12 Simple Keys to Awaken from the Illusion of the Somebody-ness

Our life in this world begins when we are born. It is obvious that we are alive, but we are not yet a personality. At that time only the simplicity and greatness of the present, the existence is known to us. The society, and its culture, is what shapes us into personalities while we grow up. We become a personality when our Ego is born.

This is an inevitable step in the evolution of the Consciousness, so there is nothing wrong with that. The Ego is born, the separate little Self, as a focus of the Consciousness. That little Self obtains experience about itself and the world. In the natural course of evolution and as a result of the experience gathered, the Ego withdraws to give way to the process as a result of which Consciousness awakens to its own existence through a human form. The progress of this evolutionary process can, however, be impeded by an illusion: the illusion that the individual is becoming somebody, a personality.

Here are 12 Keys to Awaken from the Illusion of the Somebody-ness:

Key 1.

We begin to become somebody, a personality, when we start to identify with the Ego, with that separate little Self. Under that illusion we believe that the Ego is a reality, and we are identical with the Ego, and the development of the separate little Self is in fact the foundation of our personal development.

Key 2.

The identification with the Ego will be the root of all our problems and misery.

Key 3.

Our parents and teachers bring us up in the spirit of the permanent endeavors to become somebody, to become a strong personality, to become somebody different from what we are now (to become bigger, more important and better than other people).

Key 4.

That is why we always watch other people and compare and measure ourselves to them. All that time, we also try to adjust our actions and deeds to the expectations and opinions of others.

Key 5.

We keep dealing with the past and the future, and we never have sufficient time to stop and notice the immense illusion behind our life.

Key 6.

An illusion may only survive if it is continually fanned and nourished.

Key 7.

If we take a look around through innocent eyes (that is, through eyes free of any kind of opinions) we will soon realize how every society nourishes and fans, through its various institutions, the illusion of the separate little Self, the Ego. How they nourish the illusion of” somebody-ness” in us and in everybody else.

Key 8.

All that may take place because every society, every culture is based upon individuals, and if those individuals disappear, they wake up from their ”somebody-ness,” and the former modus operandi of that society collapses.

Key 9.

If we stop nourishing the illusion, it will vanish after a while.  In order to severe the power line of the illusion, we must learn how to notice the vividness and beauty of the present moment.

Key 10.

Once we are able to accept the present moment, we are able to accept ourselves and we are able to enjoy the simplicity, tranquility and peace of Existence.

Key 11.

We must therefore wake up from the illusion of our” somebody-ness” in order to concentrate our attention on reality. That reality is nothing but the innermost empirical fact in our life, that is, the fact that we live, and we constitute a vibrating Consciousness, full of life.

Key 12.

The Ego and the experience of” somebody-ness” then disappear, and we remain nothing but pure, vibrating energy, Life itself.

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Ego Death

Waking up is an endless losing what you think you know, like a wave of destruction that leaves nothing, but what is true. —Unmani

Death is a word that we humans usually associate with darkness, mourning, decay and general creepiness. We spend our entire lives running away from, avoiding and denying the fact that we will someday physically die.

However, the death that I’ll be talking about in this article isn’t the typical kind of death we fear.The death I’ll be referring to is the most beautiful, precious, illuminating, awe-inspiring, expansive, enlightening and paradigm-shattering experience you could ever go through. This experience is known as “ego death,” and for every serious spiritual seeker, it is a pivotal process to go through.

WHAT IS THE EGO?

In order to understand what ego death is, we must first understand what the ego is.

As we elaborated on in the article “What is the Ego?” the ego is basically our sense of self or our identity. The ego is a biological and spiritual tool that was created by and defends the belief that, we are all separate “individual” entities.

 As a result of believing that we are separate and isolated in this life, we suffer immensely. The ego perceives life through the lens of duality. Duality is the opposite of reality — it is the division of life into opposing forces such as love/hate, good/bad, right/wrong and holy/sinful.

When we divide life, we suffer. The result of the dualistic ego is judgment, hatred, condemnation, and alienation. While we accept some things, we reject other things. While we love some people, we hate other people. Instead of unconditionally accepting life in its wholeness, we segregate it into “acceptable” and “unacceptable” experiences, people, beliefs, thoughts, and emotions. Thus, we suffer.

As a result of our perceived separation from Spirit, and the duality lens we see life through, we also begin to reject ourselves. Any thought, feeling, sensation, experience or belief we have that is judged to be “bad,” “unacceptable” or “wrong” we suppress, avoid and deny. As a result of this repression, we fuel our Shadow Selves which become more twisted, angry and perverted the more we “lock” away.

The product of living through the ego can be observed in our world very clearly. The depression, anxiety, mental illness, murder, hatred, greed, poverty, war and environmental destruction we experience is all a reflection of our internal suffering. Our internal suffering is solely the product of the ego that believes it is separate from others and life itself.

WHAT IS EGO DEATH?

Ego death is the experience of transcending the ego, self or identity. This experience is the most mind-bending, awakening, awe-inspiring, peaceful and unconditionally loving experience you could ever have. Ego death is essentially an experience of embodying your True Nature completely (or returning back to who you really are), temporarily.

