Egotistical action exists within a thought-based framework. We can’t try to dress in an attractive manner for a date unless our society has created some definitions for what ‘attractive’ or ‘stylish’ clothing is.
But the ego-world is a dualistic one, so if there’s a way something ‘should’ be, then there’s also a way it ‘shouldn’t’ be. And if we end up wearing that, or spilling something on our nice outfit and creating a look our society deems as ‘failed,’ then unless we have a date that can see past appearances, we will experience psychological pain.
It’s important to keep in mind that while our thoughts feel horrible sometimes, these are still nothing more than electrical signals in our brains. We’re comparing what we wanted to what we got and falling into the gap hurts. But those feelings will pass, if for no other reason than because our brain eventually needs us to do things to stay alive, like eat or sleep. We have a natural reset button.
The difference between a rewarding pursuit for our soul and an adventure for our ego is that the latter provides psychological gains. We feel good via our thinking –our ongoing approval.
It’s why we always love a new car more at the start. We’re telling ourselves how much we love it more when we first get it. Later we’re just thinking about the skinny guy in the hat that just cut us off, so we feel anger rather than pride. It all depends on where our minds are.
When we do things with our soul, we aren’t driven by externals like what’s acceptable or admirable. We’re following a through-line inside of us.
I’ve played in bands with fantastic guitar players. No parent could make a kid practice that much in Jr. High and High School. That has to come from inside. I also encountered a guy who loved his job rendering chickens. But he went to work with many of his closest friends and he loved going each morning.
When we hate our jobs, it’s because we live there in ego, doing ego-related things and the creating gains that exist only on another thought-based framework. It’s why a stock broker can make a fortune but end up hooked on drugs.
When we love our lives we go toward them for a reason that’s inside us. These are things we would struggle to do when we’re poor, and still do even if we’re rich. They are things we do not want to be distracted from.
Living in a strictly thought-based world is not natural for us. We’ve only been able to create thought-based frameworks since the advent of language. In human existence, the ego is pretty new. So when it leads to suffering, it makes sense that we get confused.
Painful thinking is like we have our hand on a hot stove, and to try to stop it from burning we work on unplugging the electricity or cutting off the gas rather than just removing our hand. When we suffer like that we’re pushed towards either distraction or pleasure, but these are very distinct from being content and feeling joy.
Distraction and pleasure are things like unhealthy amounts of alcohol, drugs, binge-watching, phone addictions, masturbation, jogging, working out, you name it. We’re literally just distracting our thoughts for a while because there’s a part of us that senses that’s what’s bothering us.
If we can’t distract ourselves, then, rather than ceasing to create those thoughts, we instead create another layer to fight with them. We call that our ‘conscience,’ but all it can do is repeat itself because it can’t make us do anything without our soul behind us.
If our conscience really worked on its own, everyone would be successful with their New Year’s Resolutions and we all know that isn’t happening.
If our lives are filled with distraction and pleasure, then we can benefit by looking at what we were seeking to avoid immediately before taking up those alternate activities. Once we find the source, we should investigate the logic of our ego’s psyche. We should trace the course of our suffering, through our chain of thinking.
Rather than add more thinking by criticizing ourselves for our previous thinking, we are better to understand the course of our thoughts and by accepting their logic, seek peace within instead.
This is why rather than replacing the thinking, we want to practice acceptance so that we can invest our consciousness in the moment instead. And this is why doing truly valuable things is worthwhile.
In a harried, awful day, doing something nice and having someone be genuinely grateful for our actions can knock us out of our thought-based realities and remind us of the beautiful world we live in, in each and every moment.
We should not hate our distractions. Our minds innocently put them there for the best reason it understands. But once we know better, we can use our minds with more wisdom. We can learn to avoid the scrapes and cuts of the thought-based world, and the distractions that only lead to even more suffering.
Instead, we can gratefully accept who we are by simply ceasing our resistant thinking, along with the suffering that goes from being our ego selves. By stepping courageously into our true directions, there still will be pain in our lives. But if we can accept that price as not only fair but rewarding, then the world is prepared to offer us a remarkable life.
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.