Adyashanti: The ego is waiting for a cosmic finish line: “I’ll be really really conscious so I can cross the finish line, then I don’t have to be conscious anymore”

The ego is waiting for a cosmic finish line: “I’ll be really really conscious so I can cross the finish line, then I don’t have to be conscious anymore.”

– Adyashanti

This fits my experience.

A part of me is scared and tired of having to deal with things all the time, so it wants it all to be finished. It wants the challenges to be finished. This can take many forms, including ideas about awakening or enlightenment being that finishing line.

That’s natural and innocent.

And it’s good to be aware of. It helps me see that this is a part of me. It feels scared and tired. It wishes for some comfort and care. And I can give it that. I can be with it. I can understand. I can find love for it. I can notice that its nature is the same as my nature.

What is the “ego”? As far as I can tell, it’s the dynamics that happen when we – or a part of us – hold a story as true. The oneness we are takes on the perspective of the story, identifies with and as it, and perceives and lives (to some extent) as if it’s true. That’s inherently stressful since it’s out of alignment with reality. That stress may lead to that part of us wanting it all to be over, perhaps through a kind of cosmic finishing line.

These parts of me wish for liberation. And I am the one who can give it to them. I can be their friend and guide.

I can be there for them. Listen to the painful story they operate from. Identify the painful story. Examine it to find what’s genuinely more true for me. Feel what these parts of me are feeling. Meet it with kindness and love. Recognize that these parts of me come from love, they wish to protect me. Give them what they really want. (Often a variation of something simple and universal like a sense of safety, being loved, understood, or supported.) Recognize that their nature is the same as mine. (AKA consciousness.) And rest in and as this and allow that to transform me, it, and our relationship.

Adyashanti: When we look for a thing called an ego, it is like grasping at straws, grasping at air, we don’t quite ever find it

When we look for a thing called an ego, it is like grasping at straws, grasping at air, we don’t quite ever find it.

– Adyashanti, The Mystery of Being

Ego, what are you?


I am not what you think I am. Nothing is.

I am the dynamics that happen when the mind tries to assume it’s a thing within its own experience.

As the quote said, I am ephemeral, ungraspable.

I am a kind of dream.

Some minds like to imagine me as a thing, just like they like to imagine themselves as a thing within their own experience.

Some minds like to see me as a problem or an enemy.

I am not. I am just the natural processes that happen when the mind imagines itself as something particular within it’s own content of experience – this human self, a name, a profession, a gender, an I, a me.

And that is completely fine.

It’s all part of the richness of the mind expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in always new ways.

Much of it is imagination, and this imagination is sometimes experienced as very real.

Awakening is not incompatible with ego dynamics

Awakening is not incompatible with these [ego] dynamics. They may not currently be so active, and we may not identify so strongly with the ones that are, and this opens for the possibility to notice what we are.

I wrote this in a previous post and thought I would clarify it here.

One of the myths of awakening is that the “ego” is incompatible with awakening.

In my experience…

We can have parts of us operating from separation consciousness and we can still notice what we are.

As mentioned in the quote, these parts of us may not be so active in the moment. We may not be so strongly identified with the ones that are. And this opens for the possibility of noticing what we are.

We can still find ourselves as capacity for the world. We can still find ourselves as what all our experiences – including these parts – happen within and as.

That allows us to recognize the true nature of these parts of us as the same as our true nature, which helps us shift how we relate to them. It makes it easier to meet them, get to know them, understand them, and see they come from a desire to protect us and from love. It also makes it easier for them to heal and realign with oneness, which is perhaps the deepest form of healing.

Reality is often not quite as black-and-white as myths like “awakening is incompatible with ego” suggests, and that’s a very good thing.

What’s the ego in a spiritual context?

I rarely use the word ego in a spiritual context for a few different reasons. It can be confused with how we use the word in a psychological context. It can be taken as something solid and an object. And it can bring associations to something we need to get rid of – since that’s how it’s sometimes talked about.

These ego dynamics are the dynamics that happen when we hold a thought as true and identify with the viewpoint of the thought. This creates a sense of I and other, with an ultimate truth in it. And all of this can happen more or less consciously.

These dynamics are understandable, natural, and innocent, and they come from the desire to protect the separate self. They are something to understand and befriend and find love for.

Awakening is not incompatible with these dynamics. They may not currently be so active, and we may not identify so strongly with the ones that are, and this opens for the possibility to notice what we are.

When we notice what we are, we can notice that these dynamics have the same true nature as ourselves. This helps shift our relationship with them, and it also opens up the metaphorical space for these dynamics to realign with reality and oneness and find a deep transformation that way.


I’ll go into a bit more detail on these topics, although not too much since I have addressed this in several other articles.

The word is used differently in psychology and spirituality

First, it’s important to differentiate how the word is used in psychology and spirituality.

The psychological ego refers to the operating system for this human self. We need it to function, and it’s important to help it be as healthy, resilient, and well functioning as possible.

Ego used in a spiritual context refers to separation consciousness. This is a certain dynamic that happens when we identify with the viewpoint of a story and hold it as true.

They are two different phenomena that happen to have the same name.

The downsides of using the word in a spiritual context

There are a few downsides to using the word ego in a spiritual context.

It can be confused with the psychological ego which is something different.

It makes it sound as an object or thing, which is misleading.

When people use the word in a spiritual context, it’s sometimes with a flavor of it as bad, wrong, something to get rid of, and so on.

How does separation consciousness come about?

A sense of separation comes as soon as we hold a thought as true and identify with the viewpoint of the thought. In our own experience, we become the viewpoint of the thought, and this creates a sense of I and other and a fundamental reality in that separation. (It’s perhaps more accurate to say that our system holds a thought as true since this doesn’t have to be conscious, and it often isn’t.)

