EGO 1 - What is ego?

I want to talk about ego, and whether or not it is real. This will be a series of articles. First, we'll discuss 'What Is Ego?'
In the next article we'll talk about the implications - namely, that much of the spiritual 'work' that many people do and have done (including myself) for many years, is almost a waste of time.
It's a complex subject, so I will try to keep it as simple as I possibly can. I also want to keep it interesting, so that you stay with me to the end!

The reason I want to write about this now is that I see so many people struggling with what they think is ego - so many people get caught up in the idea that we have an ego, and that we have to 'conquer' it, and that it's difficult. This is simply giving power to the thing which they think are fighting with!
My belief is that the ego is nothing. It doesn't exist. It's not real. It's just a mistaken belief that we get caught up in, and because we get caught up in it, we fight it, and the more we fight it, the more real it seems... like being caught in a net - the more you struggle, the more you get caught up...

I was prompted to write this by a discussion on Simon Rose's blog. ( Simon is the creator of Reference Point Therapy - the alternative healing method )

First I want to define ego. What exactly IS ego?
Ego is that which we identify with - what we think of as 'I'.
So when I say:
"I am Ben", or "I am an Englishman", or "I am a man", it's my ego speaking.
Let me explain...
Of course my name is Ben. It's what people call me, it's what I call myself. But AM I BEN? Is that really what I am? Or am I much more than the label?

Of course my body was born in England - my Mother gave birth to me there. But am I right in labelling myself as English? Of course legally, my passport, my background etc... all makes me English to an extent. But surely my true nationality, if I look at the 'BIG PICTURE', is not so easy to define.
For example, I have lived in many countries. At the moment, I live in Slovenia. Why should I not say I am Slovene.
Or why should I not simply say, "I am an Earthling"... 
Because by stating that I am English, I cut myself off, I make myself different from all people who are not English. And this has been a big problem in the past - this issue of nationality has caused wars!

And if I say "I am a man" - even this statement is not wholly accurate. Biologically, I am of course a man. But biology is only one aspect of me. Body is nothing without emotions, thoughts, instincts, deeper feelings, intuition, reasoning, senses... and so on. Every man has feminine aspects - and every woman has a masculine side to her. So it would be more accurate to state:
"I have a male body", or better still - "in this lifetime, I have a male body".

So the ego is what we think we are when we stop simply being. When we allow our attention to be distracted from our full being, we start thinking, and then the ego arises.

In reality, there is no ego. The ego is just what we THINK we are. What we THINK we are is not real - not really what we ARE. Because when we think, we stop being fully present - and reality; being; is only in the present.

Let me clarify this:
Thinking happens in the neocortex - the part of our brain that analyses. The part of the brain that compares. So when I think of myself as male, I am by implication also thinking of myself as 'not woman'. That is what the neocortex does: it compares and analyses. It views the world in terms of opposites. It cannot do anything else. That is it's nature, what it does.
Animals and small children (look at the picture!) don't have much ego - why? Because their neocortex isn't fully formed yet.

The present moment has no opposite. What is the opposite of NOW?...
Got it? THERE IS NO OPPOSITE OF NOW! Therefore the neocortex, the part of us that compares opposites, cannot grasp the present moment. The best it can come up with is past and future. So the neocortex is constantly analyzing our experience in terms of time.

What we truly are is timeless awareness. Consciousness. PURE BEING.
We experience this BEINGNESS ( a wonderful word I learnt from Simon Rose, who learnt it from Soleira Green ) fully only when we are living in balance. Only when we are completely 'real': centered in our body; emotionally present; and not caught up in the analytical processes of the 'head', but simply allowing it to do what it does... process information, like a computer.

This is what all the great masters describe: living in the present moment, feeling in balance with the environment, being spontaneously joyful. It's what is known as an enlightened state.

I believe that enlightenment is the natural state of no-ego. When we are completely at one with ourselves, we lose that sense of 'I'-ness. We become fully present, and we stop thinking of ourselves as this or that... we just experience, and that experience is what we are. That experience is what we really, truly are. Not what we think we are, but what we truly are. So we are all already enlightened - we just lose sight of it sometimes, because we think about what we are, and identify with that - ego!!

The great spiritual teacher Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj (whose incredible talks in the book 'I Am That'), said:
"Wisdom is knowing I am nothing.
Love is knowing I am everything.
In between the two my life moves."

