You may know by now that I don’t think the ego is the demon most people make it out to be. In fact, I’m not a big fan, in general, of making distinctions between the various aspects of self as separate entities.
When we make these distinctions, we bring judgment to who we are, and then label some aspects of ourselves as good/desirable and some as bad/undesirable. The good usually being the spiritual and the bad being the ego.
When we literalize distinctions between the spiritual and the ego, we miss the sacred that is everywhere. And we miss the epic adventure of becoming whole.
And this is what I want to talk about today.
If a man meets a woman who affirms him as a man, where he feels strengthened in the essence of who he is, that man may reject the feeling as arising from ego. This is what can happen in a “parts and pieces” mentality.
But when such notions are dropped, when everything is engaged from a deep sacredness, the truth of our divinity can be discovered and fed in our interactions. Our deep longings, what we might label as ego-needs, can be seen for what they ultimately are – a yearning for wholeness.
The ego, in fact, is very often the first sign-post of our yearning. And it can be a doorway into the sacred in ourselves and in others if we allow it.
Ego can anchor us in something we are not conscious or “evolved” enough to pursue without it because the desires it elicits almost always have roots in a spiritual need. By following the ego’s lead, with awareness and heart, it can take us to sacred places.
In the case of the man being affirmed in his masculine – if a degree of love is present with this then the nourishment that comes from this (ego) affirming can lead him through the trail of his wounds, of his false identities, to the deeper essence of the cosmic masculine within. It can reveal to him the very nature of who he is as an embodiment of something greater than his current identity which, ironically, can lead to a self-identity that is not ruled by ego.
Another example: The desire to “look good” in some way can lead us to higher vibration foods and exercise and cleaner living. These things, though motivated by “vanity”, actually elevate the quality of our life and health, eliminating imbalances that enable us to show-up more fully in our lives.
The ego anchors us in desires that can actually be very good for us if we would stop tripping out on it being some evil thing. It can be an incredible tool for improvement and growth if we engage it with intention and curiosity.
The suspicion with which we view the ego means we live with a sense of not trusting some part of ourselves. This leads to inner-conflict because we are then monitoring ourselves rather than living from a trust that would pull us into our bigger truth.
Resisting the ego is, itself, based on a falsehood. That falsehood being separation. We bring that lie into our very notions of ourselves and slice and dice up our own wholeness. Then we must wrestle with the pieces we create and try and make sure the parts we prefer are surfaced and the parts we judge are eliminated or suppressed. We create a war within ourselves under the premise of seeking peace or enlightenment.
If we make the assumption we are whole and complete as we are, we can then begin to engage that wholeness more effectively, with less struggle.
The problem is that when we do this we risk encountering what we really long for – what our deep ache is. And this deep ache rarely fits in the tidy box of a career and marriage and paying bills and going to dinner parties.
When we go outside of the parts and pieces model within ourselves, the segmentation of our lives becomes less tolerable. And this is quite threatening to the more mundane reality of the world in which we live.
As we engage wholeness, love, which is what enables us to be whole, begins to inform our consciousness. And pretty soon we lose the ability to find the same meaning in our lives as before. And this threatens the bonds we have formed based on shared meaning and it threatens the way we strive because what drives our seeking begins to change.
When we stop separating ourselves into compartments, we begin to both lose and find ourselves.
What happens is that the essence of who we are begins to surface. The parts of ourselves that hide behind the masks our various roles afford us begin to coalesce, begin to come together, and we grow too big for any of our masks to conceal – we start to spill out of the very containers we have unknowingly constructed. It can be pretty disorienting.
The great risk of this happening is that we will be seen. And the great risk of being seen is two-fold:
- Our fear is terrified that in being seen we will be rejected or not loved and lose everything we have worked hard for and invested in
- That those around us will not be big enough for the truth of our whole self and our lives will fundamentally change – and we imagine it will change for the worse
The urge of the small self is to fight this. By small self I do not mean ego. I mean the self that was, the self that has not lived as an integral whole. Because we look through the eyes of this self and the wisdom to come cannot yet inform what we see, because we are not yet that person.
There is a transition we must go through – a hallway of hell – where we leave what we know, what no longer serves our becoming, to become something we cannot imagine. It is terrifying.
So terrifying that no one in their right mind would knowingly choose to do it. That’s why love makes us crazy, so we can become what we need to be without the interference of our rational mind telling us that we should remain the same.
The truth is that in claiming our wholeness, in letting go of judging and rejecting parts of ourselves, we begin to encounter needs we did not know we had. We begin to encounter parts of ourselves that have gone un-nourished for years, we begin to discover our dark corners, our pain, and our power.
Our society is not built to accommodate such things. And we then we must face the great tension of being caught between worlds.
The small self says that if we pursue the deep longing that we will lose everything. The fact is that things will change. And some things may change so much as to feel lost. That’s why part of the growth we undergo is the ability to make space for becoming: our internal becoming and the becoming of life in response to us.
The path itself prepares us for what lies ahead – we become the person we will need to be who can handle the upheaval our growth will inevitably cause. But our small self does not imagine this – does not trust.
Can you see why it is so convenient to imagine separate parts of the self, like ego and spiritual and body and mind? It’s kind of like a human safety-mechanism to keep us from venturing too far into our truth. Who in their right mind would confront the small and risk being so much bigger than imaginable?
It’s why every culture has myths of the Hero’s Journey – the impossible quest fraught with challenges, with death around every corner, where life itself hangs in the balance.
Wholeness is a hero’s journey. It defies the smallness we have built into our society, our roles, our identities.
For some of us the call to the quest is irresistible. Denying that call is hell but so is answering it. But we cannot un-feel it once it is felt. And what we confront after it awakens a new fire in us can either tear us apart, or it can make us more whole, more fully alive, than we ever imagined.
The quest of wholeness destabilizes the status quo. And communicating with those in our lives who are impacted by our becoming is crucial. Because the urge for wholeness is, ultimately, a spiritual yearning, it exists in the hearts of everyone. So one person’s courageous journey may clear the way for others to more fully embrace their own wholeness.
The journey is tumultuous. And none of us start off as heroes. The risk of claiming our wholeness, daring to not be smaller than we are, that’s how heroes are made. The journey isn’t romantic and it is far from easy. But it is epic.