We then perceive and live as if the thought is true, and this can create struggle, tension, and so on.

What are some other ways to talk about this dynamic?

As mentioned earlier, another word for ego in this context is beliefs or identification. As soon as a thought is held as true, the ego dynamics are created, and we take ourselves as the viewpoint of the thought. We identify as the viewpoint of the thought, which is how the appearance of separation is created.

We can also call it a coping mechanism to deal with unmet, unloved, and unexamined fears. As we meet these fears, find they come from love and find love for them, and examine the fearful stories behind them and what’s more true for us, the “ego” dynamics tend to soften.

Is this ego a problem?

These dynamics can create suffering and struggle for ourselves, and it can trigger the same in others.

But it’s not inherently a problem. It’s natural, understandable, and ultimately innocent. There is even beauty in it since it comes from an innocent misunderstanding and the dynamic within it is here to protect us. It’s an expression of love, although a bit misguided.

Is this ego an enemy?

Only if we take it that way, and if we do, it’s the “ego” dynamics making itself into an enemy. The idea of enemy is itself an expression of holding certain thoughts as true. In reality, it’s innocent, and it is created from unmet, unloved, and unexamined fear. And even if it’s here, we can still find ourselves as capacity for all our experiences including these dynamics.

Do we need to remove this ego?

We can’t decide to remove these dynamics. We can just explore them and understand them. We can see what’s more true for us than the stories initially held as true. We can get some insights into the dynamics. We can dialog with these parts of us and get to know them. And we can get to know the fear behind these dynamics – which are typically unmet, unloved, and unexamined.

The ego dynamics, awakening, and spiritual practice

Since I am writing about the ego as the words is used in a spiritual context, I’ll say a few words about these dynamics in relation to awakening and spiritual practices.

What’s the relationship between awakening and these dynamics?

The ego dynamics are sometimes presented as incompatible with awakening. Is that true?

Yes, no, and it depends. If we are completely identified with a thought in the moment, it’s difficult to notice what we are. We may have ego dynamics but they are not so active and we are not so identified with them, and this opens for the possibility of noticing what we are.

So it depends on whether ego dynamics (AKA beliefs) are currently triggered, and how identified we are with them.

What’s the role of spiritual practice here?

Spiritual practice can help us shift how we relate to these dynamics.

Befriending the dynamics and getting to know them helps shift how we relate to them, which helps them soften, and helps us relate to them more consciously and not always act on them.

And finding ourselves as capacity for it all makes it easier to relate to them more consciously, not always act on them, and invite them to realign with and join in oneness.

What’s the role of awakening?

Awakening is another word for noticing what we are. For finding ourselves as capacity for the world, and what our experiences happen within and as. It’s something that happens here and now, and it can become more of a habit over time.

When we find ourselves as capacity for it all, we notice that these dynamics happen within and as us as anything else. We may also notice that our true nature is the true nature of these inherently innocent dynamics.

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Awakening and healing is a blessing for the “ego”

I usually don’t use the word “ego”.

What it points to are the dynamics from holding a thought as true. The perceptions, thoughts, choices, and actions that flow from the mind identifying with the viewpoint of a thought. In this context, the word “ego” sounds too static and too much like a thing.

Also, the word “ego” can refer to two different things. In a spiritual context, it means beliefs or identifying with the viewpoint of a thought. In a psychological context, it refers to the “operating system” of our human self, and we want that to be healthy and strong – even in an awakening context.

I see that some talk about the “ego” not “wanting” healing and awakening.

I understand that they may mean the inherent fear in releasing beliefs and wounds. These beliefs and wounds are familiar. They were created to protect us. So there will be some fear of allowing them to release. It’s natural and even healthy.

For me, it helps to see these parts as scared and suffering children and see what they want from me. Often, what they want is to be seen, understood, respected, and treated with patience and kindness. Ultimately, what they want is to heal and awaken and be freed from their suffering.

So, on the surface, it may look like the ego is a “thing” and that it doesn’t want change. And yet, it’s more true that the apparent resistance is fear. This fear is natural and from a desire to protect this human self. And what these parts of us want more than anything is to heal and awaken. They want liberation from their own suffering.

Is awakening and healing a threat to the “ego”? It may seem that way, at first glance. But we may soon discover that awakening and healing is a blessing for these parts of us. It’s what they deepest desire. It’s what allows them freedom from their own suffering.

It’s what allows them to function with more clearly and in a more healthy way as part of us as human beings. The more they are healed and awake, the more they come into their full and beautiful natural expression.

Identification = belief = velcro = ego

Identification = belief = velcro = ego.

At least roughly.

Identification is when mind takes on the viewpoint of a story, and holds it as true and real. Mind identifies with the view of the story, filters experience through it, and even acts as if it’s true.

A belief is when mind holds a story as true, and perceives and acts as if it’s true, at least to some extent. (Often, it’s not a 100%.)

Velcro is when sensations seem “stuck” on associated images and words, giving them a charge, and lending them a sense of reality, solidity, and truth. The images and words feel true, because of the associated sensations.

Ego can be used in a psychological and “spiritual” sense. In a psychological sense, it’s just the operating system that allows this human being to function in the world, and we want it to be healthy and keep maturing. In a “spiritual” sense, the “ego” refers to identification and what comes out of identification. (Or a belief or velcro, and what comes out of these.)

These are all words describing roughly the same. It’s all referring to the mind identifying with a story, and what that brings with it.

What does it bring with it? Here are some possible consequences: Filtering perception through that story, acting as if it’s true, perhaps wanting to defend the story, dismissing what doesn’t fit, perhaps discomfort or suffering when life goes against the story, finding people who agree and support our story, and more.


