I believe there are two different types of goals. There are external goals and internal goals. For example, let’s say you have acne. You can treat your acne externally with creams and wipes. Or you can treat your acne internally, either with medication or with your diet. You can try to solve the problem from the outside in, or from the inside out. Another good example is trying to be successful in life. You can try to achieve this goal externally by getting an education, and then a career. You would be gaining knowledge through your ears listening to teachers, and through your eyes and your mind by reading from books. Or you could try to achieve success from the inside out, by first becoming successful inside yourself. And what does that mean exactly? To become successful on the inside?
If someone on the street was doing interviews for some show, and they stopped you and asked you, “Who are you?” How would you answer that question? If someone asked me then I would answer it by stating my name, where I’m from, what I do, what school I went to, and maybe a short version of my life story. And I’m sure most of us would answer the same way. However if you were to bump into an enlightened person and asked them that question they would surely respond with a very short answer, “I am.” Notice that there is only one period after that phrase, meaning that nothing comes after it, there’s nothing to expect after the phrase.
What is enlightenment? It is the highest form of consciousness, the highest level of awareness. It is when you are always focused on the present moment; you never wander into the past or into the future except for practical reasons. It is when you don’t mind what happens. It is when you are in direct contact with God. It is when you find your true self. Enlightenment is when you realize that you are not merely your body, your mind, and a collection of life experiences and thoughts. Enlightenment is when you realize that your are much, much more than that.
When you reach this state, and even while trying to reach this state, many positive changes happen in your life very effortlessly. Think of some bad habits you have and the times you have tried to change them. It’s been really hard hasn’t it? For example, everyone (it seems), is trying to loose weight nowadays. They try really hard, they exercise, they get on diets but nothing seems to work. Sooner or later they get back into their old habits & are back at square one. And the suffering they go through is tremendous. They feel depressed, and unhappy. They feel guilty about not being able to eat right. Their self esteem is very low, they also have low self confidence, and it’s very hard to advance in life. Now imagine that almost suddenly, you start exercising more and eating healthier very effortlessly. The habits just come to you out of nowhere. This has happened to me recently. I had a bad habit that I had dealt with since I was young. At first I fought against it and I went through all the cycles. And finally I accepted it and just kept the habit all these years. But after just trying to reach this ‘Highest of Goals’ I have made tremendous improvement.
I believe attempting to reach this goal is the best way to achieve your other goals. This idea started spawning inside me since I wrote the article about your ‘Supply Manager’. This article and the ‘Supply Manager’ article are basically about the same thing. When you are able to get in contact with the supply manager you can more easily achieve any of your goals. Getting in touch with that source is complicated by the many shells and layers that are blocking us from reaching it. This idea can be simplified by comparing it to a pearl and the way a pearl is made. Pearls occur in the natural world by way of a grain of sand getting inside a mollusk. The grain of sand irritates the mollusk like a splinter. To alleviate the irritation, the mollusk starts forming layers of calcium around it & the pearl is formed. In a way, the grain of sand is our true self, the pearl material is our false self, and the mollusk is our ego, which is the creator of the false self.
In general when we hear the word ego we think of someone showing off something that makes them seem superior to everyone else. For example when we hear of a lead singer of a group having a big ego it means the singer thinks him or herself superior to the other band members. And ultimately, that big ego causes the band to break up. However, here the ego has a different meaning. The roots of the ego come from any identification with anything. What does it mean to identify with something? Identification means to regard something to be the same as you. For example, if I were to say that I identify myself with being a healthy eater, then what I’m saying is that eating healthy is like me. Another example would be identifying with something physical. When I say, “This is my car.” What I’m saying is that the car is like me, it reflects the person that I am. Another perfect example is doing a collage type poster with all the things that you are. I remember doing that in elementary school. We had to go through magazines and cut out images of things that reflected who we thought we were, or in other words; things we identified with. So everyone cut out images of certain cars, shoes or clothing, and places we’d like to visit, homes we’d like to one day own. Then at the end, we would display the collage posters to everyone else, and we all thought we had a good grasp of who we really were. It’s also good to reflect on not identifying with something, which is still identifying with something else. For example you say you don’t like the color white, so you’re saying you don’t identify with that color, you’re saying that that color is not like you. However, by saying you don’t like color A, you’re saying you like color B . Another example is if you were to say that you hate exercise (not identifying with exercise) then surely you do identify with not exercising.
