The way life actually works is that everything happens in consciousness and that our beliefs and thoughts coupled with emotions are literally creative. So, what shows up in the outside world in our respective bubble of experience is a mirror of what is going on inside of each of us in terms of beliefs, thoughts, and emotions.
Everything is safely held in consciousness. Even after we leave this incarnation we will still be a bubble of consciousness with some content, some experience in it. Real peace can only be found in that which is indestructible which is consciousness. And everything is interconnected via consciousness.
But the ego does not see it this way.
The ego thinks that we are separate. The ego thinks that our thoughts do not have an effect on our surroundings. And the ego thinks that what shows up in the outer world is separate from what is going on inside of us. And not only does it assume that the outer world is separate from what is going on inside of us, but it also assumes that the outer world can be threatening to us.
Now, against the threats the ego wants to have some protection. And therefore, it sets up defenses. At the root is usually fear. And that breeds many branches which show up in a variety of ways.
Ego is the part in me which wants to keep me safe. Really, it has only the best of intentions. It thinks that I am a separate being in world which is full of randomly moving separate objects and people who could endanger me. And it tries its best strategies to cope with that situation.
Ken Wapnick, the famous ACIM teacher, said that the ego is a “maladaptive solution to a non-existent problem”.
The wolf in sheep’s clothing
One important thing to learn on this journey is how to discern when a thought is from the higher self vs when it is from ego. Now ego is easy to discern when it shows up like fear or judgment. But what makes it challenging is that ego can show up as a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Ego can show up as over-responsibility which at first glance feels like it comes from love, but underneath that could be looking for an acceptable excuse for not going forward with life in more alignment to the soul.
Ego can show up as an overly controlling and coercing behavior, for example, on children which at first glance looks like parental love. But what it really might be is fear that if the children do not conform to society’s expectations, they will end up poor and will not be able to sustain themselves later.
Ego can show up as procrastination or as confusion. When I know I have to sit down and write the next blogpost, but writing takes a bit of effort and feels uncomfortable, and suddenly I feel the inexplicable, strong urge to tidy up my living room instead of writing – that bout of procrastinational cleaning urge is from ego. It is just masked as something acceptable. Sure, the cleaning and tidying up might be necessary because my mother in law is about to visit us and then it should be clean, right? Aah, it is hard to spot ego and even harder to discuss with it.
I didn’t mean to imply that any sign of responsible, parentally caring, house-cleaning behavior is caused by ego. But it could be.
It is important to look not so much at what is done but why it is done. What is the real underlying motivation? Do I clean my house because I like my MIL and want her to have a good experience when she visits us? Or do I do it because I am afraid that she might judge us if the house is dirty? Or do I clean the house because I need an excuse for not sitting down and writing another blogpost? Because even though cleaning the house is no fun, writing a blogpost about ego is even less fun, and therefore cleaning the house would be the easier choice at the moment.
The same investigation of the underlying motivation can be done for any other choice, of course. When someone does excessive physical exercise, for example, is that because they do it because they just love the act of exercising? Or is it because they want to be very slim and muscular? Is being in very good physical shape important to their self-image? I remember that Adyashanti shared that being able to ride his bike very fast was part of his self-image. And how life weaned him from keeping up this self-image by repeated mysterious sicknesses which caused him to be unable to train as hard as before.
So, it comes down to the underlying motivation for things, and discernment and remaining vigilant is important on this journey.