Some words about the word “ego” again, even if I hardly ever use the word myself.

It can be used in two different contexts, and with two different meanings.

In a psychological context, it refers to the “operating system” of the human individual, and – in general – the more healthy and mature, the better. (Although the healing and maturing happens on its own schedule, it’s OK as it is, and there is always further to go.)

In a spiritual context, it typically refers to what happens when words and images are held as true, when they are believed, or – in other words – identified with. Velcro is another word for it, and refers to what happens when words and images appear “stuck on” a corresponding sensation. These sensations then appear to lend a sense of solidity and reality to the words and images, and may also create a sense of charge, stress, and more. This “ego” can easily be, and usually is, intensified through (unloved) wounds and trauma accumulated through a lifetime.

In spiritual circles, the “ego” is sometimes cast as the villain, or seen as something bad. This is a pretty old-fashioned view now, and there seems to be a general shift – in our culture – into seeing it differently.

Here are some examples of how we can see it differently:

If you look for the “ego” can you find it? Can you find it outside of words, images, and associated sensations? Is it really there, the way you (perhaps) thought it were?

The “ego” – or beliefs, identifications, velcro – can be seen as worried love. It’s the mind trying to protect the (imagined) self. Seeing it as love can help us soften our relationship to it.

We can also say that the “ego” is what happens when something in us – or in our experience in general – is unquestioned and unloved.

The “ego” then is not something to be battled or struggled with. It’s innocent. It’s worried love. All it “wants” is to be loved, rested with, and for the stories that holds it in place to be respectfully questioned.

When it’s battled or struggled with, the identifications are held in place and even solidified.

When it’s met, loved, respectfully questioned, it softens. It’s revealed as not a problem at all. It’s revealed as innocent. As worried love. Something to rest with. Something that’s really unfindable outside of words, images, and associated sensations.

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Ego vs self

Adyashanti sometimes talks about the difference between the ego and the self, and I am not sure if I completely understand what he refers to.

Here is my best guess:

The ego, in this context, is the me, the human self, all the different hopes, fears, drives, desires, wounds and trauma of the human self. When this is seen through, and seen as what it is, there is a relaxation and sense of unification of the me. Traditionally, the dark night of the senses is what helps wear off identification with the me, although some may be left even after a dark night of the senses. I assume that seeing through the me is what leads to liberation. All is recognized as consciousness, but there is still a sense of identification as a center, as an I, which brings us to the self…..

The self is the loop, consciousness turning back and looking at itself. I assume this is the I, identification as an observer and doer. The human self may be seen through, and there may still be identification as an I, an observer and doer. When the I seen through, center of gravity goes to the whole field of consciousness.

For me, it’s easier to see this in terms of which images and words are identified with. Is it something part of the me, the human self? Or is it the I, the observer and doer?

It’s all about seeing through the appearances of a me and I. Seeing how these appearances are created. Seeing images as images. Seeing words as words. Feeling sensations as sensations. And for a while, until it’s seen through, there is the appearance of an interplay here between what “I” can do, such as inquiry, prayer and meditation. And grace, the way life works behind the scenes, the way life set situations up. And it’s all really grace, including the apparent doing. That too is life’s activity.

The ego is seeking reality

The “ego” wants Spirit. It wants what it is. Innocently.

(a) The “ego” is another name for identified mind, and specifically for (i) the tendency of mind to identify, taking images and thoughts as true, and (ii) what happens when mind identifies.

(b) Identified mind wants something. It wants money, a partner, a nice house, a nice job, respect etc.

(c) When these wants are traced back, I find what identified mind really wants is very simple. It’s love, trust, safety, connection, contentment etc.

(d) The only way to really find this in a satisfying way is for what we are to notice itself. For Spirit (awakeness, presence, love) to notice itself as what’s here. This may happen through recognizing this field of experience as awakeness, and then that what’s noticing it is awakeness itself.

(e) This means that “ego” – identified mind – is really seeking Spirit. And since identified mind is Spirit too, this is Spirit (i) temporarily forgetting itself, (ii) seeking itself (in all the ways mind seeks), and (iii) possibly/eventually finding itself.

It’s all quite beautiful and innocent. Identified mind is really Spirit seeking itself, and sometimes “forgetting” that’s what’s happening.

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What the “ego” is longing for

The “ego” is just a convenient – and somewhat misleading – name of what happens when images and thoughts are taken as true.

And what is this ego longing for, what are these dynamics longing for? When I trace it back for myself, using specific examples, I find it’s something very simple: Love, trust, a sense of safety, connection, being at home, and so on.

The ego, the dynamics created when images and thoughts are taken as true, is looking for what it really and already is, Spirit, and it’s longing for Spirit to recognize itself, and for that being the next context for the life of this human being in the world.

The ego is longing for what it really is, for this to recognize itself, and for what’s revealed when this happens.

The ego is innocent, and comes from and is love. It’s innocent in that it’s the natural consequences of taking images and thoughts as true, and these images and thoughts are held as true because that’s what others do in this world. It comes from love in that it wishes to protect (the image of) this human self. And it is love since it is – it is made of – awakeness, presence, love.

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The ego

I keep hearing people mention the word “ego” so thought I would revisit the topic here.

The word has at least two general meanings.

In a psychological context, it roughly means the operating system that makes this human self function in the world, and it can be more or less mature, healthy and well-functioning.

In a spiritual context, it refers to what’s created when a thought is taken as true. It refers to the dynamics created when mind identifies with (as) and image or thought. It’s what question number three in The Work reveals to us. It’s not an entity or a thing, but appearances, the infinite temporarily taking itself as (telling itself it is) finite.

It’s innocent. It’s an attempt to protect. (Mind identifies with/as images and thoughts in an attempt to protect, and what it tries to protect are images and thoughts of an I and me taken as true.) It’s pure devotion, pure love.