What do you identify with? We all have our individual life circumstances. Like I mentioned earlier, if we were asked who we were, we’d all answer that question by mentioning all the things we identify with; our names, our place of birth, relationships, thoughts, opinions, etc.
Symptoms of The Ego
The ego manifests itself in many different ways; it has many symptoms and characteristics. Just like the mollusk that starts forming layers around the grain of sand, the ego begins forming layers around our true self from very early on in our lives. As children, one of the first things we learn is our names. We keep getting called something and soon we realize that our name is us. When someone calls our name, they get our attention. As we get older, we start adding more & more layers to our true self. We begin to learn about the concept of possession. We learn what’s ours and what’s not, and when someone takes what’s ours we suffer, and when we want what’s not ours we also suffer. When we reach our teen years we have an especially hard time because we are still adding layers to our pearl, and we are not finished adding the layers, but we desperately want to add those shiny new layers as soon as possible. We want to get the layers that the popular kids have so that we can feel connected & accepted by them. Once we get to adulthood we think we have a good grasp of who we are, and we live out our lives adding layer upon layer upon layer and we keep getting further and further away from our true self, from our source. In our final days, when we are near death, is when we might finally realize the impermanence of our lives, the impermanence of all those layers we built all those years. At that point we might realize that our lives were just a piece of clothing we built and wore all that time, and now it’s time to toss it. However, that grain of sand is not impermanent, it is timeless, it is immovable, it is still, it is silent, it is connected to everything and everything is connected to it, it is the entire universe fit into its very small size. That description doesn’t do justice when describing our true selves bit it’s a good arrow that point’s in its general direction.
List of Symptoms
One of the main symptoms indicating that we are possessed by the ego is by far our identification with our mind and everything that surges from the mind. The ego loves to possess things both physical and non physical, things like cars, houses, clothes or ideas, thoughts, and opinions. The ego fears loosing its possessions. The ego likes both pain and pleasure; it doesn’t like the middle ground. It loves to especially identify with pain, it loves to wallow in it. The ego loves enemies, it needs something to defend, it needs “bad guys” otherwise it wouldn’t exist. The ego loves to feel inferior and superior to others. The ego loves separation, it believes it is separate from everything else, it believes it stands alone. The ego has an insatiable appetite for things to identify with; it has a void that can never be filled. The ego loves to identify with the body. The ego loves the past, both the good times and the bad times. The ego loves the future, it loves to dwell on what could be, and it thinks it can only be happy in the future. The ego hates the present moment; it always wants to escape it. The ego loves time. The ego doesn’t like to be still, it likes to have the gears of our minds constantly running. The ego loves opinions and loves to be offended when its opinions are opposed. The ego loves resistance, it loves to resist what is, it minds what happens. The ego loves drama. The ego wants to exist, and everything it does is just for that goal, to exist, to survive, to be. There are also seemingly positive things that the ego loves to identify with. For example let’s say you create a foundation that helps hungry children around the world, however, you created the foundation to wear it as a badge, as a sign of who you are. Surely, that’s a positive thing, to help hungry children, but it’s still an identification with something, that identification impedes you from your true self. When action comes to you naturally, it is a sign that the action is not ego-based. For example in Forrest Gump when he just starts running across the country. Forrest didn’t think, “I need to run across the country so I can be famous & get attention.” He just ran. When they asked him why he was running across the nation, they thought maybe he was running for special causes, but he answers that he just felt like running.
The Cause of All Suffering
The ego, of course, is the cause of all our suffering. Our identification with anything; causes suffering. A person that identifies strongly with a certain opinion, will surely suffer. This person will always be ready to counter-attack anyone who opposes their views. An easy example is politics. Politicians certainly go through a lot of stress defending their views and attacking opposing views. Our attachment to our possessions surely causes suffering. How would we feel if when we came home we saw our house and everything in it burned to the ground? We would certainly suffer a great amount, we would be under great stress thinking about all those irreplaceable pictures, those important documents, those name brand clothes and appliances. On a higher level, how do we feel when we loose someone close to us? Identification with our loved ones is still identification. The death of a loved one is one of our greatest causes of suffering in life. And of course, how can one not identify with our loved ones? They are our fathers, our mothers, our sons, our daughters. How can one not suffer when loosing a loved one? It is very important to keep in mind, that not identifying with something important, for example our family, does not mean that we don’t care about them.
