Everyone’s ego has content unique to each person, but the structure of the ego is the same for everyone.
And the cornerstone of that structure is the self-talk mechanism.
The “voice in my head”.
As ABC News correspondent and anchor, Dan Harris, says in his book, 10% Happier, “Most of us are so entranced by the nonstop conversation we’re having with ourselves that we aren’t even aware we have a voice in our head. I’m not talking about “hearing voices,” I’m talking about the internal narrator, the most intimate part of our lives. The voice comes braying in as soon as we open our eyes in the morning, and then heckles us all day long with an air horn. It’s a fever swamp of urges, desires, and judgments. It’s fixated on the past and the future, to the detriment of the here and now. It’s what has us reaching into the fridge when we’re not hungry, losing our temper when we know it’s not really in our best interest, and pruning our inboxes when we’re ostensibly engaged in conversation with other human beings. If we don’t pay close attention—which very few of us are taught how to do—it can be a malevolent puppeteer… Under the sway of the ego, life becomes a constant low-grade crisis. You are never sated, never satisfied, always reaching for the next thing, like a colicky baby.”
Everyone has that. Everyone!
It is a program.
And it is this program that creates suffering, individually and as a society.
But the problem is not so much about having a “voice in my head”, the main problem is that we believe that “the voice in my head is me”.
That’s the problem. The belief that the voice in my head = me.
You don’t have to get rid of the voice in my head. In fact, if you tried to get rid of it, you always fail. Always. So don’t bother trying to get rid of it.
The real secret is to find a way to stop IDENTIFYING with it. This is called detachment.
Detachment is simply the end of the belief that “the voice in my head = me”, that “I think therefore I am”, that “these are my thoughts”.
Once that belief falls away, the voice itself automatically begins to go away, by itself, and fall into the background until you are left with pure clarity and space, which allows you to experience yourself and your life in full, without the nagging voice and all its fears and dramas.
The technique that allows us to gain detachment from “this voice in my head = me” is called mindfulness.
But what causes attachment (or resistance) in the first place?
Why are we so glued to the thought-stream, to the voice?
We are glued because that “voice in my head” structure includes the following devices (yes, devices – consciousness has physics):
1. The ego makes it difficult to dismiss the thought-stream (also called the voice in your head, or self-talk), and it does so by having one magical ingredient: the sensation of “ME, MINE, MY”. The thoughts FEEL like they are YOUR thoughts. And so you defend them, hold onto them, or try to fight them. You attach or resist. And, paradoxically, this very attachment and resistance is what creates a “sense of self”, a self that attaches and resists. It is a loop. The sense of self causes attachment and resistance, and the attachment and resistance creates a sense of self. Me, mine, my. As Dan Harris says in his book, 10% Happier, “Many of us labor under the delusion that we’re permanently stuck with all of the difficult parts of our personalities—that we are “hot-tempered,” or “shy,” or “sad”—and that these are fixed, immutable traits. “
2. It gives them a sense of URGENCY. “If I don’t do this now, I’m screwed!”
3. It gives them a sense of righteous IMPORTANCE. “I better do what MY thoughts say.”
4. It makes NOT KNOWING feel DANGEROUS. Life itself is friendly, but the ego says it isn’t. And this belief becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy through manifestation. However, anyone who trusts life will tell you that every moment has all the resources required to handle it, and every moment is designed to help you grow, either by bringing you what you require in that moment, or by illuminating false beliefs. All moments are benevolent in that way. Yet, the ego assumes, consistently, a negative outcome. The ego lives in the past or future, never in the present, and the future is something the ego uses to keep you worried.