And this tendency of the mind to identify – in an innocent attempt to protect, from pure love and devotion – is something the mind can hold satsang with.

You are welcome here.

Thank you for protecting me.

Thank you for your devotion for me. Thank you for your love for me.

How would you like me to be with you?

What is this “me” you wish to protect?

What do you long for? What would satisfy you forever?

What are you really?


Finding love, appreciation, and understanding for the tendency to hold images as true

How is it to find love, appreciation, and understanding for the tendency to take images and thoughts as true?

You are welcome here. You are welcome to stay. You are welcome to stay, as you are.

Thank you for being here for me. Thank you for protecting me. Thank you for wishing the best for me.

Thank you for being devoted to me. Thank you for your love for me.

I am sorry for having pushed you away. I am sorry for having made you into an enemy. I am sorry for having made you wrong, in my mind.

Please forgive me.

I love you. I love you for your devotion for me. I love you for being love. I love you, as you are.

The tendency to take images and thoughts as true – from the ones that thought will say are peripheral to the ones thoughts will say are basic and core – is innocent. It’s innocent love. It’s worried love. It’s beautiful, as it is.

And I notice that any tendency to make it wrong, to see it as a problem, to make it into an enemy, comes from taking images and thoughts as true. It’s another movement within this tendency.

When there I find some love, appreciation, and understanding from it, and it’s genuine, real, honest, something shifts. There is a softening of identification as this tendency. And if I notice a thought saying that’s better, then that too comes from this tendency. How is it to meet it with genuine love, appreciation, and understanding?

Finding love for the identified mind

When I try on the thought that the identified mind – or the ego – is a problem, or needs to change, or gotten rid of, I notice it’s painful.

It feels more comfortable to find love and understanding for the identified mind, see how it’s innocent, how it’s devoted to being of assistance, devoted to protecting.

In the first case, if those thoughts are lived as true, it’s the identified mind turning against itself. The image of an identified mind is solidified and taken as true, and the image of it being a problem is solidified and taken as true. And that’s the identified mind turning against itself, out of love, in an attempt to be of service.

When there instead is love, genuine appreciation, for the identified mind, it comes from somewhere else. It’s more open, receptive, clear, kind, loving.

Love and appreciation for the ego

I notice a deep love and appreciation for the “ego”.

The word “ego” in this context is shorthand for the tendency to take thoughts as true, and the dynamics created when a thought is taken as true – a world experienced as if it’s true, and a life lived as if it’s true.

And that’s all innocent. It’s all confused or worried love.

It happens on its own. It’s adopted because that’s what’s done on this planet.

It’s done with the intention of fitting in. It’s done with the intention of finding what I think I need the most – safety, comfort, love.

And I get to see this innocence and confused love through inquiry into my own thoughts. Whenever a thought is taken as true, it’s stressful and creates pain. It’s innocent. And it happens as an attempt to find – for instance – safety and love.

As I see this over and over, in a real, specific and detailed way, there is naturally love and appreciation for the ego. The natural love and appreciation for the ego is revealed. The dynamics are revealed as love, in a certain sense a confused and worried love.

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Spiritual bypassing etc.

We will be looking at ‘spiritual bypassing,’ the detour we take into the transcendent to escape from the old personal heavy stuff.  It happens so fast, but is it inescapable?  Liberation is so tempting and compelling — it’s the biggest and highest promise of perfection we can strive for.

What happens when we have a kensho, or opening experience?  Does the ego freeze and stay stuck at the stage of development in which the realization happened?  Does the ego still exist, and if so how does it manifest?  What does it mean to be awakened?

This is from an invitation to an upcoming event with Genpo Roshi and Ken Wilber. It’s interesting for me to notice that I am not drawn so much to these questions anymore. I also see an irony here. During my time at Genpo Roshi’s Zen center, I was an avid reader and student of Ken Wilber, as the only person (as far as I know) there. I was even discouraged to read him by some of the senior students. At the time, this would have been my ideal type of event. Now, I would probably have attended if it was very convenient, but not otherwise. As they say, we get what we ask for, and not always in the way or in the timing we expected.

I imagine some thoughts behind this text. None of these seem so true for me anymore, and I would also like to find more clarity on them:

Liberation is better. I need to find liberation.

Perfection is somewhere else. It’s better to find perfection. It’s possible to find perfection. I know what perfection is. This – what’s here – is not perfect.

Bypassing is wrong. It’s better to not bypass.

What’s here is not OK.

Also, I see they seem to use the word “ego” in two different ways, without differentiating. The “ego” that can mature and develop is the psychological ego, the operating system for this human self, and that stays as long as the human self is around, independent on whether there is confusion or clarity on what we are. The other “ego” is the one referred to in a spiritual context, and is what happens when a thought is taken as true. I assume they’ll talk about both.

I am also reminded that any tool for exploration can be used to explore both who and what we are, or one or the other. It’s all about intention.

For instance, basic meditation – just sitting, shikantaza – can be used with the intention of identifying with/as awareness, and release identification out of the human (transcendence). It can equally well be used to fully embrace all of it, to honestly see what’s here, to notice it’s all already allowed, it’s all already Spirit, notice it’s all included – including conventional views. It can be used to allow stuffed emotions their life, to notice and inquire into beliefs, and so on.

What I find most helpful here – not surprisingly – is The Work. I notice discomfort, tension or unease, identify the fear or belief behind this discomfort, and inquire into it. This helps me find more clarity on my life in the world, on my aims for any form of exploration (including what’s reflected in this blog), and how I use different tools for exploration.

