The Birth Of The Ego.

Via Benjamin Riggs
on Feb 19, 2011
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A synopsis. The article is far more detailed.

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In order to better understand the origins of our discontentment, we must further investigate the growth and development of the ego… We must catch ourselves trying to freeze the stream of life.

If everything seemed to be perfect there would be no need for meditation. Meditation practice co-arises with the path that leads to suffering. The path of meditation is nothing more than walking backwards down the path that gives rise to suffering, or as Chogyam Trungpa said “A Process of Un-Doing.” So in order to better understand the practice of meditation, it is essential that we better understand the ego-centric processes which give rise to our feelings of dissatisfaction…

Beyond the pretentious rhetoric of ego there is pure Life, total spaciousness. This spaciousness or emptiness is total formlessness. It is not nothingness in the sense that it is dead space; rather it is nothingness. It is absolute, beyond all distinctions of self and other, good or bad. It is beyond even this and that. In his Confession St. Augustine wrote, “It was not absolute nothingness. It was formlessness without definition.” Life— free of elaboration. It is isness.

Life, in this sense, cannot be understood or explained in some rational way. Life is not some-thing to be experienced, it is direct experience. There is no-thing that experiences, and no-thing to be experienced— the whole thing flows together in an integrated whole. The experiencer is realized to be a dimension of experience— Being!

The whole thing is rather impossible to explain. At this point logic and language begin to breakdown. Logic and language are dualistic systems of communication, and in Being dualism malfunctions. Language attempts to describe the relationship between two points, but when the subject is realized to an aspect of the object and vice versa, this relationship dissolves. In space there is not two, there is not even one; there is just one-ness.

So, how did we manage to go from that spacious quality of being, to being plagued by conflict, disorder, and dissatisfaction?

First of all we must understand that one-ness, is still there, untainted. We did not go from that to this… It is all an hallucination!

We are just asleep, ignore-ant of the fact. The fact being, that all of our conceptual boundaries— the lines of demarcation, which project a world of multiplicity upon the unified spectrum of energy— are in the final analysis transparent.  The concepts and labels which seem to be so solid are nothing more than thought projected onto the backdrop of impermanence. They are unjustly taken too serious because, there is a sense of ownership, some-thing that seems to possess them. It is this sense of ownership, this feeling that there is some-one who is in control of this whole process, which gives rise to all of our suffering.

Life becomes some thing that I takes personally. We experience this “I” as a kind of tiny dictator trapped between our ears. Fortunately, this miniature tyrant is nothing more than a personified thought born out of ignorance. It is this hypnotic trance that gives births to and nurtures the cyclic pattern of suffering discussed in the First Noble Truth, The Truth of Dissatisfaction.

All of our troubles must be the product of self-deception, as we did not intend to create problems for ourselves or anyone else. At the root of our troubles we will find confusion. Therefore, restoring the mind to its natural state requires nothing more than waking up from the fog of this self-deception… Simply observing this confusion!

The great Catholic mystic and writer Thomas Merton once wrote, “From space earth is just earth. There are no lines of demarcation that separate states and countries.” It is only on paper and in our heads that these lines exist. Ego has created a similar map, a map of life. Much like the maps of our planet, ego’s map can be relatively useful. The problem is not with the map itself. Rather, the trouble lies in our confusion. We ignore the fact that it is a mental fabrication, merely a conceptual map. There has been a fundamental error made… We have mistaken the map for the territory. In other words, all of our opinions, thoughts, and concepts which point at or describe objects, have been misapprehended as the objects themselves. As a result, when reality does not agree with our thinking we fight tooth-&-nail to make the world behave as it should

So how did all this get started?

In suchness all divisions of self and other break down. It is un-charted territory, but spacious enough to include any and all charts! Since it is fluid or empty, it is impregnated with possibilities. The whole thing flows together as a unified stream of energy. This energy is totally pure, completely innocent. That pure energy is raw potential. Innocence is extremely pliable. It is the mind of a child; fertile ground for anything. It is a world of infinite possibilities.

