by Deepak Chopra MD: In modern society there is almost no choice but to follow the demands of your ego. Self-interest is a driving force. What do I need? What do I want?
How can I get more of the good things in life? But a lifelong campaign to become successful, prosperous, and happy doesn’t have to be based on ego. As we saw in the last post, “I, me, and mine” has built-in flaws. The world’s wisdom traditions teach that the ego is insecure, isolated. As a lifelong guide, it proves extremely unreliable.
The essence of the problem is this: the ego seeks to increase pleasure and decrease pain, without realizing that the source of pain is itself. As long as you see yourself as a limited “I,” fighting to gain a share of life’s rewards while every other “I” is attempting to do the same thing, you will think, speak, and act from a constricted state of awareness.
There would be no alternative way to live if awareness couldn’t expand, but it can. Wisdom traditions both East and West speak of a deeper level of the mind. This is your true self, and when you access it, your thoughts change. Once thoughts change, then speech changes, and finally action. Life consists of thinking, speaking, and acting; therefore, finding your true self creates a total transformation.
To find out that this is true, you need a breakthrough, a decisive event that will motivate you to stop choosing the way of the ego. Every spiritual guide in history has attempted to create such a breakthrough for their followers, using sermons, parables, logic, emotional appeals, and the whole panoply of spiritual experiences. There’s no lack of maps and guidance in this area. Breakthroughs occur through insight, when you suddenly “get” why Jesus and the Buddha were dissatisfied with everyday existence and pointed to a higher reality.
People “get” spirituality in very personal ways, but one can say that the following experiences are typical of real breakthroughs, even though each one is different from the others:
You come to a desperate point when your old way of living no longer works, and its pain and distress aren’t tolerable.
You experience a burst of bliss that comes from an unknown source, and it leaves a deep impression in your mind.
You have a transcendent moment when the solid, convincing physical world no longer seems solid and convincing at all.
You are burdened with worries, searching for a way out, and suddenly an opening appears.
If anyone has a powerful enough experience along these lines, life changes at its very core. No one can engineer these breakthrough experiences, and they take hundreds of individual forms, from visitations by angels to speaking in tongues, from near-death experiences to receiving messages from the dead. Because these things lie outside everyday experience, they are naturally controversial and rife with doubt and skepticism. That shouldn’t mask the underlying template: You have a breakthrough when higher awareness appears, as if out of the blue, and with an “Aha,” you understand that the ego-personality doesn’t have to be the foundation of your life.
There are traditional words for a breakthrough in consciousness, such as awakening, second birth, salvation, and going into the light. We don’t need the baggage of terms that are associated so closely with religion, however. Breakthroughs happen in the mind, and the mind can be approached on its own. Since thinking precedes speaking and doing, the expansion of awareness is recognized best by noticing that your thoughts have changed (carrying emotions, dreams, wishes, hopes, intuition, etc. along with them.
Even though a breakthrough cannot be engineered, you can lay the groundwork for one, and when you do, your ego will lose its grip and the door to the true self will be opened, step-by-step. Wisdom traditions have described this strategy of inner transformation very well – we’ll go into details in the next post.