However, while the experience of ego death is indescribably beautiful, it can also be indescribably horrific for those who are not aware of the spiritual path, and for those who resist the actual experience.

Those who report ego death generally fall into two groups: those who found the experience illuminating, and those who found the experience tormenting. I have experienced both states of pure ecstasy and pure horror.

If you are familiar with the psychonaut community (a collection of people who use psychedelic substances to access higher states of being), you would have heard of many “ego death” experiences. This is because shamanic plants such as ayahuasca, DMT, and psilocybin mushrooms are powerful gateways to the Divine experience. Psychedelic explorers Dennis and Terence McKenna (who referred to themselves as the “Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss”) often mentioned the state of pure awe and also terror experienced in the face of ego death. However, as Terence McKenna once said, the abyss must be approach with courage, because only then can you discover that the fear is an illusion:

Nature loves courage. You make the commitment and nature will respond to that commitment by removing impossible obstacles. Dream the impossible dream and the world will not grind you under, it will lift you up. This is the trick. This is what all these teachers and philosophers who really counted, who really touched the alchemical gold, this is what they understood. This is the shamanic dance in the waterfall. This is how magic is done. By hurling yourself into the abyss and discovering its a feather bed.

Ego death can feel scary because it is the ultimate threat to the ego: complete destruction, if only for a minute. As a defense mechanism, the ego creates intense fear. However, in order to progress on our spiritual paths, we must understand the role of this fear, be mindful of it, and not permit it to limit us.

7 STAGES OF EGO DEATH

Ego death happens in stages, and if courageously pursued, results in the experience of Nirvana, Oneness or Enlightenment.

While ego death is not formulaic or necessarily predictable, it does tend to follow a pattern:

STAGE 1 — SPIRITUAL AWAKENING

In the first stage of ego death, we begin to “wake up” to life. Our process of spiritual awakening might be triggered by a life crisis, a tragedy, a chronic illness, or simply the natural process of soulful maturing. When we experience a spiritual awakening, we begin to search for more depth in life. Often, we ask big questions such as “what is my purpose?” “what is the meaning of life?” and “what happens after death?”  Spiritual awakenings are triggered by the sensation that something profound is missing in life, and are accompanied by the feelings of depression and anxiety.

STAGE 2 — THE DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL

The Dark Night of the Soul is inseparable from the spiritual awakening process. When we experience the Dark Night, we become extremely conscious of our separation from ourselves, other people and the Divine. The Dark Night of the Soul is a period when we feel utterly lost, lonely and isolated from others. It is the accumulation or culmination of our suffering. Deep down, we know something has to drastically change in our life, but we don’t know what or where to look.

STAGE 3 — THE SPIRITUAL SEEKER

Eventually, after experiencing a spiritual awakening and Dark Night of the Soul, we stumble into the field of spirituality. We start experimenting with different spiritual practices and find that some alleviate our suffering. We become obsessed with reducing the suffering we have been carrying and explore many different fields such as energy healing, zen, yoga, astrology, mysticism, etc.

STAGE 4 — SATORI

The word “Satori” is a Zen Buddhist word that means “momentary enlightenment.” Satori is a small glimpse into your True Nature, or Consciousness itself; a moment when your ego is completely shed. For some, this experience is scary, and spiritual growth stagnates, for others, it is deeply life-changing and spiritual growth continues.

STAGE 5 — THE ELDER SOUL

After a certain period of time, we begin to develop spiritual discernment. We discover the gimmicks and spiritual bypassing practices that keep us trapped in the cycle of pain, fear, and separation, and learn practices that open us to the Divine. As we begin to experience more and more soulful maturity, we learn the virtues of self-discipline, patience, and focus.

STAGE 6 — DISSOLUTION AND DECONSTRUCTION

In this stage, we begin to surrender all that we are not. This stage is not just about identifying our destructive and limiting beliefs and behavior patterns, but actually letting them go and letting the light in. Grace, discipline, trust, courage, non-attachment and love all play an important role in this process.

STAGE 7 — THE END OF THE SEARCH

Finally, we come to a stop. We realize that all that we are, and all that we need, can be found right Now. The search to become something, to lose something, to find something and to accomplish something perish. We see through the illusion of looking for truth, joy, peace and love in any place outside of ourselves. We see the Truth That We Are mirrored in all beings and all things. While the ego still exists, we become aware of the ego as simply a tool; not the Truth of Who We Are. Transcending duality and the grip of the ego, we develop unconditional love and acceptance for all things. This is the state of ultimate peace, freedom and what people refer to as “enlightenment,” yet those who experience this know that no possible label or mental construct can encapsulate such an experience. 

Ego death is a serious, purging, profound, and shattering experience. It is so deep and so beyond anything we have experienced in this life, that it changes your perception of existence in a single moment.

I hope these “stages” have helped you to understand it better.

Finally, I’ll leave you with a beautiful quote to ponder about death itself:

Death is a stripping away of all that is not you. The secret of life is to die before you die — and find that there is no death. — Eckhart Tolle

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Has Spirituality become another Egotistical Identity?