Prior to the development of ego there is no sense of ownership. In other words, this energy is not centered on some-thing. There is no-thing, no ego that is directing or manipulating this energy. There is no map or system for understanding or relating with life. In fact, there is not even a need for one!

Then we are born into an adult world…

We have to learn all the games that humans play, which as Alan Watts so humorously pointed out is not that easy. Watts said:

“Instead of saying hello my dear, and welcome to the human race. Now my friend we are playing some very complicated games, and these are the rules of the game. We tell our children you are here on probation; I want you to understand that. Maybe when you grow up a bit you will become acceptable, but until then you should be seen and not heard. You are a mess, so you need to be educated, schooled, and whipped until you become human.”

We first have to “learn our place”, which means that, at least for the time being, we have no place of our own. So our indoctrination into the human family begins with establishing a sense of insufficiency or defectiveness. We have to be beaten into a state of reasonableness before we will accept all of the ridiculous logic we are about to be force fed. Kids continually ask “why” because most of the stuff we are telling them is nothing short of absurd.  In order to overcome our inability to understand the adult humans, we have to begin our education and schooling, which starts with someone telling us to use our words.

Language is a system of communication meant to express the ego’s point of view. That is why the whole arrangement of language revolves around the interaction of subject and object or self and other. Language requires that there be some subject interacting with an object. As language, which is a type of map, is impressed upon the mind, the mind begins to conform. Pure energy begins to be shaped or take solid form. Much like a cookie cutter, language begins to cut up this energy into a great many things beginning with this and that. Life becomes “that over there,” which implies that “I am this!” It is at this point that we go from oneness to 1.

However, 1 is unable to validate itself. So, the experience is short lived. Although the event is short lived, it is nevertheless extremely profound. There was the rise and the fall of this and that. The creation of duality gave rise to a sort of self-intoxicated separation… We admired or obsessed over our creation. Ignore-ance is the ego’s primary source of nutrition. It establishes and sustains ego-centric consciousness… The ego defends it by obsessing over it’s creation, namely itselfWe become infatuated with form! This is the first stage in the development of ego, ignore-ance/form.

The experience of 1 is not sustainable. So, with the dissolution of such an experience, we come to embarrassed. We awaken in a dream. We are Adam and Eve in the garden— self-conscious of the fact that we are naked. The conclusion of the ‘that and this’ experience gives rise to a unique brand of paranoia; the fear that “I am not.” If I was, then it must follow that I am not.

In order for the ego to establish itself, it must white knuckle its way through the truth of selflessness; it must become well versed in the art of ignore-ance. Until the ego masters the art of ignoring the truth it will continue to rise up, only to come crashing back down. This constant rise and fall is what generates the self-conscious paranoia that fuels the whole process of self-confirmation— it is origins our fear of death.

If ignore-ance is the key ingredient in the establishment of ego, then it must be defended at all costs. In order to introduce self and other, reality must be ignored. However, ignore-ance all by itself is insufficient, as 1 cannot validate itself. The experience of self expands and collapses back in on itself, over & over again. In order to maintain the trance, ego needs to create a diversion, some kind of distraction. In order to sustain ignore-ance, the ego creates some thing it can obsess over. So as Chogyam Trungpa pointed out, “One confirmation needs another… And this process goes on and on to infinity”. Therefore, the momentum from our phobia of selflessness fuels an obsessive process of self-confirmation; 1 is validated by 2, 2 by 3, 3 by 4, and 4 by 5.

It is through this degenerative process that clarity and precision become misplaced.

The second wave in the development of ego is relationship or interaction. Relationship, in this context, is meant to provide a constant brand of entertainment; life becomes a 24 hour media outlet. It is an institution with a single objective— to prevent the onset of boredom. Boredom is nothing more than the lack of self-confirmation. That’s why there is a piercing irritation associated with boredom; it seems to cut straight through to the center of our universe. Relationships single purpose is to make sure that this failure to acquire affirmation does not happen.

As the “I AM” experience begins to assert itself and interact with other, “I am” becomes “I am experiencing THAT.” There is now verbing between subject and object. Through relationship, this self-conscious thought begins to project itself outward, onto some-thing else. It is a type of echo. If “I am experiencing THAT,” then I must be. At this stage there is no judgment involved, just simple contact. If there is sensation, then there must be some one feeling it… So, 1 is confirmed by 2.

