One of the spiritual concepts that I used to find somewhat annoying is the idea that we humans chose to incarnate on Earth of our own free will. Now why exactly would we have done that? Why would we choose to be born into a reality with violence, illness, greed, pollution, and people we really don’t get along with?
A World Without Limits
In the beginning, we were unlimited, free spirits. Everything that the Creator had was shared with us, including free will. Imagine living in a reality where you can create whatever your want. Do you want a huge house? It’s done. Unlimited wealth? No problem, although you don’t even need it. You literally have unlimited powers to create.
Now, some of you might be thinking: “That sounds great: I’d like to go back to that”. And don’t get me wrong: this type of reality is definitely a great thing. But strange as it might sound, being free from limitations does in fact have its own limitations.
Think what it would be like to exist in a world where literally everybody is a winner. In practical terms, it would be like watching a football game where nobody wins or loses. You might start thinking: “Now wait a minute: what would be the fun of that? How about a little excitement? Why don’t we shake things up a bit?” And that is basically what happened.
In a limitless world, there are certain experiences that cannot be felt. The excitement of a sports competition. The suspense of waiting to hear back from a job interview. The fear of not knowing if you will be able to pay the rent.
Have you ever wondered why you watch a scary movie? Why would you deliberately frighten yourself? (Isn’t this world scary enough already?) The reason is because – on a certain level – it’s actually kind of fun.
The Creation of the Ego
The reason we came to Earth was to experience a world with limitations. Initially, our experiences were in full awareness of our true, unlimited nature. As we progressed through various experiences, however, we began to notice that some experiences more closely resembled the experience of limitlessness, while others were less familiar. The less-familiar experiences were less comfortable, which led to the concept of “good” versus “bad”. This creation of duality brought with it the creation of an artificial intelligence, which desired to manipulate what it experienced. This artificial intelligence, popularly known today as the ego, desired to experience more of the “good” and completely avoid the “bad”.
The ego gradually increased its strength by “holding onto” more and more experiences, which it used to determine future actions. And as the ego continued to “grow”, the unlimited self became “lost from sight” behind it. As a result, the conscious part of us that was experiencing the limited world erroneously came to believe that it was the ego. And as a result of identification with our ego selves, we now falsely believe that we are limited beings in a limited world.
Functions of the Ego
To better understand the ego, it’s easiest to describe what it does, rather than what it is. Activities of the ego are the following:
- Storing (false) “memories”: The ego “holds on to experiences”. But what it holds on to is rarely a true reflection of actual events. Instead, it is a story of the events from the perspective of the limited self. Additionally, the “held” experiences have a habit of being altered over time, based on (false) beliefs created from other experiences.
- Creating duality: The ego judges experiences as “good” and “bad”. It is the ego who creates a sense that some experiences are desirable, and others are undesirable.
- Creating unending desire: The ego always judges the present experience as “not good enough”. The ego believes that the definition of happiness is “always getting what it wants”. And since this is not possible, the ego is never satisfied. No matter what the ego is experiencing, it always wishes for something “better”.
- Manipulation for selfish purposes: The ego strategizes how to get what it wants. Its plans are based on the results of past memories. As an example, the ego may pretend to be nice to someone in order to get a desired result based on the logic that being nice produced desired results in the past.
Issues caused by the ego
Our identification with the ego has led to the following “drawbacks”:
- Getting stuck in “loops”. When the ego suffers pain, it will avoid actions that it thinks produced that pain. For example, if an ego suffers a broken heart from a break up, the ego will try to defend itself from intimate contact in the future to avoid repeating the hurt suffered. The potential result of avoiding intimacy is a series of empty relationships.
- An exponential increase in pain. The pain from a heartbreak is bad enough. But the suffering caused by trying to avoid a heartbreak is much worse. In trying to defend itself from future pain, the ego ends up causing itself a lot more pain than would have occurred if the ego had not put up defenses.
- Selfish actions. The ego only looks out for itself. Believing that reality is based on “every man for himself”, the ego’s actions are selfish and fear-based. Selfish actions are always destructive and lead to more pain.
- Dissatisfaction regardless of outcome. To get what it wants, the selfish ego often pretends to act unselfishly. For example, a man might pretend to be nice to someone he doesn’t like in order to get the person to do him a favor. Acting under false pretenses often leads to resentment. Therefore, the ego still suffers even when achieving what it wants.
- The illusion of being trapped. By believing we are actually our egos, we are trapped in a world that many of us might rather not be a part of. We don’t recognize that we are free to leave this world. As long as we identify as the ego (which can’t leave this limited existence), we will never comprehend how it is possible to leave. The solution is to reverse the process that got us here. In other words, we must decrease our identification with our ego selves while simultaneously re-establishing and strengthening are identification with our true selves.
