Posted by: renaissance2wellbeing | July 11, 2010

The Ego and Consciousness (July ’10)

              Gnothi Seauton “Know Thyself”

“Knowing other is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.” Lao Tzu  

This month finishes up our journey to well-being we began in January. It is the second part of understanding the inner self: the ego and consciousness. Reflecting and contemplating on it, gives a better perspective of who we are, and are not. By disidentifying with the body/mind, reveals the authentic Self.  

Therefore, this month we mine deeper through layers of physical matter to our core, the bedrock of our being — our essence, formless consciousness (spirit).   

To find our essence, we must travel upstream to the well-spring of Being — to the source. Only by “knowing yourself” and answering the fundamental question, “Who AM I”, can you solve the puzzle. To answer this question goes beyond the noetic or intellect. It transcends the mind.    

                                 Death and Rebirth  

               “The Unexamined life is not worth living”   – Socrates  

Until the caterpillar dies the butterfly cannot be born. Shedding its carcass [the caterpillar] the non-Self, allows the real-Self [the butterfly] emerge. This is the Unmanifested, the ineffable, which cannot be named or spoken, emanating into the Manifest (the Self) entering the world. It is the emerging consciousness, consciousness no longer lost in form as the body/mind — but consciousness becoming conscious of itself.  

It is the awakening of the real-Self — moving beyond impermanence of the seasonal food-body, which changes with time. When you awaken, you transcend time, the world and body. You realize, life, people and events are transient — they come and go. But that, which is eternal, has no beginning or ending, it just IS.  

Siddhartha Gautama, is better know by the title “Buddha”. The word “Buddha” means, “the One who is awake” or “the awakend One”. Having awoken to the realization of the impermanence of life and that the mind was dukkha or suffering, he became enlightened. We may not attain enlightenment like the Buddha, but the capacity is there to awaken. The biggest hurdle to overcome is the realization that you are not the body or mind.  

The real you is beyond the body and mind. It is effulgence, beauty and love. To find that hidden gem entails stripping away layers of falsehoods and illusions. Become an alchemist and convert base-metal into gold, non-self to Self. This is the rebirth of being, a Human Being. This is to Know Thyself!  

The Experience and the Experiencer  

To know yourself, not the mind-made self or reflection in the mirror, but the Self beyond the body-mind axis, is one of life’s most important questions. Imagine traveling the journey of life and never knowing, “who is the individual or traveler, experiencing life”, believing it is the body/mind (the individual), or reflection in the mirror. But here is the rub; the body/mind is not real, the real experiencer is beyond that — it is the Unchanging Observer or Silent Witness. Yes, we need the body/mind to allow the experience to unfold, a vehicle for consciousness to enter the world. Our task allotted, is to find the experiencer.                                    

                                    “If I can see it — I can’t be it”  

Imagine a dream (the world) and you are participating in the experience of the dream — you don’t realize you are dreaming, as you are part of it. Your purpose is to wake up in the dream, in this case the world — not as a body/mind (the dreamer), but as the consciousness behind it — the silent witness of the dream, who is observing the dream?  

The World Unfolds through Us  

Another thing to remember which is hard to grasp is that the world does not happen outside of us, or is an external event. The world happens from within – the world unfolds from us as a spider’s emits the thread (of the web) out of itself and is withdrawn in of itself. As noted by this Ayurvedic poem:  

 “I am not in the world; the world is in me, I am not in the body the body is in me, I am not in the mind the mind is in me”. The mind, the body and the world, they happen to me, as I curve back within myself, and I create again and again.”   

I create the mind; I create the body, and the experience of the physical world. The world out there, what seems to be out there, it exists in me? My body which I look at through my senses exists in me, my mind exists in me.  

So the crucial question is, “who is this me” that contains the mind, body, and the whole universe.  Or more importantly who “Am I.” This month’s newsletter addresses this question as we seek the quarry — the who “Am I.” The paradox is that the answer is concealed within the question.                            

                      Gnothi Seauton “Know Thyself”  

  “This above all: to thine own self be true”  – William Shakespeare  

The words, “Gnothi Seauton”, were inscribed above the temple of Apollo at Delphi, in ancient Greece. People visited the sacred Oracle for questions about their life, e.g. what their destiny holds, or how to deal with life’s situations. But those words, “Know Thyself”, point to a deeper question — the most important question you will ever ask, “Who Am I”.  