This is reassuring from the point of view of ego, but in-&-of itself the 2nd stage is still insufficient. The “I AM because of that” still has no shape. At this stage, all it knows is that it is not that, but there isn’t a sense of identity. There is still no role to play or map to navigate through life. I does not know what to do or where to go with this relationship. So the domino effect continues with 2 having to be validated by 3

The contact with “other,” is encoded with a wealth of information. This information cannot be wasted or brushed aside because, it is needed to bring definition to an otherwise meaningless idea, the self. So, there has to be some means by which to manage all of the information received through relationship. The problem is that this information seems to be coming in at an unthinkable rate…

Speed and time are relative concepts; they are relative to the point from which they are observed. The ego is such a point, an observer. Now that we have introduced an observer the speed of life seems overwhelming.

Impermanence now appears, not as unified stream of energy, but as a million different things happening to us...

The whole experience of life has become muddled and incomprehensible. So in order to manage this speed, ego develops an automatic filling system. As experiences come and go they are remembered as good, bad, or indifferent. These memories begin to shape our perception. Our whole outlook upon life, our map of the territory, begins to be shaped by our interpretation of the past.

As this information is received it is pigeonholed by this memory/perception. Each new experience is sorted on the basis of ego’s perspective as good, bad, or indifferent, and dealt with accordingly. This information is handled by employing various pre-ordained responses. If it is perceived as good, then the ego will cling to it. If the sensation is seen as negative or threatening, then it will be destroyed. If the information is somewhat vague or indifferent, then it will be given the cold shoulder.

It is important to understand the speed of this process. The whole system is conditioned and reflexive. The perception which deciphers the incoming information is conditioned by the past. The methods of attachment, aversion, and ignore-ance are pre-ordained reflexes. It is an extremely fast, well lubricated machine that utilizes preconceived ideas and knee-jerk reactions to manage its environment. It is the purpose of this third stage, perception/impulse, to censor and manage the affairs of ego. It is almost like ego’s personal assistant. To some degree it enables ego to navigate through the speedy traffic of impermanence, cultivating desirable relationships and avoiding disagreeable ones. Although this is a necessary advancement from the viewpoint of ego, it is still incapable of sustaining the whole project. There is still no role for ego to play in the theatre of life. The first three stages have managed to insert a central persona into the scheme of life in a purely mechanistic fashion.

By way of  impulse/perception, ego managed to reduce the entire range of experience down to three distinct territories; good, bad, and indifferent. From the ego’s perspective, this is a giant step towards a more manageable situation.

Behind the walls of these three general territories of good, bad, and indifferent is a wealth of information, details the ego can use to better understand its empire, and consequently itself. So it begins to micromanage these territories by further dividing them up into even smaller provinces. In the fourth stage, ego begins to survey the landscape, and assign names to all it’s territories. Through the medium of conceptualization, the fourth stage, ego attempts to compartmentalize and define the infinite number of relationships it maintains with the external world.

A concept, in this case, is referring to a mental construction that is assembled using a host of ideas, called expectations. These ideas are nothing more than the affirmative version of fear. We expect things to behave in such a way that doesn’t scare us! These expectations are similar to job descriptions. They represent all of ego’s hopes and fears for that particular territory. The sum total of these expectations imputed onto some object equals a concept. Ultimately, ego assumes a God like status, as it is the role of ego to determine the part that everyone else will play in its environment.

Ego’s regime is an oppressive one. A type of totalitarian state where everyone’s role is assigned to them. In most cases these roles are not even communicated clearly, “other” is just expected to fulfill their duties. In order to better understand this point let us explore it further by way of an example, the concept of boyfriend.

Like any other concept, “boyfriend” is defined by various expectations. That is why on-line dating sites are so successful. They are not matching people, they are matching things that people cling to, expectations! These expectations could be anything. We may expect such a person to take us on dates, or say loving things to us. On the other hand, we may demand that such a person remain relatively detached or distant. All of these likes and dislikes are simply determined by our past experiences; it is a matter of whatever floats our boat because, we are paranoid that everyone is trying to sink our boat! Regardless of the expectations you subscribe to, the fact remains that whomever you call boyfriend will either meet these expectations or the relationship will turn up sour, because he is not fulfilling his job description.