For instance, if I think liberation is better, or I need to find liberation, it’s inevitably stressful and it makes my approach to life and Spirituality a bit strained. As I find more clarity on these thoughts, I’ll probably still be drawn to meditation, prayer, inquiry etc., and it will happen in a more relaxed and even focused way. I am less distracted by my initial beliefs and the discomfort I created for myself through them.

It’s interesting how reading each belief in the list above feels instantly painful to me. I remember how it is to believe those thoughts, and they can still be investigated further.

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Love for the ego

The “ego” refers to the dynamics that happens when a thought is taken as true, it’s what I get to explore through question three in The Work.

One of the things that comes out of taking certain thoughts as true, is the tendency to take thoughts as true:

I will be more safe if I take this thought as true. I will get what I want if I take this thought as true. There is an I here. I am this body. I am this mind. It needs to be safe. It’s possible to be unsafe.

Another of the things that may come out of taking certain thoughts as true, is to see this as a problem or even wrong or bad or something we need to get rid of.

The ego is a problem. The ego causes suffering. I need to get rid of the ego.

Beliefs are a problem. Beliefs causes suffering. I would be better off without beliefs. I need to get rid of beliefs.

There is an ego. There are beliefs. There are thoughts. It’s possible to take thoughts as true.

As I investigate these thoughts, and notices the dynamics around taking thoughts as true, I may find a genuine appreciation for the “ego” – for all of this.

It’s all innocent. It’s all confused love. It’s what happens when the thought “I” is taken as true, there is the thought it needs to be protected, and that taking thoughts as true can help it keep safe.

Through more clarity on this, I find a genuine love for the ego, for these dynamics. I see their function. I see it’s innocent. I see it comes from love, a slightly confused love.

And I see it’s all already love.

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Ego putting up a fight?

Some folks talk about the ego putting up a fight, especially as it’s about to be seen through more thoroughly.

I understand it can be seen that way. And yet, something else seems more true to me, at least right now.

The “ego” may lose it’s footing in a few different ways: (a) An opening or early awakening may make it clear it’s all Spirit, and no thought is really true. It can only have temporary value as a question, a practical pointer or guide. (b) The “veils” may thin – for instance through practices such as meditation, prayer or inquiry, and only a bit is left. (c) Through some form of inquiry, such as The Work, many of the surface and even core beliefs may have been seen through, and only some are left – often held at an emotional level. For me, it’s been some of each of these.

And as this happens, whatever beliefs are left tend to surface and may do so quite strongly. In my experience, many of these may take the form of wounds and beliefs held at an emotional level, formed early in childhood.

So it may seem as if the ego is fighting for it’s life. And in a sense, that’s true.

What’s more true for me about this are two things:

There is no ego, at least not as an entity or something fixed. What may be called ego is simply the dynamics created when a thought is taken as true (the answer to question 3 in The Work), and perhaps also the tendency to take a thought as true in itself. I tend to avoid using the word for that reason.

And it’s not really fighting for it’s life. It’s more that there is a more open mind here, so the remaining wounds and beliefs surface to find liberation. They seek to be seen, felt, loved and seen through. And this more open mind is fertile ground for them to find what they seek – their liberation from being held as true.

So there is not really anything fighting for it’s life, apart from what I imagine myself to be. And there is no fight, apart from the resistance the remaining beliefs are met with, and this resistance comes from some of these remaining beliefs.

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The dream of the ego

Adyashanti – and I am sure many others – sometimes talk about the dream of the ego.

The dream of the ego are the thoughts we, in our confusion, may have about a permanent state where what we see as good and desirable is present, and what we see and bad and undesirable is absent. This dream may take many forms: A paradise after this life. A permanent state of enlightenment in this life. A life with money, house, family, success, admiration and so on.

It comes from a series of beliefs and assumptions: (a) There is time and space this can happen within. (b) There is an I here that this happens to. (c) It’s possible to find a permanent state, something within content of experience I can rely on. (d) Life – situations, experiences – are inherently good, bad or neutral.

What does “ego” refer to here? It may sound like an entity of some sort, and yet, it’s really just the dynamics created when a thought – any thought – is taken as true: The identification with the viewpoint of the thought, and the sense of I created from this. The assumptions that the boundaries and the labels inherent in the thought are real and solid. The shoulds that may come from the belief. The emotions created from the belief, especially when life aligns with the belief or not. The life that comes from the belief.

So what’s a more realistic approach than pursuing the dream of the ego, thinking it will solve all problems and give me a state of permanent bliss? For me, it’s to find peace with what’s here, whatever it may be. Examine my beliefs about it and find what’s (already) more true for me. Perhaps even recognize what’s here – whatever it may be – as the divine, just as it is.

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The ego as a best friend

I used to think my ego was bad. But I found out it always has had my best interests in mind. Like a best friend. Like a servant almost. I love my ego now. It’s always there for me. And it doesn’t mean I have to believe all the stories it tells me.
– TS on Facebook.

The ego’s job is to kill everything but itself

The ego’s job is to kill everything but itself.
Byron Katie

Love will kill anything that’s not like itself.
Byron Katie (37:20)

The ego’s job is to kill everything but itself. What’s the ego? It’s what happens when a thought is taken as true, the dynamics around a belief. It’s what shows up from question #3 in The Work. When a story is taken as true, only what fits the story is allowed so the mind “kills” everything else. It (temporarily) kills reality.

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Notice when identify with a viewpoint


I listened to a Zen talk about how difficult it is to notice when we are caught up in the ego. It is true, of course, but also not.

The word ego in a spiritual context points to identification with a viewpoint. Or more accurately, with a story and its viewpoint and corresponding identity, and the role in the world that goes with it.

Even clarifying that makes it easier. When we talk about ego, it can sound a little vague and abstract. But identifying with a viewpoint is a little more concrete and familiar. It is something we are more likely to notice as it happens.