Spirituality in the West has been severely distorted; being a marketplace of trinkets, self-help gurus, healers, a huge variety of spiritual practices, substances and so on.

Somehow this culture has taken something very pure and simple and turned it in to something commercial, something competitive and into that which it is not. Our western mind is molded into wanting to attain something and some people on the spiritual path have spent their entire lives trying to attain, only to be as stuck and bound as they ever were.

It’s this very desire to attain something, this wanting to reach a ‘higher state of consciousness’, which is what keeps people bound and seeking. By definition, to be a seeker, you have not yet sought, and therefore those who are always seeking do not find. One of the great Tibetan Buddhists Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche who played a crucial role in bringing Buddhist teachings to the West during the Chinese occupation has this summary to say about awakening/meditation/enlightenment in Meditation in Action:

“Meditation is based on three fundamental factors: first, not centralizing inward; second, not having any longing to become higher; and third, becoming completely identified with here and now.”

So in context with the rest of the chapter this is in, he is referring to our ego, or our idea of who we are, the “me”, the “I”, has no solidity to it, and not to uphold the belief that it exists. He denounces the striving to become better or higher – as pure consciousness cannot be increased or diminished. Nothing about healing, nothing about crystals or chakras or ascension or needing to strive or to take certain substances… just to be.

Enlightenment

It’s a funny word this one, and has so many connotations and ideas surrounding it. In western culture it’s usually thought to be something that one attains after maybe 3 or 4 decades meditating in a cave, but the more I read and the more I journey, the less it seems this word is about reaching higher states or personal attainment.

“Strictly speaking, there are no enlightened people, only enlightened activity.”

This was said by the great Zen master Shunryu Suzuki and I can see how this fits in exactly with what Ram Dass’s Hindi guru Maharaji said to him when asked how to become enlightened. He replied “Love everyone, feed everyone, serve everyone.” How very simple hey? But in today’s mad world, do you know anyone who truly does this?

It seems that enlightenment refers to realizing our true being – what it is that we really are. This is why all the spiritual teachers I’ve come across – from Tibetan Buddhism to Zen to Advaita Vedanta to the Upanishads, usually refer to it as “Self Realization” rather than enlightenment. Finding out that we are not our thinking mind, we are not our body, we are not our emotions, feelings, desires or aversions; that we are aware of all these things, not intrinsically them. They use words like awareness, consciousness, God, the Buddha nature, emptiness and so on. It’s essentially awareness being aware of itself, and seeing as each and every one of us are already this awareness, we are all already “there”, but we have identified ourselves with the things we are aware of (body and mind) and have limited ourselves by doing so, making this the cause of all the suffering in the world. We are used to focusing on external appearances; our body, our intellect, our differences, our beliefs, but the more we turn our attention inward to our own inner workings and that awareness that is always there, we find a depth to our being that is almost scarily profound.

So this is not something that we can attain – which is hard for the western mind to comprehend, because it is so conditioned to attain. It always wants to one-up others, to be on a pedestal, to be seen, to be higher, but it is this very egocentric behavior that keeps people bound. This is why anyone who refers to themselves as being enlightened, you can rest assured that they are not; and usually when the great spiritual teachers are asked whether they are, they will dodge the question.

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche once said in one of his talks “So you’re enlightened… what now?” He was poking fun at the western worlds way of wanting to attain and become a higher or better person, but practically in everyday life what does that mean for us? Do we shut ourselves away in a dark room meditating all day? Do we walk around with our chest puffed out, our groupies and our inflated ego? This is where for me, it comes back to what Maharaji said. If we act from the place of that realization that we are all the same essence just with our different masks on, then we will treat others as our self, making differences irrelevant and the notion of “other” as inevitably irrelevant too.

“Everywhere I go, I meet myself” Shunryu Suzuki

Surrender

The underlying current of most sages and mystics on spirituality is that of surrender; in giving yourself over completely to the whole, to help and heal those in need, and relinquish all desire in furthering our own career/bank account/self-image. We can help so many people, if we just step out of the social norm of progress and work, and stop caring so much as to what others think of us. There are most likely people living on our own street that struggle with bills, food, money, TLC and there are the seniors who could benefit from our youth, the poor who could benefit from our generosity, the lonely who could benefit from our warmth. Do any of these struggling people truly care about how well one can meditate?

It’s very easy to get caught up with the spiritual tag, and use it as a concept, an identity, instead of as a way of being. It’s really easy to get attached to the idea of being spiritual and to identify as one of the many labels out there from “indigo child” to “lightworker”, which really only separates us in another form from our fellow humans, as it’s a way of raising our self to be of supposed higher moral ground and special.

Being spiritual doesn’t mean continuously working on our self in meditation and yoga. That’s the whole point; service to others, ending the suffering and separateness in other beings. Giving and sharing without the need for reciprocation or acknowledgement. If a hand feeds a mouth, does it matter to whom they belong to? The best way it seems to attenuate the ego, to surrender and release ourselves of attraction and aversion is to serve others. Not to worry about gaining all these amazing experiences, communing with angels, seeing in different dimensions or raising ourselves on the meditation pedestal. Surrender ourselves and serve others.

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