Wisdom is knowing I am nothing.
Love is knowing I am everything.
How beautiful.

Ego is thinking I am something.

When we let go of the idea of what we are (which is really based on our past experiences - ie - what we were), we are free to really BE. We are also free to become more than that past idea.
That 'beingness'; that state of awareness at the heart of our existence, is REAL.
The ego is not: the ego is just an illusion.

Part 2: http://benralston.blogspot.com/2010/06/ego-2-dont-fight-it.html


Anonymous said...

Hi Ben, great read thxu. I agree with BEingness as you language it. Question though - if what you are referring to as 'ego' as not real. What do you call your point of attraction as the physical extension of source? Cheers sus

Unknown said...

Hi Sus!
Thank you for taking the time to comment...
I'm not sure I understand your question though: "What do you call your point of attraction as the physical extension of source?"
I feel that you are bringing up a good point - namely, that if ego is not real, then what IS it that we are identifying so strongly with? Because undeniably it feels very real! Is that the gist of your question?

Anonymous said...

Hi Ben, I really like your post on sexual abuse healing. Absolutely superb. Apologise not clear. I am in agreement don't need to 'undo ego ', 'shift it', do something with it, etc... Irrelevant in my view. But what I don't understand is What do you call your 'point of attraction'? In my view we are both physical and non-physical at same time, NOW. So I language this as physical extension of source. By 'point of attraction' in this physical dimension I am referring to universal law of attraction - like vibration attracts like vibration.

Did I make it clearer or more muddled?
Cheers sus

Unknown said...

I still don't completely understand you Sus! But I'm getting there... :)

I believe that our essence (what you call source?) is pure awareness / consciousness. It is absolute.
But that awareness is expressing itself in our material existence in the shape of our body (and the world around us), so that we are, as you say, both physical and non physical at the same time.
So it is as if we are present at the same time in two different dimensions: which is actually probably just how it is!
As far as the law of attraction goes: as pure awareness, we are able to shape the world around us. Absolute awareness is unlimited. What it is, really, is divinity, God, spirit, universal mother / father... THE CREATOR. So when we talk about the law of attraction, we're really just touching the subject of how we CREATE what we choose. If we are aligned with a certain vibration, we create more of it, whether consciously or sub-consciously. Most people are doing it subconsciously, so that they are often attracting 'stuff' that they wouldn't consciously choose. They are still 'attracting' - creating - but without intention.
Does that answer your question?

Peter said...

Hi Ben,
I love your explanation.
"I believe that enlightenment is the natural state of no-ego" fully agree. That means to "become" (there`s nothing to achive or to reach) enlighted the ego must die. This is the only real death you can die in the life.
I also agree that the ego is not real but on the levels of conciousness below enlightment it is subjective "real" for almost (really almost, I think actual there are 39 enlighted people on earth) all of us. I also would not underestimate the ego. It´s clever.
Here are a quote from Hawkins about the ego:
"# Ego is the persistence of animal instinct from an earlier part of the brain. The frontal cortex emerged later and allows thinking. However, the thinking is then used for animal goals.
# We now have rivalry and the quest for domination via the intellect, rather than teeth, claws, etc.
# Man is addicted to the payoffs of being right, blaming others, twisting the knife.
# He must be willing to surrender these payoffs if he wants to get beyond the ego.
# Most would rather enjoy hating someone than to give it all up.
# See the ego as your pet. Befriend and understand it."
Maybe I intellectualize this to much. I'm looking forward to your opinion.
Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Hi Ben, oh dear... I am really not great at articulation. Thankyou for your effort though. Appreciated. unfortunately, in my read your reply is exactly what I was saying. So I remain wondering, what does Ben call his "point of attraction"? Pure essence? Cheers sus

Unknown said...

I still don't really understand the language you are using...
I think if you want me to be able to answer your question you'll have to reword it a little more simply.
"point of attraction" doesn't really mean anything to me!
With love, Ben

Unknown said...

Hi Peter, thank you so much for communicating!

I totally agree with everything you say apart from:
"# Ego is the persistence of animal instinct from an earlier part of the brain. The frontal cortex emerged later and allows thinking. However, the thinking is then used for animal goals.