And as we get familiar with the symptoms of identifying with a viewpoint, there is even more of a possibility of recognizing it as it happens. We may not be able to shift out of it completely, right there and then, but we can at least recognize that we are caught up in identification with a viewpoint, and do ourselves and others a favor and not blindly act on it.

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I keep coming back to this one, mainly because I hear the word “ego” used in ways that can be misleading and confusing rather than clarifying.

First, there is a difference between how “ego” is used in psychological and spiritual context.

In a psychological context, “ego” is used to refer to that which helps our human self function in the world. It is the operating system and the software of the human self, and the healthier and more mature it is the better.

In a spiritual context, it is used to refer to our mistaken identity, and that can be helpful too. It points to that sense of an “I” that is overlaid on doing, thinking, experiencing, choosing and so on.

So it is good to differentiate those two meanings of the word, and also take a closer look at what it refers to in a spiritual context.

Is it an entity of some sort? Something that resists awakening? A small black demon that holds us back? An enemy to get rid of or override? The way some folks use the word, it can almost give that impression. The “ego” is made substantial and into an enemy.

What I find when I look at it for myself is that “ego” is what happens when a story is taken as true. It is a simple as that. It is just the dynamics around beliefs and how these dynamics express themselves in my life. And it is all innocent. An innocent and temporary mistake.

A story is taken as true. That story becomes right and other stories – and the ones believing in them – wrong. Reactive emotions come up: anger, sadness, envy and so on. And this human self act as if the belief is true and from the reactive emotions.

We can notice this for ourselves through simple investigations, such as exploring what happens in each sense field and how they combine, and exploring beliefs through The Work.

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“Ego” here now

The word ego can refer to a sense of separate I, or the psychological ego, the operating system for our human self.

When I explore ego – in the first meaning – through the six sense fields, I find that it is just a thought arising here now, taken as true.

Attention gets absorbed in the inside of the thought, there is an identification with it, it is anchored on certain sensations which lends it an appearance of substance and reality – and also a location in space, it becomes a fixed view and identity, and with the sense of the thought being right and true, its reversals become wrong and false, so there is a sense of I and an Other.

“Ego” then is as ephemeral and insubstantial as a thought, since that is all it is. But taking a thought as true has very real effects for our human self in the world, as we can explore through for instance The Work.

This is of course a simplified version of it. When we explore, we can always find new layers of complexity and richness of this – quite beautiful – process.

In terms of the layers of thoughts, I find a layer of space, mapping the five sense fields on a sense of space and extent. And I find an identification with a thought, any thought, which is then mapped on sensations appearing in particular locations in space, guided by an image thought of this body which maps sensations, and this creates a sense of a separate I, of center and periphery.

Ego as love

I don’t often use the word ego, and when I do, it is mostly to show that it is not very useful.

Or it could be to differentiate the two meanings of the word: In a western, psychological sense, where we want a healthy and strong ego. Here, it refers to the “operating system” for our human self, that which helps it orient and function in the world, and we want it in as good operating order as possible. And in an eastern philosophical sense, where it just refers to a sense of a separate I and whatever comes along with that.

In the second sense of the word, as a description of a sense of an I with an Other, and whatever goes with it, it sometimes has a sinister tone to it. “The ego” as some evil entity lurking somewhere, with no good intentions. (Which is why I don’t like using the word.)

But really, the ego in that sense is just from innocence, an innocent belief in stories, taking them as real and substantial, and temporarily overlooking what we already are.

And beyond that, the ego is pure love. A love for this human self and whatever is within its circle of care and compassion. It is pure kindness, pure compassion behind it. No matter how it may look on the surface.

Ego, in both meanings of the word, is pure innocence, pure love.

And, in the second sense of the word, pure – temporary – confusion.


Meanings of ego…

  • Organization of the human self, the software allowing it to operate and function in the world. (Software, because it is malleable, although encompasses both body and psyche.)This one stays around before and after Ground awakening, and can continue to heal, mature and develop through experience and practice. Before awakening, this healing, maturing and development makes it easier to be who we take ourselves to be, and after Ground awakening, it makes for better skillful means in expressing and living Ground awakening through this human self, relieving suffering for others in terms of who they take themselves to be, and also invite Ground to awaken to itself through others.
  • A sense of separate self, and the field of awake void and form filtered through this sense, creating an appearance of I and Other, center and periphery, outside and inside. This one is created through taking an imagined separate self as real, and can appear very convincing. We can see these stories as only thoughts through various forms of inquiry.
  • A fueling of an identity specifying how this separate self is different from the wider world. This one deepens the sense of split between I and the wider world. I become better and worse than others, and stories are fueled about how this is so. We can reduce this sense of split through working with projections, finding in this human self the qualities we see in the wider world, and the other way around. The wider world becomes a mirror for this human self, and we find that anything here is universally human, although also with a certain flavor (and this flavor of uniqueness is also universally human).

Soul level and inflation

As long as there is still a sense of a separate self hanging around, there will inevitably be inflation. Or more precisely, the inherent neutrality is split into a sense of being better and worse than the rest of the world.

Inflation can especially easily happen when the soul level surfaces in its many forms… as alive presence, indwelling God, luminosity, fertile darkness, luminous blackness, or in whatever other form it takes. On the inherent neutrality of all this, stories are placed, and they are inevitably believed in, to some extent at least… oh – I must be special since this is happening to me, finally – all my years of practice is paying off!, I know something others don’t, I am at a more advanced level than others, and so on. As usual, the variations are endless. And it will happen, even if we know, intellectually, the illusion and mistake that is behind it.

