the true self experience can be expressed in a diagram something like this:
This list above shows egolessness in action . . . . . until the activity of ego interrupts.
A person can do all of this (from noticing to can-do, which is mastery) and still be in natural egolessness. They can have quite a nice life this way, too! It is not about "going after" happiness egoistically. Happiness will be "a side effect" (as Charles Tart put it in his workshop at Tucson III). If one will be guided by this, and go no farther than this, they will get all that life has to hold for them. The natural changes that take place around them will even conform *appropriately* to who they actually are. (!)
But if they go over under the control of that ego stuff (as we all seem to do so easily in our lives, without even knowing it), if they start:
Stuff like this: this is that ego stuff on the shadow side of our lives. It is all just a bunch of habits that we all seem to have a collection of, yet we *don't actually need.* With just the true self alone, one would go far, indeed, in this life . . . . . far enough! This isn't about becoming "goody-goodies." It is about what actually *works* on the metaphysical level in relations between humans, and relations with the contingencies of life that come up.
Yes, true egolessness is possible, for brief periods of time at least (periods that may become the most productive and rewarding times in our lives). It takes study, and practice. It takes cultivating "a big heart," which is very difficult for some of us. You seem to be lucky there, Deirdre. We all, as you suggest, had this capacity to love when we were born (this capacity to notice and become interested in and to like and accept, and *do* in egoless action). We still had this capacity when we entered kindergarten for the first time. But for all too many of us, the difficult events of life that have come along since then have seemed to take all this "childhood enlightenment" away. And we are left with these egos we have; we are left with only wanting as a means of motivating our selves in this world.
The true self is almost totally obscured by this ego in contemporary society and in our individual lives today. Although forgotten in the realm of shadows, this true self is still alive inside of us here. It can still be recognized and *adopted* by any of us who learn to wake up, and decide to look for it in awareness, and see. We can even just try it out for a little while, and see if we like it.
And what we like--I'm sure you may have noticed this before--often turns out to be what we are "good at," what we have special, inborn, natural talent for. In kindergarten, once upon a time, we knew this. Nobody had to tell us then. You have seen this in the spontaneous excitement for new things that all children have at that time. After kindergarten, and many years have passed, one may not even know any more how to recognize what one is good at. We may become so involved in chasing after all the things we want that we no longer remember what we are good at, at all. We may have no way to find out. These innate strengths and qualities that we were born with, this "essence" of our true selves, may never, in a given person's whole life, be brought into play. The innate mastery that is in each of us can be wasted.
So, let's be back in kindergarten a second time, I say, and learn to play the awareness game. Let's see what we can do about this. Let's have "a new start over," by playing this ego out of our field now and then on purpose. Let's choose to put the true self into play in our lives for a change, instead, and see how that goes for awhile. It may turn out that we like this kind of volitional action in egolessness, even more than we could have guessed.
We came into kindergarten the first time long ago in our true selves. We lost this as we grew up. We can experience our true selves again, and thus we can put egolessness into action.
1. Make a list of twenty key, basic things that you "can do." Aim for things that are germaine in your life as true "skills," whether you put them into action very often, or not. These are things that you are "good at." Keep each skill on this list simple, and basic, but you can use a few words if you need to, to describe each one. Try to refine your list, by identifying those skills that are "most skillful." These are the things you are most skillful at, whether you do them any more, or not. If gone about diligently, this exercise will reveal some of the most important elements of your life that have grown out of the true self that you were born with.
2. Make a list, as exhaustive as you can, of all the things that you "like." Try to be guided in this by the remarks in class today. Try to avoid the things that you "want," in the sense that was described in class, and identify the things in life which you recognize as simple experiences that you like, simple experiences with your five senses that make you happy or make you feel "at home" on this planet. If approached diligently, this list will paint a broad picture of your true self in action. This is so as to show you a clear sense of some of the great resources you have in life--simply because of who you are--when you are undertaking the dynamic action of egolessness.
3. Without making a list, begin observing the things in your life every day that reveal to you the presence of your ego, as described in today's lesson. Attempt to make a determination of the presence of your ego any time during the day that you remember to do so. Practicing waking up will help you to recognize this. Remember that key characteristics of things that emanate from your ego are: repetitiveness, things being done in the same way, or collecting in piles in the same way--things that are done "in the same old ways" for a presumed advantage of some kind, and things that are done "in the same old ways" in attempts to change other people to be who you want them to be instead of who they just are.
You do not have to try to change anything about what you see of your ego. It's been around for a long time, so you don't have to be "jumpy" about it. Simply observe, and begin to become acquainted with the reality that you appear to have (or not have) an ego, as described in this class--an "energy" that "governs the repetitive patterns that show up in your life."
4. Future Homework: when you have gotten used to recognizing the ego and feel that you are identifying it more and more clearly, you can begin to play a game called "Changing the Mix."
To play this, notice the way the repetitive patterns are going, and, in any way--even arbitrarily, or for the fun of it--change the pattern a little bit. If you always shave or bathe in exactly the same sequence of moves, start doing it in slightly other sequences. (You will notice those little "ego urges" that try to pull you back into doing it the way your ego wants you to.) If you always do certain chores in the same sequences, change the mix. You still get the same things done, but you are freeing yourself slightly from the ego-controlled pattern. If you always answer the phone in the same way, answer it different ways every time. If you always drive the same route to a certain place, drive a slightly different route for a change. Change the mix a little bit whenever you notice these ego-dominated patterns. This provides concrete practice in becoming able to free yourself from the clutches of your own ego. You don't need to change the things you do and get accomplished in your life. Simply change the habitual patterns that you have around it slightly. This is a difficult challenge, and I don't suggest attempting this before you have gained some experience in simply recognizing and identifying your ego in activity. Then, when you are ready, as a result of this practice, whenever you wake up and see what's going on, you will be able to change the mix in little ways, at will.
If you have questions about anything, bring them up under the Classroom Talk button. Don't push too fast on this last exercise, now. Just take it one day at a time, and see what you see. If you have trouble remembering, fashion some notes or "wake-up" signals that remind you to pause, wake up, and see if you can spot your ego in activity. Or keep a practice notebook, and refer to it during the days.
Bye for now,