5. It uses REPETITION to create preoccupation that drowns out the Present moment. It then positions this PREOCCUPATION as a life-or-death “virtual reality” drama of avoiding imagined pain/fear and seeking imagined pleasure, a virtual reality that requires more attention than the Present Reality. And have you realised how as soon as the ego gets what it wants, its satisfaction is short-lived? The ego needs to stay in a state of “chasing the future”, otherwise it dies. An example is with money. Money is good as a tool for exchange, nothing wrong with it, nothing wrong with exchange. And practically speaking, you don’t need $10 million dollars. You can have it, you can enjoy it, but it is not a NEED. Yet, when a person gets $10 million, which is beyond their needs, they feel a need to go to $20 million, and then they think they will be satisfied. But when they get $20 million, new fears and insecurities come up, and the chase is back on, this time for $100 million. No amount is ever enough to create a permanent sense of peace, happiness, safety, love and satisfaction. The ego never stops generating PREOCCUPATION, until a person begins to Awaken. It is a machine designed that way. It has nothing to do with the objects and achievements themselves.
6. It considers Presence to be FOOLISH, DANGEROUS and BORING. It sees the pursuit of being Awakened to be equally foolish, dangerous and boring. And it is right to be afraid of Awakening, because Awakening is an end to the illusion of separation that the unconscious ego thrives in. Awakening threatens the unconscious ego. And the ego tries to convince you that this fear is justified, that it is “your” fear. Yet, the opposite is true. Presence, awakening, is freedom from the suffering of the unconscious ego. “One of the questions I hear most often from skeptics is: If I quiet the voice in my head, will I lose my edge? Some think they need depression to be creative or compulsive worry to be successful.”, says Dan Harris. We all know people who believe that without their constant worrying and so on, their life will fall apart, right? We feel that we NEED the thought-stream to survive. We literally feel threatened by the idea of dropping the thought-stream, don’t we? Yet, think about it – if you could drop the thought stream, would the thought-stream disappear from life? Yes, it would. The unconscious ego dies if the thought-stream ends. And that is why the ego fears Awakening. Now, if you dropped the thought-stream, do you die? No, you don’t. Your awareness is not your thought-stream. Your awareness is what is aware that there is a thought-stream in the first place. Awareness is eternal. The thought-stream is not. The problem is, we believe we are the thought-stream.
7. The ego believes it is not safe from Life, that Life is dangerous. It therefore insists on CONTROLLING the events of life, so that they fit its limited program. Surrender, therefore, is perceived as the enemy of the ego, something dangerous. The idea that life is dangerous is one of the ego’s most powerful tool.
8. Pure FEAR is the ego’s most powerful weapon. Fear has the power to obscure and distort truth and peace, to fracture and separate, create confusion. Fear is how the ego keeps us glued to the illusion. And love is the only true way out, and that is why the ego tries to convince us that love is weakness. Love, the most powerful force, is seen as weakness by the ego, or at least the ego tries to make us think so. The amazing thing is that Love is Real, and fear is itself an illusion, False Evidence Appearing Real, F-E-A-R. Yet, fear feels real because of one interesting design element: the BODY. Fear has a bodily sensation, you feel fear in your body once you begin to believe the fear. If you don’t believe it, you don’t feel it. But if you believe it, you feel it in your body. And this is what makes fear seem real, even thought it is an illusion. You can have a thought that creates fear in someone else, but it doesn’t create fear in you – and this is because you don’t believe it, and so it doesn’t generate a bodily sensation.
9. Judging between DUALITY/POLARITY is the engine that powers the ego. The ego must take a stand. It must say “I like this” or “I hate that”, “I am like this but not like that”, “that person is good but that other one is bad”, “I love the rain, but not too much”… The ego must make judgements for it to survive. Taking a stand gives the ego an identity and a story. Without a story and identity, the ego disappears. And that is why it must keep judging between dualities, between polarities. The ego doesn’t care what stand it takes, as long as it takes a stand. Taking a stand, judging, makes the ego feel like “somebody”, somebody “separate” from “everyone else”, someone “special” in some way, and that’s what matters to it.