The Highest of Goals
What is the highest of goals? It is to discover our Source, to discover who & what we truly are, to discover that we have a direct connection to God, to go beyond the ego, to be silent, to be still, to realize that our true self is timeless and our body is like a piece of clothing we decided to wear momentarily, it is to become conscious of the truth. Again, please be aware that these words are merely signs that point to a general direction, or maybe not even that, maybe just signs that point to other signs. The reason I mention this is that this highest of goals can not be described with words. We can only know and experience the truth when we start heading in it’s general direction.
Why aim for the highest of goals? Why not? If you wanted to become a professional basketball player why not emulate the best player of all time? Why would you want to emulate a mediocre player? It’s always the same no matter what goals you want to accomplish. If you want to make a lot of money then you’ll want to learn about what the richest people in the world are doing to make a lot of money, wouldn’t you? If you want to make an average amount of money then you can study people that are making the average.
Is this the highest of goals? What if I don’t believe in “God”? You will not find resistance to your views here. If you don’t believe this is the highest of goals, then don’t believe it. But I dare you to start heading in this direction I’m pointing to and see it’s effects on your life. All you have to do is nothing.
How To Reach The Highest of Goals
There are many ways to reach this goal, or at least be on the right path and head in the general direction of the highest of goals. One way is to meditate. There are many ways to practice meditation. If you have any specialized skills, such as playing a certain sport, you’ve probably already mediated many times during play. The goal of meditation is to “get in the zone”, that is when thought is not involved. That is when you are reacting to the environment instinctively. I’m sure you’ve seen it in sports when a player breaks records, or seems to be unstoppable. So if meditation doesn’t attract you to practice it, gain a specialized skill that you can practice on a daily basis, and while your are practicing your skill makes sure & notice if your mind is thinking or not. A really important point, if you do play a sport, is to not be attached to the outcome. You shouldn’t care whether you win or loose, the goal is just to play it and to not think.
Do a simple meditation daily. You can start with 5-10 minutes. Sit in a comfortable position, in a quiet location, with no interruptions, close your eyes, and most importantly DON’T THINK ABOUT ANYTHING. It’s very hard to not think about anything. We have been conditioned to always have our minds running. Is our mind who we are? Is our brain who we are? I’m not sure that, that is all we are. Isn’t our brain just part of our body? Are our legs who we really are? Do our legs use us or do we use our legs? We are in control of our legs aren’t we? If we want to walk somewhere, we make the decision, and command our legs to take us to where we want to go. Why isn’t it the same with our mind? If we need to solve some problem, we certainly use our mind to do so. If we want the mind to be still, to be quiet, why is it so hard to silence the mind? Isn’t our mind a part of our body just like our legs are? Are we in control of our minds, or are our minds in control of us? Don’t struggle, or stress out when you can’t control your thinking. Just do your meditation, let your thoughts come and go and observe your thoughts. Be especially vigilant at the space between thoughts. Try this simple exercise now: think of a gigantic and fluorescent pink elephant and hold that thought for a few seconds now think of a tiny red flower in your hand. Now, try to go back into this little sequence and see if you noticed the space between those two thoughts. If you didn’t notice any space, then just simply try it again, but this time pay special attention to the gap between the two thoughts. If that gap in thoughts only lasts a second, then it is a success. With more and more practice the gaps will get bigger.
You can also try to focus on your breath while meditating. Notice your inhales and your exhales. Notice your lungs expanding and contracting, and again, pay attention to that tiny gap between the inhale and the exhale.
Yet another way is to feel your body while you’re meditating. You can start with a foot, then your lower leg, then the entire leg, and keep going until you can feel every part of your body simultaneously. Try to notice your pulse, and feel the life that you have within your body.
