~ by Mary Rocamora. M.A. ~
There is often some confusion in class about how to recognize our current state, so let's review some of the things to look for that help us distinguish what is Ego and and what is free Awareness -- that is, experiences of presence and Love. Here are a few tips on recognizing the wily Ego and its patterns.
Is there separation? The feeling of separation is the overarching means of recognizing Ego. We can find ourselves separated in varying degrees from the present moment -- when we are preoccupied with our thoughts, limited by our patterns, or stuck in old emotional reactions. Sometimes we feel separated from others. We are also separated when our hearts aren't open in a feelable way. Separation can also manifest as depression, anxiety, agitation, sudden sleepiness -- energy states that don't match the alertness and aliveness we experience when we are present. Is time involved? Much of what we think, say and hear makes reference to time. "I'm not as happy as I used to be" refers to the past and "When I'm financially secure, I can relax" speaks to the future. Ego holds on to its darkest memories so as to create better defenses against any recurrence. It also rehashes past encounters and rehearses for conversations yet to come. Is the voice saying the same things over and over? Ego doesn't believe that thinking something once is enough, so it harps repeatedly on its current themes. If you've heard the story many times before, you can bet it's Ego.
Is the voice diverting us from the Now, saying we should be doing something other than what we are doing? If you're reading the paper and a thought like, "Oops! I forgot to call Jane back!" makes you stop and pick up the phone, Ego has succeeded in disconnecting you from the Now. Ego can be very bossy with reminders and dictates, sure that without our to-do lists we wouldn't get anything accomplished, or even survive. This is how Ego keeps us disjointed and obscures the flow of Now. Is this a belief, judgment, generalization or other absolute? It is a function of Ego to take selective experiences and things we've learned to generate a fixed way of viewing things. Beliefs, judgments and generalizations also tend to be invoked repeatedly, especially in the face of the reconfirming events Ego surreptitiously creates. "Women are killers -- they'll betray you every time" is a belief that will attract relationships that will be experienced as unsafe. Is this mind chatter? Ego provides entertainment by talking to itself all the time. Topics can be infinite in variety, but most of us have our favorites.
Recognizing a free state of Awareness can be more elusive because unlike Ego, there is so much variation in the experience, depending largely on what our circumstances are at the moment. Presence while waiting in a long line might be quite different than the delight in watching a kitten play or having a profound realization. Here are a few guidelines:
Is the mind relaxed, alert and free of the voice of Ego? This can be practiced by slowing down our attention and not allowing Ego to impose anything on the moment that isn't naturally there. There is a curiosity about what we will experience. When we are truly free, we are moved through life from within, by a felt-sense of rightness. Do you find yourself moving into the moment, rather than separating from it? There is a feeling of expansion and noticing things we would have missed if we had been preoccupied with our thoughts. As we slow down further, that noticing turns into fascination. A deeper appreciation of life begins to grow as we slow down and move more into the moment.
Are you staying with the flow of Now? Recognizing what is actually here to be lived and willingly engaging it is the practice of living in a sustainable state of free Awareness. You'll find life much simpler than Ego likes, and what activity there is resides in an ocean of space. Do your perceptions come through an open heart? Seeing through the eyes of Love allows for a more profound way of experiencing the true nature of reality and seeing what the human journey is all about. It is the state from which we discover our unique contribution to life and what we are to be given as well.
Also, let's review a few pointers on paying attention. Be always on the alert to your state of mind. Pay attention with curiosity and interest, not with self judgment. Be on the lookout for your choice points and measure the extent of your willingness. If you spot an old pattern or emotional reaction, simply name it -- "Oh! There's the rage pattern again!" not "There I go again with my rage!" This method of observation helps you to shift your identification away from the pattern and toward who you are in a free state. And when you're in a free state, pay attention to how you feel moved from within, as you consider all the choices you face during the day.