Before explaining the “reversal process”, it’s important to mention that the idea of releasing identification with the ego can be (and often is) scary. After all: if we aren’t our egos: then who are we? The answer is that you ARE your personality: that will never change. What does change is that you release yourself from the “baggage” (i.e. personal stories) of the ego.
Frankly speaking, this can often be quite difficult to give up. Releasing the baggage involves releasing all the pain that our stories and memories have caused us. And letting go of our grudges, grief, heartache, and pain from traumatic experiences is rarely an easy task. The healing journey to release the emotional pain that we’ve kept inside of us for so long takes much courage and resolve. But by allowing ourselves to release the baggage, we are giving ourselves a gift. It is the gift of freedom.
To transcend the dualistic “good vs. evil” world of the ego, it is necessary to regain awareness of our true, divine selves. This is done using the following methods. Note that this is by no means an exhaustive list.
- Forgive “all trespasses”. Forgiveness releases you from the “baggage” of the ego. To fully release yourself from the ego, it is important to completely forgive each person in your life for every event that has caused you pain. Forgiveness does not mean going to people and telling them you forgive them. True forgiveness is done within your heart. Depending on the circumstances, some things may take a long time to forgive. If you are having trouble, professional help is recommended. It is also helpful to ask for assistance from a Higher source (i.e. angels, God, your true self, etc.)
- Cultivate Gratitude. By expressing gratitude, you are releasing yourself from the ego’s unending desire for “more”. Every chance you get, try to express gratitude for everything you have in life. Be grateful for everything, big and small. Additionally, it is helpful to express gratitude for all the future blessings that are yet to come in your life.
- Learn to use your true self for guidance. Every time you ask your true self for guidance, you strengthen the awareness that you are not the ego. This also helps to reduce the strength of the inherently selfish ego’s will (AKA self-will). There are various methods for learning to do this; here is one of them:
For a minimum of 2-4 weeks, ask unimportant questions to yourself, with the intention that you are asking your true self. For example, ask about: what to wear, where to eat, what movie to watch, etc. After asking the question, simply note what you felt was the answer. Don’t overthink it: this is just practice. Note: don’t ask a question if you’ve already made up your mind and have no intention of changing it. Once you have been doing this for a while and have gained confidence with your internal guidance, you can start asking more important questions.
- View every person you meet as divine. This helps break the ego’s illusion that we are better than others. Additionally, it makes it harder for us to think of acting selfishly. To view others as divine, first realize that the person you physically see is not the “true person”. Instead, a physical body is merely the symbol of the ego that masks the beautiful soul behind it. For a person you have a lot of animosity towards, you can try visualizing a beautiful, unconditionally loving alter-personality of that person. Then think about the fact that the alter-personality is closer to the truth of who that person really is.
- Recognize when you are identifying with the ego. If you feel genuinely loving and happy, then you are identifying with your true self. But if you have negative emotions such as anxiety, fear, or hate, you are identifying with your ego. Don’t judge yourself for this. Simply think to yourself: “Oh, I’m identifying with my ego.” Then you can mentally detach yourself from these feelings and monitor them while being aware that – while you do in fact feel them – they are not truly your emotions.
- Remind yourself often of who you truly are. This helps you stay connected to your true self. A good method is to use the following mantra, which is adapted from A Course In Miracles:
I am Spirit, a holy child of God. Free from all limits. Safe and healed and whole. Free to forgive, and free to save the world.
Repeat this often: when you wake up, before you go to bed, when you start to meditate, and anytime you realize that you are not “in truth” of who you are. Print it out and hang it on your wall. Say it aloud to yourself while looking in the mirror. There is much power in this mantra. Use it often!
Free from all limits
As you continue to reawaken to who you truly are, you will find that the energetic vibrations of your true self are aiding you in raising your consciousness into higher dimensions. For clarification, the ego and physical world are at the 3rd dimension, while the 5th dimension is the beginning of non-dualistic reality. (As such, the 5th dimension is an experience of peacefulness and bliss.)
Note that the dimensions are nested inside one another. When in the physical world, you can see the 3rd dimension and lower. If your consciousness is raised to the 5th dimension, you still can see the 3rd dimension. Therefore, it’s not uncommon to travel in and out of higher dimensions and not realize it.
The reason I mention this is because as you access the higher dimensions, you begin to set yourself free from the limitations of the lower dimensions. This is not as complicated as it sounds. The power of unconditional love – held firmly in the heart – is capable of so much more than most people realize. Love is capable of transcending the limits of space and time.
On a practical level, this means that true peace and bliss are possible while still living in physical bodies. It also means that we have the power to create the lives that our hearts (AKA unlimited selves) truly long for. (Note: this is different from the lives that our egos wish for. The ego wishes to acquire things and experiences, while the true self wishes to accomplish “the dreams and longings of the heart” that bring fulfillment.) The way forward is to bring back awareness of who we truly are, and start creating the life of our dreams that we previously never believed was even possible.