What is the actual benefit in daily life that emerges from shifting our understanding regarding the Self? What is gained from moving from the intellectual comprehension of an idea to an actual lived understanding of that concept? It can be surprisingly practical and ordinary.
Our egos can lead us toward very serious repercussions, but in many cases people’s daily lives are destroyed through the death of a thousand psychological cuts. Like the Imperial Chinese form of torture for which the practice is named, a soul can be destroyed by these repetitive, small actions.
We know these cuts as the little internal, verbal attacks on ourselves, our appearance, our life, our job or relationship performance, etc. etc. We also know them as replays of insults given to us any time from two minutes to twenty years ago. That is what our ego is doing with the energy of our being.
What our being can be doing instead is taking the world ‘in’ rather than processing it through a personalized time-delayed veil of thought. An awareness of our two selves can get us out of our narrow, limiting perspective and it can help us see the bigger picture.
Imagine a couple having an argument. Underneath this they are two solid people in love, but this argument will be about some difference they have regarding each other’s ideas about how, or when, or who we’ll do this or that thing with.
Maybe they don’t like this friend, or we hang the toilet paper wrong, or that’s not how we think you cook pasta. Our egos are like little programs, so when they argue they’ll often be repetitive, which is how we get the thousand tiny cuts that can all add up to a broken relationship or divorce.
Now, imagine that, because we’ve left it some percentage of our attention, our spiritual Self notices the repeating nature of those painful slices of ego experience. In this way our spirit can see our ego in action.
If we look closer, we can see our ego has an attachment, and it’s creating an argument to defend that attachment. Then we can start to spot each other person’s desires or problems and we realize that these are those people’s attachments.
As the whole piece of theatre comes into focus, it all seems to make perfect sense even if the fight’s still actively going on via our ego. That’s how we can suffer and not suffer. We can be in the midst of an argument and come to know that our argument will feel silly to us afterwards.
Eventually we start to see how ephemeral our thought, or opinion-based our objectives and objections are. Why argue over two holiday destinations when we can pick a third one both people like? When our spirit gives our ego some wisdom, suddenly we can find the graceful answers.
If we surrender the desires of our individual egos and use greater awareness, and the generosity of our spirit, we can find ways to end arguments where both people are happy. Moreover, that new experience is now part of our ego’s memories, and so over time it gets easier and easier and easier to repeat that better course of action.
Additional benefits to living this way include the fact that, if we have truly seen the ephemeral nature of the disagreement, and how engaging with it created more time spent experiencing negativity, then we are far less inclined to pick that argument up again at a later date. Rather than feeling angry that it was left unfinished, we see the argument itself as a meaningless and we’re grateful to have dropped it when we did.
We also derive physical benefits too, because avoiding conflict also lowers our output of stress hormones. And when interactions are improved, home (or work, or wherever) starts to feel more inviting. That in turn means that gratitude comes more easily, and more gratitude for less fighting means we also get more practice at gratitude too.
How can greater awareness help us? If all we did was take the three most repetitive arguments most couples have, and we reduced them slowly but steadily for one year, most couples would feel their marriages had totally changed and divorce wouldn’t even be in consideration. That’s how practical accessing our wisdom can be.
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own over-thinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.