The Tapestry of Life  

Finding the answer to that question gives you a new vantage point on life. You realize you are a thread in the tapestry of life, the world. Each person has a purpose for their existence. The world unfolds from within, as we stamp our mark on humanity.  When we expire, our loss is as great as a Gandhi or Mother Teresa, as the imperfection of that missing threads shows.  

Most people skim the surface of life, as a surfer skims the sea. Some days its calm, and other days a tempest in a teapot — but deep down, it’s always placid. These are the depths of our being we need to explore to get answers. To do so, we move beyond the mind-made self, conditioned by the past as discussed in last month’s newsletter (Part 1).  

In (Part 2) we look at the ego and consciousness. We mine deeper into our being, through the core of the mind-made self, reaching the Holy Grail.  

Getting Lost in Words  

However, before we delve further, a few points to remember. What we’re looking for cannot be put into words, as our essence is beyond words — it cannot be intellectualized or thought about. The mind is good for understanding facts and information, and wants to make something out of nothing. The mind says,” what is nothing”, let me think about it. It wants to make a thing out of no-thing.  

Words are merely guide-post, directing us where we need to go. Additionally, words are blocks of “characters”, woven together in different combinations, enabling us communicate, whether through language as sounds from the vocal cords (vowels and consonances), or written. They are not essence, just thought forms and concepts. What we are looking for is bereft of words. So let’s not get caught up in them, but merely use them to guide us on our journey.  

The Mind-made Self  

To find out who Am I, we must expose that which I am not. One of the greatest impediments to finding our self is getting entangled and deceived by the mind. Our mind has been conditioned by the past and inculcated by others: family, peers, teachers, culture and environment.  

But most of those thoughts are not ours. They float around in the mental atmosphere, are picked up by us; regurgitated as, “I think or I know — or I am this or I am that.” In the mean time, we lose connection with the authentic self. The problem is, being consumed with incessant thinking, deceives us into thinking we are the thinker. But the thinker is an imposter. The thinker is the mind-made self. So who is the thinker?  

The Ego or Mind Jester  

One of the most repetitive words used in a person’s vocabulary is the word “I” — but who is this “I“. The first personal pronoun to arise in the mind is “I”. The latin word for “I” is “ego”. The ego — jester of the mind or illusory self, runs our life. We derive our ‘I’dentity from it. The word “identity” derives from latin, “to make the same.”  Furthermore, coupled to that is the “me, my, and mine.” Such as when one was a child:

  • My Toys
  • Those books are mine
  • My personal items: clothes, computer, cell phone  

As an adult:

  • My job
  • My wife/ children
  • My personal possession: money, house, car,
  • My accomplishments/ achievements.
  • My status: rich or poor  

 A Quick analogy of “My” life  

Let’s compare our life to an empty room. We come into the world as one enters an empty room with nothing. Our mind is a “tabula rasa” (a blank slate).

What is an empty room, but space boundaried off (four walls, ceiling and floor), a room of no-thing. Then, you add things to the room, e.g. furniture, appliances and so on.  A room of nothing becomes a room of something — this is who you think you are — you fill-up up with things. These things become your identity: name, gender, body type, job, status, financial standing, relationships, religion and so on.    

We derive our identity or mind-made Self from these things as we progress through life. Furthermore a personality is coupled to the identity. They become an extension of us, the way a house can add multiple extensions, and become a mansion.  

We feel more is better: fame, power, status, money, beauty. In actual fact it is the ego who wants more. Because deep down at the heart of the matter the ego [Me, My & I] feels, “this little me is not enough.” To compound the problem, life is transient; things are constantly changing, as the following examples elucidate:  

The Transience of Life  

  • Happy – Sad                         Married – Divorced
  • Love – Hate                          Beauty – Ugly
  • Health – Illness                     Young – Old
  • Rich – Poor                           Alive – Deceased  

This is the ego’s conundrum, never being enough and the constant flux of life threatens it very existence, which creates fear and suffering. 

The Ego and the Individual  

The word “Individual” when looked at closer = Individedness which = Inseparateness. In essence it means fragmentation has taken place and there is a void. This is the egos perception that we are inseparate of everything and a void is left. This void creates fear, and we attempt to fill the void with things: money, power, fame, status, relationships or beauty.  