I have always thought that animals are free of ego - instinct and ego are almost opposite I think! I believe that ego arose with the frontal cortex.
When you hurt a dog, it can react instinctively - it can try to defend itself. But it doesn't bear a grudge. It's forgiveness is absolute! To me this demonstrates the point perfectly - the ego takes things personally. Animals never do.
Thanks for making me think more deeply than my brain usually would!!
With love, Ben

Peter said...

Hi Ben,
pleasure to discuss with you.
I know nothing about the brain stuff. I personally think the ego has not really a physical place it´s more formless.
Animals had no inner source of energy like plants. So the surival depends on getting energy from outside. This leads to the core nature of ego: self-interest, acquisition and fight for surival. But this also leads to searching and curiosity. Later the surival mechanism was supported by intelligence. So it´s was possible to get, save, process, compare, categories information. So I would say yes they have a ego. A dog is a good example. It´s a animal who has a advanced level of consciousness where qualitys like maternal welfare and loyality to the flock appear. But there are also more predatory animals like snakes, sharks, reptile and so on.
I think this is the same core that leads us to wantingness and to search something in the outside like you cleary pointed out in your newest post about happiness. In truth we have all what we need inside us.

Unknown said...

Thanks Peter,

"In truth we have all what we need inside us."

Yep. Nothing else really matters :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Ben, sure, I acknowledge your patience. When you say "aligned to a vibration we attract more", totally agree. What you call the piece of you that is aligning to the vibration at any moment in time? I call that the point of attraction. Focus point in the moment. Help? Cheers

Anonymous said...

Hi Ben, or said another way "what IS it that is attracting in this physical dimension moment to moment"? Cheers sus

Unknown said...

Aha, got it Sus!
There is nothing doing the attracting.
We simply ARE a certain vibration, and our BEING manifests more of itself. It seems like attraction - hence the name 'law of attraction'... but really what is happening is just called LIFE. The creative power that I call consciousness is forever doing what it does - creating.
Attraction is between two separate entities right? Well, that means DUALITY. Duality comes from ego - the neocortex thinking "I am so and so... and that other THING out there, is attracted". But in reality, beyond the duality of ego there is only oneness. So no attraction. Just creation.

Anonymous said...

Great. That perspective of "no point" resonates. My being is creating. I will ponder distinction creation v attraction.

My instinct says we do both, us beings. Everything is creation. resonance is my preferred word to attracting as for me helps convey the tuning of radio dial, or tuning of a piano using tuning fork. In both visuals you can either use attach or resonate. For example - tuning fork has a resonance, and tune the piano key to the fork. The tuning fork "attracts" the sound as the key moves to it's vibration rather than tuning fork moves to piano key vibration.

Part of creation process,
1 expand out (beingness)
2 call it into being (after I've called it into being... still vibrationally),
3 ignite it (like a match spark)
4 broadcast it (flow out thru collective consciousness)
and this is where I feel I am resonating it out, calling resonate beings, means, resources (law of attraction)
5 nuture it, soleira says dance with it. Do like that !!

I will perculoate though. Thankyou for causing that!!
Cheerio sus

Anonymous said...

Sorry about typo glitch above. I meant to say 'attract' not 'attach' in above post.
So I think maybe we see "attraction" quiet differently. I see duality simply nothing more than end points on our spectrum to choose. Like ego, duality, polarity concepts in the "trash bin", like on my iPhone. As I feel they limit us. Many have called me idealistic or simplistic. But eh!! works for me. for me I rather see it as we have contrast, a buffet table to INSPIRE us to create from.
Much appreciation for eChat. Cheers sus

Anonymous said...

Thank you Ben for the enlightenment. I have joined and participated in BlogCatalog much more deeply here recently and have come to think about you and the yearning to read your posts. This one I have really become interested in. As I read, I feel a strange 'melding' in my head. I generally feel this when I read something that is truly educational. Brain food if you will. Not just any education but education about me for my brain.

I have a blog and I am sure I will be using your name and posts as a point of reference as I explore your teachings more. I do not feel like putting my site name up here is quite appropriate because I do not want anyone to think I am just blowing smoke to shamelessly plug my site. I have people do that on mine. People are getting creative with their spam. I do not want to be one of them.

I will reach out to you again on BC. And give you link to what I have wrote. For possibly your enjoyment and for your opinion and possibly accuracy.


Ly0nTurtl3 said...

Most excellent description of Ego, informative (brain food) AND fascinating (brain entertainment)!

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