When we realize that “boyfriend” has managed to escape from his conceptual cage, the relationship becomes painful because, it fundamentally challenges identity. That is not to say that we will get out of the relationship. In fact, often we will stay because, the pain can provide us with a sort of constant companionship… A type of entertainment that while it may not be pleasant, certainly satisfies our need for self-confirmation. Bad attention is better than no attention at all!

An incredibly interesting thing about this stage in ego’s development is that by defining other, ego’s role is also determined. Ego finally has acquired some kind of identity. By labeling other as “boyfriend,” ego assumes the role of “girlfriend.” It has assigned itself a role, a part to play, by conceptualizing other. Steps 1-3 establish the ego, and the fourth phase defines it.

These four stages are just that, stages. They are a linear; with a beginning and end point. They are like a bunch of sticks with nothing to tie them together. There is no sense of continuity. The appearance of permanence is installed in the fifth stage, where the whole process is tied together, creating a cyclic or self-contained state of affairs. The fifth and final phase in the construction of ego is consciousness

Consciousness attempts to provide a system that is capable of recycling the momentum created in the first four stages, which is what creates the illusion of endurance. It is not really a linear stage or level; it is more like a loop, which enables the various manifestations of self to play through as a single personality. There are great deal of relationships to be maintained, and a host of new information coming in. There has to be some form of management installed to manage this incredibly chaotic environment.

It is the job of consciousness to oversee this whole project, to make sure that things go according to plan. Consciousness could be compared to a computer that is constantly scanning any and all activity. As it sifts through all this activity, it is all the time encountering new information. These new codes must be deciphered. As this new information comes in, the emotions flare up, sounding alarms that ego interprets as some thing that must be dealt with; either cultivated or destroyed. Thought works tirelessly to interpret these threats. It looks for some ancient explanation… Some expired file from the memory’s database that inoculates the threat or seduces the situation. It is the job of thought to make sense out of all this new information, to explain away ego’s environment by making new information look like old information!

Thought circles around these experiences, interpreting them from many different angles. These various interpretations generate a variety of states of mind or personalities. Ego then utilizes these various states of mind to manage its empire and maintain the illusion of permanent selfhood.

Before we can begin to unlearn this ego-centric indoctrination through the practice of meditation, we must become more familiar with the way in which these systems operate. It is through these various personality programs that the ego is able to maintain the stupor or ignore-ance that is necessary for its survival.

So next week we will turn our attention towards these personality programs, also known as The Six Realms.

In the comment section below please share some of your own experiences, ideas, concerns, and yes, your disagreements! The questions below should help get some discussion going…

1) Do you ever get the feeling that your mind is constantly seeking to explain away the environment? Does this search manifest in the form of incessant chatter between your ears that drives you crazy?

2) Do you feel dependent upon or obsessed with the acquisition of certainty or solidity? Can you see the connection between the search for certainty and the fourth stage of conceptualization?

3) Can you identify patterns of both, behavior and perception, where you just re-act to things without even thinking? Can you identify instances where a certain stimulus triggers a response or pushes a button in you?

4) Can you identify the absolute need for entertainment? The need to be constantly entertained or touched by some thing, less you feel insignificant?

5) Can you sense that degree of separation, that imputed distinction between you and life that entertainment and certainty are intended to protect? The most common symptom of this contrived is boredom…

What exactly are we trying to protect?


About Benjamin Riggs

Ben Riggs is the author of Finding God in the Body: A Spiritual Path for the Modern West. He is also the director of the Refuge Meditation Group in Shreveport, LA and a teacher at Explore Yoga. Ben writes extensively about Buddhist and Christian spirituality on Elephant Journal, and his blog. Click here to listen to the Finding God in the Body Podcast. To keep up with all of his work follow him on Facebook or Twitter.