Technically, inflation is when the “ego” takes on something as its own, when it really doesn’t belong to the ego. The term “ego” here means (a) a belief in the story of a separate self, and (b) that sense of a separate self is then placed upon this human self. So all that is happening is that what occurs outside of that boundary is, to some extent, placed within the boundary, as if what is inside somehow possesses, or can take credit for, what is outside.

In Zen and some other traditions, they deal with it by not talking about it, and if a student brings it up, the teacher will ignore it, or (figuratively or literally) give the student a smack with the stick.

It works, to some extent, but is also a crude way of dealing with it. Most of the time, it just creates more confusion for the student.

To me, it seems more effective to (a) allow the inflation (it is there anyway, so may as well allow it), and (b) inquire into it to find what is already more true.

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Ego as structure and sense of I

I am reading the first few pages of Facets of Unity by Almaas, and am as always very impressed by the clarity of his writing, and the realms he is exploring.

On page 7, he writes about the ego as being developed to compensate for loss of contact with Being (which I understand as human self + soul + Big Mind/Heart, which are all facets of Big Mind).

I am sure it will be clarified further into the book, but for now, I wanted to clarify for myself how I see ego (to more easily modify it as I read on)…

Ego as structure

Ego can be used, in a conventional psychological sense, as ego structures, as that which allows this human self to function and operate in the world. It is the personal voices in the Big Mind process. This form of ego is necessary for our human self to function, and its healing, maturing and development continues before and after awakening to realized selflessness.

To use a crude analogy, the Mars Rovers need software to function, and this software is continually developed and refined to allow them to function in more effective, and sometimes new, ways. The ego is to our human self what the software is for the Mars Rovers.

Ego as a sense of I

The other way the terms ego is used is as a sense of a separate I, placed on our human self.

Spirit, the field of awake emptiness and form, is functionally connected with a particular human self, and forgets about itself as a field, with inherently no center and no I anywhere, and develops a sense of a separate I, placed on the human self.

There is a perceptual center in the human self, and this perceptual center is made into an “I” center.

This is the version of ego that comes from and creates the illusion of I and Other, and creates all the drama, discomfort and stress.

Without it, when the field awakens to itself as a field, there is just awake emptiness and form, with no I anywhere. There is a sense of ease.

Ego structured in different contexts

Going back to the ego structures, and this is what I expect Almaas will write more about, we see that they come out differently depending on which context they are formed, or reorganized, within.

When formed and organized within the context of a sense of I, they are formed within the assumption of separation. They reflect, and operate as if, there is an I as this human self, and Other as the wider world. There is, by necessity, trauma here as well, to different degrees – reactiveness, habitual and obsessive patterns, and so on.

When the field awakens to itself as a field, realizing that there was no I there in the first place, these ego structures are invited to reorganize within this new context of realized selflessness. The reorganization is bound to happen to some extent, and it can be helped along with some conscious alignment with and facilitation of this reorganization process.

It will allow the human self, emotionally and in terms of view, to realigned within a realization of no I anywhere. It reorganizes, gradually and in a deepening way, to all as Spirit.

Emotionally, there is less reactiveness, they give a sense of fullness, and of ongoing support and nourishment. The view functions gradually more transdually, differentiating while reflecting a nondual realization.

And it is certainly also possible for the field to never forget itself as a field, even as it is connected with a particular human self. It stays awake to itself as a field, while the human self develops and matures. This may be more common as humanity evolves further, although who knows.

Ego as organizing principle, and attachment to idea of I

Reading some Jung again, triggered by the alchemical images coming up in waking and sleep processes, I am reminded of the two meanings of the word ego.

One meaning is as an organizing principle for our human self. It is that which differentiates and allows this human self to function in the world. It is the operating system of this human self, in a way. This is the realm of conventional western psychology.

The other meaning comes from eastern philosophies, and also from the informal use of the word as in he has a big ego. This comes from a belief in the idea of I and a particular identity to flesh it out. From this comes a sense of I, an experience of I and Other, a sense of being different, of being better or worse than, of pushing something away and holding onto something else, of something to protect, and so on.

The psychological ego is essential for the human self to function well in the world, before and after awakening to selflessness. It needs to be mature, differentiated, well developed.

The other ego is just a sense of an I, placed on top of something inherently and already absent of an I. There is no I there, anywhere, so although this sense of I appears very real, and certainly influences how the human self operates in the world (with a great deal of drama), it is inherently innocent. Even the sense of I does not have any I in it.

So in our lives, we want to develop the psychological ego, and we may want to take a closer look at the other ego – the sense of I. What do I get from holding onto this sense of I? What are the consequences? Is there really an I there? Can I find it anywhere? Who or what would I be without it? What would I be if the content of awareness is the same, but with no I there anywhere?

We may find, as Sakyamuni Buddha did, that the source of suffering is the sense of I, that release from suffering is for the field of seeing and seen to awaken to its own nature absent of any I, and that there is a path from one to the other.

Ego… Two Meanings & Matures Following Awakening

This is again pretty basic, but a good reminder for me…

Two meanings of the word ego

The word ego seems to be typically used in two different ways.

One is in the western psychological sense, as the software for a (relatively mature) human being. It is an organization of the psyche which allows us to function in the world, with at least a minimum of effectiveness. This ego is necessary, and can be more or less mature and well functioning.

In eastern traditions, it often refers to a sense of I, or a belief in the idea of I. This is the ego that drops away in an awakening to selflessness.

The software reorganizing and realigning

I listened to Spontaneous Awakening by Adyashanti yesterday, and he seems to use the word in the more common psychological sense. The ego, in the sense of the software for a human being, is there before and after an awakening to selflessness. And it may be relatively mature and healthy before and after, or not so mature and healthy before and after.

