It can’t stand the silence.
It either sustains itself on the spectral energy of the past, or entertains itself in the confusing and anxious haze of the future. The present moment takes its breath away in the same manner that stumbling upon a solar eclipse might take away ours.
The ego can’t survive unless we feed it from either our memory or our uncertainty. We’re all so used to white-knuckling the ropes tying us to the past and future, being stretched beyond the strength of our grasp, that it never occurs to us to simply let go and float onward in peace.
Our ego attaches itself to the identity we’ve crafted for ourselves over the span of our lives.
It’s learned to consolidate all of the information we’ve gathered about our actions, reactions, growth, mistakes and more and has built an impression in our minds about who we are, what makes us great, what makes us terrible, and how the rest of the world must perceive us based on these apparent “facts.”
It goes without saying that in some ways this has been good for our survival. When we learn new skills that are beneficial to staying alive, our ego gives us the confidence to ensure that we’re able to continue those behaviors with relative ease. Over time, our body’s attachment to these survival mechanisms spilled over into how we identify ourselves within our social standing and ranking within the hierarchy of whatever tribe we happened to be a part of.
It makes sense, after all. The actions and behaviors we took that gave us good standing among our tribes, the less likely it was that we’d be banished and left to fend for ourselves in the unforgiving wild. We learn skills of utility and craft, incorporate those into what our bodies are capable of, then we do the same thing when we learn which social cues and personality traits garner the most rewarding responses from the people around us, and solidify an image in our mind about who we must be from an outside perspective. We try our best to maintain a positive light around this image so as to not spoil the perception that others have about us. We update this image as necessary, as continue the game of social survival as we grow up and attempt to develop ourselves in other ways as well.
Our ego thrives on these images.
Without them, we’d lose all sense of who we are, what we’re capable of, and where we stand among others. It’s no wonder so many of us are so hopelessly attached to the people we used to be and have lived as our entire lives. It’s all we know and all we understand. Regardless of whether or not we actually enjoy playing the parts that we’ve grown accustomed to playing, our ego has nothing else to feed itself on. We can’t simply forget about our past because what will that say about our future? How can we have any idea of what’s to come when we voluntarily give up the experiences of what’s already past?
In the same manner as looking back at who we’ve grown into thinking we are, we also look ahead into the uncertainty of the future and make our predictions about what’s beyond the months and years to come based on the course we’ve already charted for ourselves. We follow the patterns of our past because patterns are predictable, and predictable is safe. Again, our attachment to survival overrides our genuine desire for novelty in new experiences simply because our ego wants to ensure that it stays alive.
When we become conscious of how our ego has been directing us our entire lives we’re better able to make decisions through an authentic yearning for growth and not simply based on a formulaic expression of what’s already happened.
This is how our ego works, in unison with the past and future simultaneously. It can only exist within the unstable superposition of the two points, it’s unable to survive as a collapsed, observed moment. It has it’s uses for survival and social standing as I mentioned, but it also tricks our sense of self into thinking that it is our self and is our true identity.
The truth of the matter is that, in reality, there is only one moment — this moment.
There is only one time — this time. Our memories of who we’ve been, along with our predictive nature of who we’re going to be, exist only as illusory walls confining our perception of what’s possible in the same way the walls of a hallway tell us that there’s only one direction to walk. Our past and future on either side, collapsing behind us and continually pushing us forward. It’s like wearing the blinders of a horse and being guided by egoic habits riding our backs and spurring our asses into staying the course it’s already determined us to go.
When we can finally see that there are no walls, no blinders to truly speak of, we can look left and right while our eyes will no longer be covered by the perceptions of the past or predictions of the future. We will exist as a singular force pressing against a new reality that has suddenly expanded beyond limitation.
Our egos can be good for plenty of things when it comes to how to operate and survive in the world. It helps us hold onto new information and develop new skillsets. It encourages us to continue being kind and as helpful as we can to our fellow man. However, the benefits it offers can be distracting to the point that we start to identify with it and become attached to a static persona incapable of real change.
The ego exists in every moment but this one.
Without the fuel it garners from the past and future, it’s left in the empty stillness of the present moment with nothing to sustain itself. But in this moment, in this calm and empty awareness, this is where you truly find peace of mind and the capacity to evolve. This is where you see life as it is without the filters of natural bias and nurtured identity. This is the moment the clouds of time part and you can finally see the power of the sun is its full glory. It can be blinding to some, but others simply close their eyes, raise their faces, and enjoy the eternal warmth of a mother star gifting you with a single yet everlasting moment in time. This moment.
The ego cannot exist here, but you can.
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This post was previously published on medium.com.
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