64 Responses to “The Birth Of The Ego.”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Refuge Meditation, Red Fox. Red Fox said: The Birth Of The Ego. […]

  2. TamingAuthor says:

    Re-phrasing a comment from last installment, as it applies:

    I have encountered confusion regarding Buddha Nature. This confusion, and its solution, leads to a vital factor to be considered…

    As aggregate self we can never bring about liberation. An aggregate self (false self, attached self, ego self) can never liberate itself as it has the nature of fabrications, the nature of a lie. So as long as we view as an aggregate (or skandhic) self, we make no progress toward liberation.

    Only a Buddha Self, only one who views from this vantage point can bring about liberation. This is the true Observer. Not solid but also not changing.

    Therefore, the practice is all about bringing about moments when we can view as Self, for it is only in those moments that we purify affliction, obfuscations, and break the bonds of attachment.

    Therefore, we risk failing to achieve liberation if we make mistakes regarding self and Self, even at the entry level of the practice. Any confusion between the two slows our progress.

    Most talk about ego falls into the trap of trying to negate the Self. The other option is to focus not on an negation of self but rather on the all important discernment between self and Self. The discernment brings about an ability to recognize that which is not Self (the aggregates) and that which is Self (Buddha).

    How does your analysis of ego tiptoe through these important distinctions? How might one go about avoiding confusion that leads to inadvertent nihilism?

    • BenRiggs says:

      "An aggregate self (false self, attached self, ego self) can never liberate itself as it has the nature of fabrications, the nature of a lie.." — Well said!

      "Only a Buddha Self, only one who views from this vantage point can bring about liberation. This is the true Observer. Not solid but also not changing." — I do not disagree on any particular point, but I do not care to call Buddha a self or observer… Self seems to imply permanence or solidity, and observer has the quality of being stationary, and apart from.

      How does your analysis of ego tiptoe through these important distinctions? — If "i" can see it or if "i" can achieve "it," then "it" isn't it! When I am the achievement then something has happened!

      • TamingAuthor says:

        Ah, there may be something important here to discern.

        The aggregate self would be that which is solid. It would be a view of self attached to a form. A body, for example.

        A Buddha Self, on the other hand, would not have the property of being solid — quite the opposite. It would be Buddha consciousness detached from form (the stated goal of the early steps in the practice.) Thus, not being form, Self would not be solid. It is this distinction that makes discernment between aggregate self and Buddha Self so vital to the practice.

        As far as being permanent, Buddha consciousness would not be an enduring form, however, it would be permanent in the sense that it is timeless, i.e. not temporal. From this view, which the Buddha taught, the Self or Observer is changeless while all change is attributed to fabrications, to forms. This is also vital to the practice.

        The practice falls apart quite rapidly and turns into an ever-changing and never-ending of sorting through that which is not self, fabrications. It leaves one endlessly attached and suffering from ignorance, which is actually nothing more that mistaking fabrications for Self.

        For example, only a timeless and formless observer, the Buddha Self, can view all karmic imprints (all former lives) and all causes and conditions as they are. If one is set adrift in the sea of samsara, tossed from one fabrication to another without a non-conditioned view, one will never achieve liberation.

        Do you see how only when you view from your true essence, from Self as Buddha, you are able to see the true nature of the aggregates and thus achieve cessation of attachment and enlightenment?

        We might look closer at your last paragraph as there may be a flaw in that approach. When you say "I am the achievement" you have created an identity, an attachment. This is the collapse of unborn, unconditioned, timeless and formless Self into an identity with phenomena, with fabrication, with aggregates.

        Ultimately, enlightenment involves the I of the Self, the Buddha Self. A Buddha is an awakened one. So one cannot cancel out the Self, the first-person view. (The attempt to cancel out "I" is where one treads into nihilism whether one intends to or not.) The teachings call for a different approach — a cessation of attachment to all that is not self. The teachings call for an understanding that the aggregate self is not really I but rather a false self assumed for the sake of solid identity. Does that make sense?

        My feeling is that one cannot spend too much time really nailing down these preliminary concepts as they serve as the foundation for the practice. Much too easily we use language that leads people to invalidate or negate the Self, the I, the Observer without which there is no practice, no liberation, no enlightenment. The effort, it seems to me, is to find the correct language to skirt the possible errors.

