I have always resisted the idea that there is only one path to truth. And I find it curious how well ancient and distant civilizations recognized essential qualities about the human psyche, long before Freud. When we are dealing with stress, and can’t seem to get out of our own way, it can be helpful to look at ourselves from a different cultural perspective.
Take Norse mythology. Within its pantheon each god is identified with parts of ourselves, and things we need in our lives. Odin, the father god, sacrificed an eye to attain wisdom. Thor and his hammer exemplify the action we must take before anything happens. But out on the fringe, eternally causing mischief was Loki, called “the trickster.” Not a personification of evil, but not to be trusted either.
Do we have a trickster in our lives today? Yes, our ego. Now Webster’s defines ego first as “the self,” and secondly as “the organized conscious mediator between the person and reality.” But how can the ego be both the self, and something that exists between the person, who we think of as the self, and reality? That would mean 1) the ego is not a person, and 2) the ego is not real.
We can tell from our own experience that there appear to be two parts to our nature. Even in our conscious mind, we can feel a calm and loving part, and a loud, whiny part that blames us and scolds us when it doesn’t get what it wants. It keeps us awake at night, it tells us we are a failure, or we’ll never measure up. Its tantrums raise our blood pressure and speed up our heart. It taunts us, and it lies.
Dr. Wayne Dyer has written extensively about the ego, and how it tries to deceive us into believing it is all we are. But, he explains, it is not. There is also what Dyer calls “the silent witness,” who watches from within us, and does not judge. It is this silent witness who can calm our minds, and heal our stress and depression.
The ego has its uses. It is part of our mind’s toolkit for our survival; the part that says run from tigers and don’t put your hand in the fire. But it is just a tool, not an identity.
When we become aware of the ego as only a portion of our mind, and not our truest self, we can shut it off. When we recognize the tricks it plays, and the stress it causes us, we can take away its power.
This awareness will help us progress in our meditation, because we understand the ego is something we can control, instead of letting it control us. When we recognize our truest self resting in the silence, we can simply be that self. Then the ego’s tricks can evaporate, like a puff of smoke in the breeze.
Dyer, Wayne W. (1998), Manifest Your Destiny: The Nine Spiritual Principles for Getting Everything You Want, William Morris, New York.