Conversely we are not in separateness or fragmented, there is no void to be filled – we are already complete. Instead of being in inseperateness, we are in Unity with the Whole of the Universe. We are One.  

Sea Vessels and the Sea (an analogue of separateness)  

To give an analogue of this separateness, imagine looking at the sea and floating on the sea are sea vessels. These sea-vessels come in all shapes and sizes: super-liners, cargo ships, boats, dingy and so on. They have different colors and fly different nationality flags. 

The sea-vessels are people, and each vessel is seen in separateness of every other. What we fail to see, beyond the separateness of the vessels (people), is the Unity on which they sit. That Unity is the Sea. That Unity is the unity and Oneness of all.  

Through the senses we perceive the world as fragmented and dualistic where things and events happen in isolation. At a deeper level beyond the form of the body/mind and world, we are in Oneness, in the sea of Unity — the collective consciousness.     


Asian Watercress Salad

Prep time: 7 minutes

Yield: 4 servings  


1 bunch of washed watercress

1 cup grated carrots

1 cup of  baked tofu

1-1/2 tablespoons of toasted sesame oil

2/3 tablespoon of umeboshi plum vinegar or other vinegar


1. Tear watercress into desirable size pieces.

2. Mix with carrots in a salad bowl.

3. Drizzle sesame oil and vinegar over salad and toss.

4. Dice tofu into bite size strips.

5. Serve in individual salad bowls and sprinkle tofu on top of each and serve.

   The Two Tenants of our Home [Self] (a short story) 

“Two people have been living in you all your life.  One is the ego: garrulous, demanding, hysterical, and calculating; the other is the hidden spiritual being, who’s still voice of wisdom you have only rarely heard or attended to… you have uncovered in yourself your wise guide. Because he or she knows you through and through, since he or she is you; your guide can help you with increasing clarity and humor, negotiate all the difficulties of your thoughts and emotions… the more often you listen to this wise guide, the more easily you will be able to change your negative moods yourself, see through them, and even laugh at them for the absurd dramas and ridiculous illusions that they are… the more you listen, the more guidance you will receive. If you follow the voice of your inner wise guide…. and let the ego fall silent, you come to experience that presence of wisdom and joy and bliss that you really are.”  

Sogyal Rinpoche: Tibetan Buddhist writer and meditation master 

                             Death (13) of the Ego  

To conclude, the ego is:  

  • The voice of fear
  • The voice of illusion
  • The voice of suffering
  • The voice of complaining
  • The voice of separateness
  • The voice of not enough  

As human beings, we have an ego attached to the body, and our biology is listening to these negative thoughts/emotions which can lead to illness and disease. The ego is a mind-channel, with incessant streams of thought flowing through it. It can be a trickling stream or a raging river, depending on the moment we are in.  It vacillates between past and future, like a hyperactive dragon fly. It plays out dramas, past wrong doings, hurts, let downs, or reprisals. It complains about life, other people, and feels threatened if someone or something is more than it — basically it is saying, this little me is not enough.  

Additionally, it looks to the future for salvation, believing things will get better. It is rarely in the present moment. However, these are illusions. The past is a memory trace in the brain and the future a thought in the head. The portal or access to diminishing its power is through the present moment — the power of presence — being still 

Death (13) of the Ego  

To “know yourself”, and answer the fundamental question “who Am I”, means detachment from incessant thinking and turning down the volume of the mind — the mind must be quiescent. To find the answer requires no thinking — being still — be present — become the bystander of Awareness and just BE. 

As the brain cannot survive without blood the ego cannot survive without thinking. Deprive it of thought- food — cut off its supply. This is the death of the ego or unmasking the false self. As the ego dies, transformation takes place.  

                                       Who Am I?  

