Our sense of flow and psychological health emerges whenever we let go of our resistance to reality. This is why ‘stopping our thinking’ is not in practice the same as ‘being present.’ Our aim is not to defeat the ego, it’s to understand its role in reality.
The concept of ‘defeat’ is itself an ego-based belief. It implies a comparison. But to compare we need two entities, and peace is found by becoming One with all of reality, including our thinking. This is one of the trickiest and most subtle aspects of learning to live a more enlightened life.
What does our ego want? Certainty. Our ego doesn’t play a game, it tries to win. It’s entire focus is to establish certainty in the future. Living in too much ego is the basis of the current crises about anxiousness.
How can we walk around bragging that we could lift more weight, or earn more income, or have a more attractive spouse, or a bigger Box Office, or GDP if we haven’t acquired certainty by winning in some form of comparative measurement? And by accepting that premise, we join in a dance with stress.
We’re happy to have won, but we struggle to compete. That is the up and down of our exalted and tormented emotional lives. Meanwhile, our soul loves it all.
The ego seeks an identity that is defined in direct comparison to others. If I tell someone that I’m the President of the Pacific Ocean, no one holds any doors open for me because no one can recognize the comparison that gives my identity value.
If I tell someone I won The World Cup, or The Stanley Cup or The Superbowl (with the emphasis on ‘The,’ which is an identity), people can appreciate my victory and they will give me freedoms that they will not give me as the leader of a body of water.
This is the ebb and flow of reality. The ego struggles to compete to obtain some identity so that once it has, it can coast downhill for a while. Superbowl champions and box office champions have a lot of doors opened for them. This is why our egos will struggle at the gym to look good when we’re out. We’re competing for attention.
The ego constantly lives in an imagined future where it gets to enjoy the fruits of its labours. We know this imagined future as an attachment, or expectation.
Wanting anything, in the past or future will create suffering. We will need to struggle to pass school, to become mayor, or to win a championship. And yet our spirit lives for the experiences created by our acts of becoming. Our soul does not compete, it plays, it lives, it is. In this way our thriving and our struggle are tied together like yin and yang.
This is the crux of the paradox that comes clear once we understand.
Our soul is the sky, our egocentric thoughts are the weather. The aim of the sky is not to defeat the weather. It is simply to allow it be. Do not struggle as an ego to defeat your thinking. Stand as a witness to it. Our job is less to ‘stop thinking,’ and more to ‘grow aware of the nature of our resistance.’
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.