  3. TamingAuthor says:

    You write: "Life, in this sense, cannot be understood or explained in some rational way. Life is not some-thing to be experienced, it is direct experience. There is no-thing that experiences, and no-thing to be experienced— the whole thing flows together in an integrated whole. The experiencer is realized to be a dimension of experience— Being! "

    Perhaps you could explain this in greater detail. Tricky stuff. The phrase "There is no-thing that experiences" may be confusing. Might it not be there is a No Thing that experiences? In other words, there is an Observer but that Observer does not have the property of Thingness.

    On the other hand, there is something to be experienced, correct? There is the entirety of fabrications, of appearances, to be experienced, observed, and played. We create something then observe and experience it, correct?

    Do you really mean to say the Observer, a Buddha, flows into an integrated whole. Are not the properties of a Buddha different from the properties of fabrications? A Buddha is not a fabrication, and a fabrication is not a Buddha, right? So maybe there is some other meaning here?

    Ther phrase, "The experiencer is realized to be a dimension of experience— Being! " is perhaps confusing. The observer who experiences is not a dimension, but rather a Buddha who gives rise to space, to dimension. Being in this sense seems to be a reification—taking an abstract concept and giving it Thingness. Why would we not just say a Buddha Is? As a Buddha I have beingness. Why would we not approach it in that manner as opposed to making it other than who we are in essence?

  4. TamingAuthor says:

    Would you explain the different levels of consciousness. It appears that in this essay you speak of what is known as aggregate consciousness rather than Buddha consciousness. How do they differ? How is dependently-arisen consciousness, skandhic or aggregate consciousness, different from Buddha consciousness, which is not arisen? Don't you think that is an important area to discern? How might a student recognize the difference so he or she does not attempt to kill off his or her essence in the process of going after the ego?

  5. TamingAuthor says:

    You may enjoy this article by Francesca Fremantle. She is the author of the wonderful book Luminous Emptiness.

  6. yogiclarebear says:

    Ben, there is no risk for me here of sounding “primitive.” It is simply a fact that I am, regarding the above. With that assumed, I’ll try my best to explore the points I understood.

    (I really do appreciate this, and feel that laying out the development of ego can serve to aid in unwinding from its imprisonment. I did have a harder time with your layout of these topics than I have with other author’s explanations, but like you said in regard to explaining Life beyond ego… “At this point logic and language begin to breakdown.” I will just attribute that concept to my limited (so far) understanding. I’m not here to critique your authorship.)

    Moving on. (I’m avoiding what I’m trying to say, which is, I’m not sure.)


  7. yogiclarebear says:

    First thing that came up for me personally was in the portion on relationship. You explained, “It is an institution with a single objective— to prevent the onset of boredom.” When I saw the word “boredom” I sparked. I’ve made it a practice in my life to reduce “noise” such as the typical TV, computer, blaring radio, droning machines, idle chit chat, etc. I’ve practiced and enjoyed being in silence in my surroundings for the past few years, and finally dipped into sitting practice just last year. Bla bla bla, the point is, I know that “boredom” is something that I’ve tried to avert from in the past via “outside noise” so bringing that down was me being mindful toward that.


  8. yogiclarebear says:

    But the thing for me is that boredom isn’t just “boredom.” Idleness, quietness, sitting with my-self is terrifying because I have to face my-self and see how awful it is/ has been. The yuck comes up. If I’m going backwards through this ego-development…I have no idea how I got here alive, through this vomit that keeps me from going through. The feelings that come up in “boredom” are so bad that I’m afraid of doing bad things in response to them, punishing my-self which is just continuing the ego-development forward!

    “This is reassuring from the point of view of ego, but in-&-of itself the 2nd stage is still insufficient. The “I AM because of that” still has no shape. At this stage, all it knows is that it is not that, but there isn’t a sense of identity.” What I’m trying to say, in regards to your concept, is that I feel like the “I AM because of that” is a hell of a lot safer than identity…backwards or forwards! I know that is what ego wants…but where do I go from here?