At the same time, it seems that it does naturally reorganize (to various degrees) after an awakening – it realigns in this new context of Spirit awakened to its own nature. And in this sense, it tends to mature and heal following and within an awakening to selflessness – especially if that maturing is emphasized and encouraged.

Maturing and dropping away

So in a western psychological sense, the ego remains after an awakening – and tends to realign and mature within this awakening, especially if that is encouraged.

And in an eastern sense, the ego is obliterated in the awakening. The sense of I is seen through as only a temporary appearance created by the belief in the idea of I. There is only what is, with no I anywhere. The content of awareness may be the same as before, but the context changes – from a sense of I to a realization of selflessness.

Ego Fighting?

I went to a talk by a guest speaker at the Center for Sacred Sciences Sunday. What is has clearly awakened to its own nature through him, and just listening allowed the vague sense of I to dissipate more.

Still, there were parts of the content that does not seem to align with my own experiences.

For instance, he talked a few times about the ego fighting its dissolution, fearing its death and so on. This is a quite common way of talking about it, but it seems clearly inaccurate as well. Really, this fighting seems to be an impression that only arises when there is still a belief in I there.

After the belief in I falls away, the whole process appears different. Now, we see that what appears to be “ego fighting” is just innocent habitual patterns. That is all. There was no ego in the first place, only the appearance of it from an overlay of the idea of I. It was a fiction all along. And the habitual patterns are only experienced as a problem to the extent there is identification with them.

And the belief in the idea of I is equally and completely innocent. It is just there as long as it has to, only as long as there has not been a clear seeing of the nature of what is being inherently absent of any I.


Although less than before, the word “ego” is still used in some teachings, often talked about as something substantial, something that resists change, something that functions as a straitjacket. Even – sometimes – as something that is implicitly or explicitly bad, evil, holding us back, to be overcome, and so on.

Belief in the idea of I

When I look at it, all I find is just a belief in an idea. A belief in the idea of “I”, and placed on something finite – usually part of our human self, or placed on something that is not really finite, but certainly just a segment of what is, the seeing, the witness.

And from this belief comes all the things we associate with “ego”: sense of separation, sense of being an object in the world, resistance, narrowness, self-centeredness, protectiveness, rigidity, stuckness, blind attractions and repulsions, and so on.

Innocent mistake

There is just an innocent and temporary mistake, resulting in a wide range of phenomena in our human lives – most of which creates a sense of drama, and of suffering.

It all comes from an unexamined belief. A core belief, which forms our whole outlook on life and the world, and how we live our lives. I does have dramatic consequences. But it is still an innocent mistake. And not even a mistake, it just is. It is part of being human today, and has been for generations.

Falling away

As soon as we see through this belief, as soon as we realize that no phenomena – no segment of what is, has any inherent “I” in it, then we drop it as a hot coal as some say. There is no struggle. Nothing to resist. Nothing to fight. Only the seeing of it. Then the rest happens on its own.


Before this happens, here is a habitual sense of self, and it is unexamined. It seems very real, very substantial. I believe in the idea of “I” and place it on some parts of this human self. I am an object in the world. I am here, everything else is out there. From this, the whole human drama is created and plays itself out.

Then, there is an intuition of selflessness, a hunch, a glimpse, a taste of it. And we cannot really believe in it any longer, although the vague habitual sense of self may still hang around for a while. It is a habitual pattern, after all. Here, when I look I find myself as that in which the whole world of phenomena plays itself out, including my human self.

Finally, after more exploring, more glimpses, more tastes, it shifts and comes into the foreground. Now, there is no doubt, no question, nothing more to explore. It is clear. There is no “I” inherent in any forms, no “I” in any phenomena, no “I” to be placed anywhere. There is just what is, with no “I” anywhere. Just the field of what is. Just the groundless ground, forming itself into these myriads of temporary forms – this human self, these sensations, feelings, emotions, thoughts, focus, awareness, and this world, these trees, buildings, cars, people, plants, clouds, stars, galaxies.


The term “ego” is sometimes used in a way that could be a little confusing.

To me, it seems that it refers to awareness (consciousness) identified with the small self. It is completely caught up in the processes of the small self – the habitual patterns of emotions, thoughts and behaviors. Outer situations trigger habitual responses, and awareness has no choice but to either fuel these or try to push them away. It is exhausting, and leads to a good deal of suffering.

When awareness first awaken to its own nature – as awareness empty of characteristics – the pattern can begin to soften and dissolve. From here, there will be an oscillation where awareness is sometimes caught up in the habitual processes of the small self, and sometimes resting in its own nature – allowing experiences to arise without needing to fuel or push them away. If this is made into a practice, there will be a gradual movement away from the first (caught up in small self) and towards the second (resting in its own nature).

In the gradual process, this process leads to a sense of Big Mind (embracing the absolute and relative), and glimpses and then a more stable awakening of awareness as Big Mind. The full blown experience may also be called Cosmic Consciousness (the universe is consciousness, and I am that consciousness).

Gradually, the “ego” is dissolved. Awareness is no longer exclusively identified with the small self, although it may occasionally – at some times and some situations – be caught up in the processes of the small self (maybe especially in areas where there is still healing needed). This temporary contraction can also be held within the nature of awareness. It is a good opportunity to remind ourselves of humility and of not needing to protect or justify anything. It is what it is.

Footnote: Even after an awakening into Big Mind, awareness may still be blindly identified with aspects of the small self. In short, there is a belief in a thought. In this case, situations that do not correspond with the belief will trigger a contraction, which leads to suffering. There may also be a certain rigidity around it, one-sidedness in view, a need for justification, something (an idea) to protect, and possibly shame and guilt. This will tend to appear unhealthy, even from a conventional view. Any of these is a reminder to look at what is going on. Where am I stuck? What thought do I believe in?