The only reason we even undertake resolutions is because we’re unsatisfied with ourselves the way you are. We’ve operated under the assumption that we need to improve when in fact we need to understand. Our real self is already beautiful, capable, valuable and worthwhile but our ego doesn’t want to believe that because it’s a wanting machine. When we silently talk to ourselves during the day? That’s our ego. Wanting.
Mental health, clarity and confidence emerge quite naturally when we quieten and disengage from our internal story. That’s why kids are so confident and can learn to walk and talk so fast. Until you can talk to yourself–no ego! So there’s no voice limiting us. We’re brilliant, enlightened and free.
Most people try to stop the negative voices and switch them for positive voices but frankly that’s helpful, but it shouldn’t be seen as our ultimate target. Yes, a positive voice is better than a negative one, but that’s like saying we want a holy ego. That’s not really the ideal to shoot for. Again: we want to understand. And that’s a big thing, so we’re doing it in little pieces.
We’ll start with attacking the credibility of our story. We think we’re talking to ourselves about ourselves but we really aren’t. We are a story telling itself a story, so in no time we’re totally lost inside our own thoughts.
When we first hear that voice in our own heads it’s so startling that as kids most of us tried to ascribe the voice to a toy or an invisible friend. Then, before long, the invisible friend is comfortably living inside us. Worse, your ego soon has roommates. [Insert foreboding music.]
Telling our invisible friend to go away seems like a good idea until we realize that it’s our invisible friend saying that. The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. Rather than argue with our ego, or wrestle it with relentless positivity, we can simply evaporate our ego by being indifferent to it. And we can take a big step toward that today, because we can become much more dismissive of our ego when we realize it’t not really talking to us about ourselves. Which leaves the question, who are we really?
I’ve been teaching people for 25 years that they should ignore their internal story because it’s a lie. Not a little lie. A total lie. We are all complete fictions wrapped around a few facts. We don’t mean for this to happen, but brains are strange things when it comes to interfacing with the complexities of the modern world.
But if we can appreciate how unreliable our own opinions are, are we truly grasping that this is freeing? It would be like if our ego was our child and we just found out that all of the negative school reports about the child’s behaviour came from a chronic liar. In the end we have no idea how good we are unless we’re being someone intentionally.
For now we’ll skip the intentional part and we’ll focus on recognizing the lie. Our identity is only a memory of who we believed we were, just as our worries are our fears about who we might be. But not only do we believe things about yourself that are unfair, we believe things that never even really happened.
If you ever studied this as intensely as I have this is quite obvious. All of us believe all kinds of things about ourselves that aren’t ‘true,’ so how do we know who we need to be if we don’t even know who we are?
Everything I’ve taught eventually sees science find it too because we’re using the same tool –experiments. It’s just no one thinks a a five year old with a head injury would be doing brain and thought research all day because no one else that age spends their entire life thinking about thinking. To me it was like doing a very interesting puzzle.
A scientist from near my home and who now lives in Britain has done what to you may be shocking research. I’ve noted it many times before in this blog, but below is an short video of her explaining how she proved that we really are a fiction. I doubt she has any idea that we’re essentially completely a fiction, but we’ll start with some doubt. That’s actually a pretty decent achievement.
Watch this video and then I’ll give you today’s exercise.
Are you starting to get an inkling of how big and serious this is? Our ego is our history and we have almost no idea what ours –or the world’s– history truly really is.
Why pay attention to a story if we can’t be sure it’s true? Rather than making it go away, why not just ignore it the way we ignore people that we don’t respect? If someone has zero credibility with you are you offended by their insults? No, because you don’t choose to believe those because you don’t trust the source. You have to stop trusting your own ego.
So here’s exercise one: Before the end of the day you and your partner(s) in pursuing peace of mind are going to compete to see who can find the most examples of you making a past belief-shift.
This would be examples where you could say for instance, “I kept wondering what I was doing wrong in my marriage and then I realized I’d innocently married the wrong person,” or “I always thought I was stupid because my Mom said so, but then I had a great teacher who showed me that I had a specific kind of intelligence.” These are when you changed your story.
To be clear, your new story was also a lie, but by recognizing that it’s always changing it’ll feel less powerful and you’ll start to see why some cultures don’t even name your identity. That voice is always an opinion and even that comes from a confused part of us.
Find examples of when you changed from someone into someone else and then use your thinking usefully; to meditate your ego away. Use that close inspection to dissolve the power of the ego because it doesn’t matter who we are today because we clearly can change who we are anyway.
Make a list. Meditate on each example. This is no small thing. This is proof that we are an ever-changing fiction. Make a list. Evaporate our Self. This is step one. I’ll see you tomorrow.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.