    • BenRiggs says:

      Well, when "the yuck comes up" it is important to understand it is being labeled the "yuck stuff" only because it is being seen from the point of view of ego… That is to say that it is being seen as something other than you. Their is only one resolution for the that most subtle form of distinction— Love!
      "where do I go from here? " Nowhere!!! Loving yourself means you have to stop running from yourself! Lets put all of this in my "layout."

      (1) There is a sens of being divided or fragmented… Apart from what arises. Some autonomous observer. This is the subtle feeling that there is some ONE who thinks but is not the thinking…
      (2) As a result, there is friction or rub between the two… Contact or relationship.
      (3) We then judge/react this relationship… In this case it is yucky, which implies action… Rejection.
      (4) Then we label it… Shortcomings, character defects, defilements, etc… The negative emotions. Which reinforces the idea that it is not me but something I have to deal with by ignoring or hating…
      (5) So we attempt to create environments that enable us to ignore them by projecting them onto others, externals. We create a world that is constantly reminding us of what we want to ignore.

      Does this make sense? Or should we go further?

  9. yogiclarebear says:

    You talk about fear under conceptualization. Should what I’m describing fit there? “Ego’s regime is an oppressive one. A type of totalitarian state where everyone’s role is assigned to them.” Has ego so assigned “me” to a role of self-reprimand for the sins of ego, and then for trying to move beyond ego, that I can’t seem to cycle out of it?

    Ben I know this makes sense to me, but does any of this make sense to your points, or am I way off the mark? I’m hoping someone will say something reassuring like, “it is part of the process.” Or something flowery like that. Heh.

    There is so much more to say regarding your entire article, but I have to un-noise for a time.

    • BenRiggs says:

      Well enlightenment is insight into confusion, so yes, it is part of the process… In fact our suffering IS the path!

      • yogiclarebear says:

        The first stage of ego-development is the this/that, right? Isn't it true that in order to even start sifting out of ego attachment, one has to realize there is a this and a that to even separate? If that is true, doesn't that mean that the first development stage is also…kindof the first un-development stage? So does the process necessarily “go backwards” through the stages?

        • BenRiggs says:

          "Isn't it true that in order to even start sifting out of ego attachment, one has to realize there is a this and a that to even separate?" — This is why I said Love was the only answer. If you get caught up in what you call "self-punishment" or separating yourself from your suffering then "dealing with it" it is just the same dynamic.

          "So does the process necessarily “go backwards” through the stages?"
          Meditation starts at the 5th stage working through discursive thought or the network of thought that is all the time trying to grasp the environment.
          Then moves through concepts and conditioned impulses and perception.
          Finally it moves into simple awareness. This where the distinction between this and that has to resolved. This is where it is discovered that there is no distinction to be made between the meditator and meditation.

          • yogiclarebear says:

            But in order to even realize the need for meditation…doesn't there first need to be an awareness that there is a distinction to be resolved? I guess I'm wondering, where does the realization that the process should even start going backwards occur?

  10. yogiclarebear says:

    Almost done…

    Well, I’ve thrown my self-depreciating self out there and there’s no turning back…so one more thought. I am aware that I grasp for validation. Growing up I craved it from parents and teachers, still from teachers and authority figures, from friends, and of course family. And as I was formulating a response to you here, I realized I wanted it from you. I’m fantasizing about the fancy comment you or others might make in response to me. I’m hoping someone will “make me feel” (because “other” has that power, apparently) like I’m getting it. I like your posts and your writing, and the fact that I don’t understand a lot of it makes me feel like I’m less (read: primitive!) and if you pat me on the back for my self-exploration I might become more.

    Confirm me. Justify me. Yadda yadda. Where does this fall into your stages? (I’m going to put it in the part where you used the word, “embarrassed.” Or maybe, “naked.”)

  11. matthew says:

    Hey Ben — How about this: the ego-structure emerges as a necessary narrational self-soothing strategy.

    Before we can say or even intuit "I am suffering", the actual suffering we feel is monolithic, inescapable. This is why the infant is inconsolable, except through care or fatigue. Like a less complex animal, the infant has no capacity to abstract consciousness from sensory input, and project both time and meaning onto the sensation, i.e., "I'm hungry but I will be fed soon", instead of simple unending hunger. The ego allows, as many critics point out, a story to be told. But there is enormous consolation value in that story — do we really want to denigrate this?

