DEAR FRIENDS- This lifelong yogi, Zen meditator and inner pilgrim has a revolutionary thought to offer you. What Buddha and others called "the ego" is nothing more- or less!- than the impact of the traumas and deprivations, the pain and negative emotional conditioning we experienced as children. When you grasp the truth and import of this you will see that it changes everything- by freeing you to completely love and believe in yourself and embrace the joy of life. Allow me to explain how and why this is so!
We were born into this world completely ready to flourish, to fulfill ourselves, to love and be loved. We carried no stain of Original Sin, no karmic debt or problem from past lives and no inbuilt "ego" that predisposes us to suffering. Each and every one of us was like a perfect flower, needing only the sun of love, the earth of nurturing and the rain of understanding to blossom into our radiant and unique selves.
We were ready for happiness- but the world we entered was wounded. Unintended yet damaging reactions to our authentic selves- in our families (primarily), societies, cultures and religions- taught us to mistrust ourselves and doubt our own validity and rightness. I describe how we are hurt and how pain and self-doubt are passed from generation to generation in two of my essays: "Revolution of Love: Understanding Children's Rights" and "Ending Child Abuse- The Next Spiritual Revolution". They are both available in the Photos section of my Timeline.
When our emotional and instinctual needs were misunderstood and/or mistreated it was enormously painful. The tragic fact was that the adults in our world were totally unaware that they were hurting us, and therefore there was no release from the anguish. To cope and survive we had to suppress the suffering, storing it up in our bodies and unconscious minds. All religions and spiritual teachings attempt to explain the sense of dissatisfaction and struggle that people carry. Far more clearly than anyone before him, Buddha correctly sensed that a primal source of pain was operating in all of us. But because he was unaware of its real source- the emotional wounds and negative conditioning from childhood- he based his teaching on two fundamental errors. First, he concluded that our identification with our unique, individual selves makes us suffer. But this is demonstrably not the case! When you face and release the stored-up pain and learn to fully love and accept yourself, your chronic sense of unhappiness fades away and is replaced by lasting inner peace and well-being. Being the individual that is YOU then feels wonderful!
Buddha's second "false diagnosis" was that our desires can never be satisfied- that desire itself is a source of pain and alienation. But since Mother Nature made our need for pleasure and good feelings a positive and life-affirming part of our being, nothing could be more healthy and natural than the joyful satisfaction of our desires.
The actual problem with desire is that our early conditioning- and absolutely NOT the nature of desire itself- cripples our ability to be satisfied. As children, when we reached out with our core needs- for love, for the breast, for being held, for the understanding and validation of our instincts and emotions- and were met with misunderstanding, guilt, shame etc. we learned to mistrust our natural yearning. We became chronically "frozen", trapped between our healthy instinct to reach for the love and pleasure we need and our conditioning to expect frustration. Once this occurs, we could no longer satisfy our desires joyfully because we were unable to freely reach for them.
But when we release the stored-up anger and disappointment at the frustration of our natural needs, and free ourselves of the guilt and shame that stop us from fully reaching out, desire brings us alive and takes its happy place in our lives again!
Why are these insights of revolutionary importance? Because they take us beyond mistaken beliefs that make us doubt who and what we are- sacred and unique individuals, fully capable of happiness. With this Self-Loving vision the "scales fall from our eyes" and we see our own innate validity and perfection. We can finally grasp that our negative attitudes and emotional responses- to ourselves, other people and life- are NOT due to any "design flaw" in human nature. In happy contradiction to what Buddhism and other religions have traditionally taught, our individuality is a source of joy and not an illusion; life is NOT suffering; and our natural and healthy desires are fully capable of being satisfied. We DON'T have to develop the fearful contraction against love and life that in his time Buddha termed "the ego".
Buddha and other teachers correctly saw that a primal problem is operating within all us. But these prophets and pioneers didn't see WHY it is there- where it starts in a person's life and WHAT IT ACTUALLY IS. And this deeper insight makes all the difference!
When you are trapped in painful feelings or negative attitudes/behaviors, saying "oh, that's my ego" lulls you into thinking you understand more than you actually do. It leaves the real problem buried in your body and unconscious mind. In effect you remain blind and unaware about what is actually hurting you and driving your fear, anger, self-doubt, negative thoughts, inability to experience love and compassion and other causes of unhappiness. A vague concept like "the ego" is no substitute for actually waking up and facing the events and conditions that wounded you! And because you can finally see the true source of your suffering, becoming empowered to let it all go.
What I will say now I maintain with the utmost passion and conviction. Awakening to the fact that we were born fully capable of happiness, and that it is our dysfunctional childhoods and not self-defeating illusions such as Original Sin, "karmic shadows/lessons from past lives" or an inevitable Buddhist "ego" that are driving our problems, is the next frontier in spirituality. This "quantum leap" in our self-understanding is the equivalent of science evolving beyond the notion that "evil spirits" cause infections and recognizing the actual cause in microbes. The "evil spirits" theory may have had some usefulness but treating the germ is far more exact- and successful!
As a daily Zen meditator for decades, I can testify that I never would have been able to fully see and feel the impact of my childhood on me without the stillness, clarity and insightfulness that is awakened by that discipline. And the emphasis on compassion in Buddha's mission will forever be part of our individual and collective salvation.
But I am equally certain that if I only worked with the rudimentary and flawed concept of "the ego", or was enslaved by the false notions of karma or Original Sin, I would never have liberated myself from the fear, pain and self-defeating conditioning that originated from my upbringing. Or reached the place of inner peace, physical and emotional aliveness, daily happiness- and self-acceptance and love- that I gratefully enjoy today.
In this new understanding, the path to awakening begins with the fact that we are born free and perfectly ready to be happy, to love and be loved. It emphasizes reconnecting to our bodies, releasing our stored-up emotional pain and liberating our Unconditional Self-Love.
I guarantee that as you heal and free yourself in this more clear and complete way you will attain all the enlightenment and happiness you will ever need. And by opening your heart to YOU, you will open your heart to others and The Universe- through the power of love that connects us all!
LOTS OF LOVE- BRYAN