Disidentification Between Being And Ego
I read and read Eckhart Tolle over years and many times over. The teaching is always some simple and, yet, I felt compelled to re-read 30–40–50 times to really ‘get’ it -and of course you never really get it because the concepts are only pointers to an experience and never a mental object that you can hold and contend with.
Maybe the most prominent part of the whole teaching was this: learn to disidentify with ego.
For people who meditate or read a lot of Easter philosophy, the idea of the ego as the enemy or something to ‘get rid of’ prevails. But this often leads to confusion, frustration and just straight out struggle. Why? Because you can’t really get rid of ego, you can only disidentify with it. And once you disidentify with it, it existing ceases to be a problem.
If you want to define the ego, we could say it’s the mental abstraction of who you are as it relates to other or even as you relate with yourself. The thought of yourself. It is time-bound because composed of memories, past life situations, emotions that were not acknowledged or made conscious, relationships with people, places, situations, etc. It’s also the entity that you project into the future, the things that need to be attained, the status that needs to be reached, the state it should be in or not be in, etc. It’s also a form based entity, as in the idea that we have of our body, birth and death, pleasure and pain, situations that are experienced, etc.
For most people, the above is an accurate description of what one is and they don’t even see a problem or something to get away from to begin with. The entirety of who they are and their mental/emotional/physical energy is focused on keeping that mental concept alive and winning relative to some arbitrary benchmark.
But there absolutely is something more, or something more radical (at the root of things): beingness.
If I’ve lost some people with the above, so be it. But the idea isn’t a voodoo or new-agey perspective. I’m not making a theistic argument or talking about your soul, karma or reincarnation. Just this: you are something beyond the mental ideas that you have of yourself. There is an awareness that is aware of life and exist, regardless of whether there is mental activity going on. Meditators will know that. When you quiet the mind, the activity slows down enough that you have intervals (long or short) of no-thoughts and yet you still are alive, observant, experiencing. It is that that awareness that encompasses your sense perceptions and your mental activity.
There is something that appears trivial but is essential to understand: the awareness isn’t contained in the mental activity and/or the sense perceptions; the awareness contains the mental activity and/or the sense perceptions. Why is it essential? Because the awareness, the beingness that you are and within which or on which thoughts, sounds, feelings, pictures appear, is primordial and exists regardless of the temporary experiences. It is there to witness and relish in the experience but isn’t dependent on the experiences to be.
Taking this further, still: the ego, the mental concepts we hold of ourselves, isn’t the core of the life that we are. Life itself, awareness itself, beingness itself is our essence, is our core, and on top of that the mind adds a layer. But so the illusion or the superficial self is an add-on, a useful/useless/fun/annoying/good/bad concept on top of something that is beyond or that underpins any form (mental or physical).
Liberation comes when, even if only at times and for brief intervals, one can be aware of this reality. It’s not something the ego will understand or be ok with experiencing (as all entities, the ego wants to survive and will do anything to avoid being cut off from the energy that sustains it). But experiencing just shortly that what I am, at my corer, is beingness, is a silent watcher, is awareness that looks at things and not the mental entity that judges, defines, evaluates, feels good/bad/proud/ashamed/etc.
This is disidentification and if makes the ego not into a problem but in what it really is: just a mental concept. Once it’s seen as that, it can be used as it should be, to evolve in society, introduce yourself, go about the activities needed to sustain our physical, emotional, mental needs -but with no illusion that those add anything to what we truly are or that it’ll make us more complete or happy.
Again, like with the section above, the realisation that what we are is life/awareness and not the ego has an amazing effect: things become light. There is a lightness in what happens, in what things ‘mean’ (if they need to ‘mean’ anything at all), there is more harmony, life becomes cooperative, situations that haven’t changed are now seen as good when before they created pain, resentment or worry, or situations do change out of their own accord.
Lastly, there’s also a playfulness that comes into the mix -or maybe it was there all along but was ignored as all the focus were on the ‘problems’ the mind had to fix. When you don’t think of your financial success as important to what you are or your sense of identity, you may still want to pursue financial success but the stakes are much lower and the effort is done for the fun of it or maybe even for the passion of it. You’re playing sports, it’s not meaningful but you’re giving it your all, not because it matters absolutely but because it matters relatively, because it’s fun, because you want to partake in the game, because you want to interact with life (your Self) and experience things, not because there’s a deep sense of lack that you think that success will fill. The same of course could be said about physical fitness, relationship status, social status, and all the other egoic endeavours.