    According to the latest neuroscience (what I understand of it anyway), the ego-function is the escape pod from total sensory immersion and its regularly overwhelming pain or confusion. How strange that we then accuse the ego of such malificence. It was born to genuinely try to help. Otherwise we're marked by a different flavour of original sin.

    • BenRiggs says:

      The ego is not the problem… The confusion which suggests the ego is a static self immune from change is the problem. So, seeing its birth is a necessary step. It is the only step.

  12. […] is the dilemma we all face: Consciousness revolves around some sense of self. Therefore, it is ego-centric. In order to establish some form of lasting security, ego must […]

  13. […] instead of trying to back out, move deeper and trust that as you work through, the light on the other side will shine brighter and brighter. Light, or at least, Steve […]

  14. […] I was not content with my discontent. The discontent remains (in fact sometimes I think it has grown) but I feel very comfortable with it. I am content with my […]

  15. […] past articles, I have explained the ego’s developmental stages. I talked about how inbred thought experiences life as though it is that or some how other than, […]

  16. […] experience of this-&-that managed to divide life right down the middle. This single thought formed a perimeter around pure space, but we ignored the fact that this perimete…On one side of the line was this or the sense of self and on the other side was that or everything […]

  17. […] a horror flick turned out to be a funny and kind of tragic love story…with underlying themes of ego, self, creation, manipulation, and […]

  18. […] me this screams everything yoga has tried to unravel, that of the Ego. Isn’t yoga about inner awareness and non-competing (with the self and others) and all that is […]

  19. […] Four: The Birth Of The Ego Excerpt: “All of our troubles must be the product of self-deception, as we did not intend to […]

  20. […] off your mat can be the first step. Trying new activities keeps me humble and can remove the ego from my practice. A rock-climbing instructor recently told me I could learn a lot from falling […]

  21. […] about how I looked to the other yogis and yoginis—they certainly weren’t interested in that ego business, since they were all having too much fun relishing their own versions of shakti booty […]

  22. […] do you stand? Behind your wall, your identity, your ego-you? Come out and meet life. Start a conversation. Make friends…everything is waiting and your […]

  23. […] acceptance of things as they are, the unconditional acceptance of all circumstances also signifies egolessness. No matter what the provided situations are, they accept spontaneity, fluidity and generate no […]

  24. […] it is clear Buddha felt that unless one was using a correct method, one could not expect to gain Nirvana—the fully awakened state of absolute freedom and […]

  25. […] a mom and a healer, I believe that the feminine essence creates egos and keeps them healthy/in service of our deepest truth. It is through divine relationship, pleasure […]

  26. […] concepts of ego and moving beyond it are present in many spirituality structures, including Yoga, Buddhism, and contemplative […]

  27. […] is the ego created if it causes so much sorrow and pain throughout the world?” a student recently […]

  28. […] to try to get OUT of the ego-frame. Unfortunately, when I began yoga, I was totally unaware of the ego-frame and it took over many aspects of my life. Over time, I’ve continued to use the ego to try to […]

  29. […] start building this fortress at a young age. The people that cared for us most likely had emotions that they had […]

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  31. […] ego” is a manufactured misunderstanding. Everyday we cycle through an astonishing number of worlds. We have dozens of […]

  32. […] Without the proper view, meditation practice is nothing more than a concentrated attempt to validate our delusional, self-centered beliefs in order to establish some sense of solid ground for ego. It is important that we see the ego as a subtle effort to create and cling to entertainment. The ego is dependent upon amusement because it is dependent upon confirmation. […]

  33. […] a horror flick turned out to be a funny and kind of tragic love story…with underlying themes of ego, self, creation, manipulation, and […]

  34. […] concepts of ego and moving beyond it are present in many spirituality structures, including Yoga, Buddhism, and contemplative […]

  35. […] and scrub, scrub, scrub to remove all the caked on gunk that would have been easily gone had we not dealt with it in the first […]

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