10. It likes categorising everything into GOOD/BAD, which gives it a game plan to follow in life. Chase good, avoid bad. Of course, good and bad depends on its judgement system – and that changes too. But it doesn’t matter whether what was bad today is good tomorrow – as long as there is a good/bad system, the ego is happy. Why? Because good/bad helps the ego escape the Present Moment. If you lose good/bad, you go into Acceptance, into Unconditional Love. You lose the “future”, and the ego dies. Hence, the ego must, at all moments, be evaluating the Present moment according to a good/bad system, so it stays “busy” and obstructs Presence. Polarity Integration – aka Unconditional Love, Acceptance – is the enemy of the ego, for it leads to Awakening from the dream, the virtual reality, of the thought-stream.
11. GUILT is another powerful weapon the unconscious ego uses to stay alive and control you. Guilt works by keeping a person in old patterns. It is basically a program loop that reinforces itself by remembering the past in a particular way whereby the person is judged as BAD, and then this calls for punishment, which justifies the bad feelings further, which creates more guilt, more memory, and on and on it goes. BLAME and RESENTMENT are close cousins of guilt. They are all control and punishment mechanisms that trap a person in an unconscious ego. They are all mechanisms of RESISTING YOURSELF, RESISTING YOUR WORTH, RESISTING THE PRESENT. Through GUILT (and it’s cousins, blame and resentment), the ego causes people to overlook the beauty, bounty, and benevolence of life and the value and preeminence of love and peace. The opposite of Guilt is Innocence, which is the natural state of Life, of What You Really Are. And that is why Awakening begins by stripping away the illusion that has masked the truth of What You Really Are.
12. The ego is constantly creating PROBLEMS TO FIX. These are also part of the overall system of PREOCCUPATIONS that it creates to keep your mind busy and distracted. Even when there are no problems, the ego will create one. The sun could be shining nicely, like you always wanted it to, and the ego will find something about it to fix. You could have the best lover in the world, and the ego will find something to fix. You could be a billionaire with theoretically no financial worries, and the ego will find a financial worry to sort out. You could be the most beautiful looking person on earth, and the ego will find something to fix about your body. This is just the way it works, don’t worry about it, its just part of the software. You don’t have to believe it and do what it says or try to stop it; just witness it.
These are some of the technical devices that make the ego so believable and persistent.
These technical devices create attachment, shenpa.
And it is good to be aware of them so we can witness when they are happening. Awareness of the devices and how they work increases our ability to be mindful.
Having known this, we can now understand the whole point of mindfulness and meditation.
Yes, yes, it creates detachment, but so what?
What is the real point of that?
Is it just to “suffer less”?
Or is there a deeper point?
Yes, there is a deeper point. Much, much deeper.
The main point of mindfulness is freedom from the concept of a “separate self”.
The sense of a “separate self” is the real prison.
Suffering is just one aspect of this prison.
Even if you got rid of suffering and only kept the “happy” aspects of a self-concept, you would still be limited.
The self-concept if like a filter of reality – it filters out most of reality and lets in only a small part of reality, the part that agrees with the self-concept, the conditioning, the programming.
In other words, it’s not only who you think you are that holds you back it is also who you think you’re not.
That is why a self-concept limits the individual, and collectively, limits the world!
As ABC News correspondent and anchor, Dan Harris, puts it in his book, 10% Happier, “At the end, the meditator arrives at the true goal of meditation: to see that the “self” that we take to be the ridgepole of our lives is actually an illusion. The real superpower of meditation is not just to manage your ego more mindfully but to see that the ego itself has no actual substance. Close your eyes and look for it, and you won’t find any “self” you can put your finger on.“
And the best, simplest tool to use to get there, is the practice of Mindfulness. Mindfulness can be thought of as “meditation throughout the day, as you go about your daily activities”. And meditation can be thought of as “focused mindfulness in private, without having to deal with the activities of the world”.
Mindfulness and meditation are both centered on one thing: witnessing the self in operation.
Witnessing creates presence, awareness, space.
And that automatically creates self-knowledge, understanding.
And that automatically liberates you from the “self concept” and it’s dramas and fears and limitations.
That was a sample taken from the course, Radical Mindfulness Made Simple in 5 Easy Steps.