If you just can’t seem to meditate then you can try a meditation called Japa meditation, which is a type of chanting mediation. You say any prayer you may know word by word, very slowly. You say the first word, then pause, and then you say the second word. Then you go back and try to stay in that pause between the two words, and during that time you make an “Aaaww” sound. Making that sound is supposed to put you in a good vibe, plus it gives you something to do which, in turn, will make it easier to not think.
Another method you can use to be on your way to the highest of goals is to try to always have your attention on the now. Sounds simple enough, but try it, and you won’t even notice when you left the now. Your mind will be on some future event you’re looking forward to, or just start thinking about random stuff. Paying attention to the now means being totally aware of your surroundings, of your body, of all the sounds and smells around you. Have you ever misplaced anything? That is a tall tale sign that you were not present in the now, because you didn’t notice where you misplaced the item. Once, I must have been looking for the remote for like 10 minutes, before I finally noticed that it was in my hand the entire time! How’s that for not being present? This is the reason I suggested earlier that you learn some kind of skill you can practice daily, especially sports related. After you’ve been playing any sport for a while you start becoming very skilled at the movements. When you become skilled you will notice that in the heat of the movements you are completely present in the now. You are not thinking about anything, your mind is quiet and you are playing almost instinctually.
You can also do a daily practice of being present in the now with just about any daily activity. For example, when you are washing dishes try to quiet your mind, and just focus on all the movements, on the way the water feels on your hands, the way the dishes feel, the sounds of the water, the smell of the dish soap, and any other sounds you hear around your house. At the same time notice your breath, surely it will be a shallow breath, but you can still notice and feel it if you focus.
During your morning and your night-time routine you can certainly also focus on the now. You can meditate while you are washing your teeth, tying your shoes, or putting on your clothes. A great tip is to put multiple pauses on your movements. For example when you are tying your shoes, after you make your first movement, pause for a few seconds and notice your breath and then continue. What the pause will do is silence your mind at least for those few seconds. Keep in mind that there is no success or failure to be sought, the goal is just to do it. Even a second of silence in your mind is a step in the right direction. As you practice more and more the gaps of silence become bigger and bigger.
I Just Cant Stop Thinking!
If when you are doing your daily practice you get frustrated or have any negative feelings the best thing to do is just to notice those feelings and notice the thoughts. Just knowing and noticing that your mind is racing and racing round and round about random things is a very good sign. When we are so unconscious that we don’t even notice our thoughts, when we are so engulfed in the thoughts, that’s when we can have some serious problems. So, knowing that you are having these uncontrollable thoughts and noticing them as they come up is a step in the right direction. You don’t have to silence your mind for hours on end. All you need is a second, and as you keep practicing the gaps will get bigger and bigger.
You can also nudge yourself closer to this, the highest of vibes by not judging anything or anyone. This is really hard since it is tattooed in our conditioning. When we were babies we were taught what was good and what was bad, we were taught to put labels on things. These labels included: good, bad, yummy, yucky, pretty, ugly etc… When we get to our teenage years judging is especially rampant. We label things as cool or un-cool, we label our classmates as fine or fat or ugly. As we get to adulthood we still carry that imaginary label maker in our heads. As soon as we meet someone we take out the labeler, make a label, and put it on that persons head. And when we talk about judging it’s not just about the negative labels we create. It’s the same thing with positive labels such as saying someone is beautiful or intelligent. Why is judging something undesirable? The main reason is that it creates a lot of noise and mind activity. It also takes us away from the present moment. And all that noise prevents us from really listening and connecting with others. Practice non-judgment whenever you can. When you meet someone new, avoid making any labels, don’t do anything except listen with a quiet mind. I know I still have a hard time practicing non-judgment. Especially when dealing with negative people. When someone starts talking to me about their problems or lack of resources, I tend to automatically label them as negative, or I label them as people with a bad vibe and I feel myself better than them because I don’t have those problems. At least I am noticing the judgment and my feelings of superiority. It’s the old ego trying be in control. If you can’t stop judging certain people, then at least notice the judging when it happens. Imagine these habits as being a dark room, and noticing them is like turning on the lights. When the lights come on the habit can’t exist, the more you shine the light or in other words: notice the habit, the less power it will have over you.
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