To answer the question who Am I, a quick list of who I AM not: 

The Foreground:

  • I am not the gross physical body made up of the Humors (humors = the makeup and workings of the human body adopted by Greek and Roman physicians and philosophers).
  • I am not the 5 cognitive sense organs:
    • Smell 
    • Touch
    • Hearing
    • Sight
  • I am Not:
    • Taste 
    • Speech = speaking
    • Locomotion = moving
    • Grasping
    • Excretion
    • Procreation
  • I am not the 5 vital airs (pranas – life breaths)
  • I am not the mind that thinks  

The Background: 

Then, if I am none of these, who Am I? What is left is the Bystander of Awareness, the Witnessing Presence — the Unchanging Observer— the Silent Watcher — formless consciousness (spirit) — Beingness. To answer the question, “who am I’ — I AM that I AM, that which never was or will be, the ever-presence formless consciousness (spirit). The I AMness which is prior to thought. 

With those words, “I AM”, nothing needs to be added. The moment you add something to it such as, “I am this or I am that” you have made an object, concept or thought-form out of it, and it becomes part of the mind-made self, the false you. 

Finding the “I AM” 

To find the I AM, is to quiet the mind. We need to create space or gaps between the incessant streams of thoughts. The greater the gaps the more stillness flows in. As we quiet the mind, the richness of life comes alive. Imagine you live in a noisy environment. After a while you get acclimated to the sound. But if you step out to a quite place and return, you realize how noisy it is. This is what happens when you quiet the mind, bringing stillness and silence. You hear the world, not in thought but in stillness. 

Ways to Still the Mind: 

  • Meditation: Find a comfortable place, no distractions or noise. Can be done in a yoga position, or sitting in a chair with the spine erect. Close your eyes, and start with a mantra (sacred syllable or word) such as “I AM”. Anytime a thought arises repeat the “I AM”, not aloud but in your mind. The words I AM have no karma or history attached to them and cancels out other thoughts. By quieting the mind, the Witnessing Presence is heard — Stillness, and the aliveness of life appears. If sounds appear, do not label them, or think about them — allow them to be. Meditation is best done before bed-time or first thing in the morning, for ten to twenty minutes.
  • Breathing: close your eyes and focus on your breath. You cannot breathe and think at the same time. Be aware of the inflow and outflow of the breath. Deep conscious breathing can ameliorate stress.
  • Be present: as the saying goes, “there is nothing wrong right now, until you start thinking”. Or you can say in your mind, “what is my next thought going to be?” as you wait, no thought arises. Be present and still. The present moment is when life is constantly renewed. Being completely present negates thought. Become the watcher of your mind, weeding out negative, redundant thoughts as they arise.
  • Feeling the Inner Body: Find a quite, comfortable space. No distractions. Sit in a comfortable chair, back straight. Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths. Begin to feel your inner body, such as arms or legs. Don’t think about it, such as,” how do I feel my hands.” Just become aware of them. You may feel tingles on your hands or face, as you feel the energy. Bring awareness to different areas of the body, and feel the aliveness within. Keep practicing. As time goes by you’ll be able to feel the inner body with eyes open, or during daily activities.
  • An exercise of Self-enquiry by the Indian guru Ramana Maharshi. Get into the meditative mode, close your eyes, smooth breathe. Inquire in the following way. Repeat in the mind, “Who AM I”. This will cause other thoughts to arise. As thoughts arise, inquire further, “to who do they arise” or, “to whom has this thought arisen”, and the answer would emerge,” to me”. By enquiring,” who am I” the mind goes back to the source and the arisen thought becomes quiescent. Being persistence with inquiries destroys all other thoughts, and the mind stays in its source.                               

                     Conclusion: Finding our Source  

To locate our source, requires an awareness of being — being present. 

Different levels of awareness (consciousness): 

  • Higher consciousness (God-consciousness)
  • Fully awake (living a mindful life; being fully present)
  • Waking consciousness/ Waking up
  • Waking sleep (not being present— body present; mind absent)
  • Dream
  • Deep sleep  

To find the source of my I AMness requires disidnetifying with the body/mind, unmasking the unobserved mind (ego) and being present. Being fully awake as a bystander of awareness from the dream (the world), enables clarity of Self, beam through. 

An ethereal source awakens. That prestillness or dormant source, is the substratum which is prior to the arising “I AM”. That empty space is the space of nothingness, from which all creations emanates. It is our spiritual home, the dominion of the soul. It is our essence-home — the Unmanifested, The Absolute, the Divine-essence — the One. The Unnamed, the Unspoken and the Unthought — Stillness. Be still — be silent, and know I AM that I AM. That stillness and silence is the peace of God.


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