How to Dissolve the Ego (According to Eckhart Tolle’s Teachings)

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You, in essence, are formless consciousness or stillness or presence. Ego, in this context, is the false self or current state of consciousness of humanity that doesn’t let the presence (universal intelligence) shine through. In other words, it’s an entity made of mental conditioning (thoughts and emotions) through which you see and act on the world. Ego was a necessary stage in the evolution of consciousness, but to take the next step towards conscious evolution and ensure our survival, we must recognize and dissolve the ego.

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Considering the current times, there is a sense of urgency, as growing unconsciousness or Ego is threatening our survival, other species, and even nature that sustains us.[1] It is for those who already have an inner readiness in them. That is to say, those in whom inner shift from thoughts to consciousness or inner space has already begun. Not everyone is ready, but many are.[2] Don’t just read with your mind but pay attention to any deeper feeling responses as you read. It’s because the feeling will get you closer to the truth than thinking.

1. Recognize that ego, in this context, is identified with mind and form.[3] [4] When one says things like “I am a security guard,” “I am a technologist,” “I am a CEO,” “I am homeless,”, “I am a parent”, “I am a writer,”, “I was betrayed”, “I am a sufferer of some disease” etc., this is part of identification with the mind or mental conditioning. This means thinking or taking that role or label or story, which are no more than a bunch of thoughts attached to the primordial ‘I’ and its other thought forms, are you. In more direct words, you become your thoughts, reactions, and emotions. That’s what ‘mind-identification’ implies in this context.

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  • Ego, which is unaware of true source within, derives its sense of self from fleeting things, status, conditions, culture, physical appearance, relationships, gender, experiences, stories, knowledge, history, etc. “Better” or “worse” the label or story or condition, stronger the identification. Ego says: ‘I have, therefore I am. And the more I have, the more I am’ and vice versa. This delusion is the opposite of the truth.

2. Recognize form-identification. Identification with things and conditions like looks, body, diseases/illnesses, physical or mental conditions, title, money, assets, religion, gender, skin color, race, age, nationality, etc. It’s all part of form identification, contributing to the ‘illusory self-image‘ of who you think you are. The ego continuously needs to feed and identify with forms to survive and strengthen its false sense of self.

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Since all things and conditions are subjected to the law of impermanence, that is to say fleeting, so ego lives in a constant state of fear; anxiously looking for the next thing to identify with or to maintain its existing identifications to strengthen its illusory self. Part of the reason why thinking becomes compulsive, is that fear and desire are our primary motivating forces. Read Know Your True Self for more insight.

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  • Here’s a few questions to ask yourself:
    • What if you lost your looks and health due to ageing or illness or an accident?
    • Would you feel complete if you lost your status, job, relationships, money or possessions?
  • Sooner or later you will have to relinquish these things and conditions anyway. As with death approaching, all forms, relationships, concepts, and conditions that you identified with will become irrelevant and illusory. As death is stripping away of who you are not.[5] Is this not a fact?
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  • This does not mean to not enjoy and honor the things, relationships and passing pleasures of the world. In fact, when you truly realize their impermanent and passing nature,[6] you honor and enjoy them more. Its because fear of loss and attachment to forms, relationships, memories and experiences dissolve. Their transient nature is allowed to be.
  • Suffering arises when you seek yourself and long-lasting fulfillment in the fleeting world, relationships, pleasures, experiences and things, which they can’t give. If you didn’t realize this, you will be condemned to chase after experiences, sensory or sexual pleasures, relationships, and things of this world, one after another, unconsciously seeking lasting fulfillment and sense of self which they can’t provide.
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  • Ask yourself, ‘If I lost the things or assets or relationships or conditions in my life, would I feel complete?’ or ‘What would I be without them?’. Feel the answer within your intelligent body, rather than asking the mind. As mind, false God, may say something like “Of course, you will be diminished.”. Make the deep intuitive responses through inner-body or Being as the primary source of intelligence. Read Inhabit Your Inner Body More Deeply for more depth.

3. Realize deeply that fundamentally it’s all in mind. Whether it’s desire, fear, jealousy, conditions, happiness, sadness, stuff you have, your achievements, looks, relationships, longing, depression, your job, possessions, nationality, or any other identification. They are all ultimately thoughts and emotions that are attached to the primordial ‘I’ and its other forms; the Ego.

Like your car becomes a thought in your head and gets attached to the primordial or conceptual ‘I’ thought and its other forms, that says ‘I have a nice car’ or ‘my beat-up car’. Similarly primordial ‘I’ thought or Egoic self attaches itself to other thought-forms or labels, such as ‘I have been suffering from depression/anxiety, ‘I make a lot of money, ‘I am an average looking person’, ‘I have achieved this or that’, ‘I am a man/woman/trans’ etc.

  • “Ego is identification with form, primarily thought forms.” Eckhart Tolle.
  • It may seem like fear, desire, longing, frustration, anger and so on are caused by the external circumstances and people but are actually mind created. Example: You see a desirable thing or person, and feelings and thoughts of desire and/or frustration arise.
  • Which are conditioned responses. Be very alert to recognize that ‘desire’ or frustration are not out there but are created by mind that seeks forms, relationships, identity, security, experiences, pleasures etc. in the world to enhance its ultimately fictitious sense of self with an unconscious expectation that they will fulfill it.
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  • Another example: You experience pain or pressure in body and mental-emotional reactions (anxiety, worry, fear etc.) arise in response to it. Be alert to recognize that suffering is not caused by the condition (pain or pressure) but due to your conditioned thoughts, reactions and emotions in response to it. As you will read later.
  • That’s why Ramanan Maharshi said “Mind is maya (illusion)”.

4. Recognize the incessant, insane, and suffering-inducing nature of mind or ‘voice in the head’. Your mind is hyperactive as most of your thinking is compulsive, recurring, and pointless. The same thoughts come again and again, and they trigger the same reactive thoughts and emotions, based on the conditioning. Like ‘old broken records’ playing in your head.[7] Also, due to thinking’s often negative nature, much of it is harmful and causes a serious leakage of energy.[8] This is the never-stopping voice you identify with that treats the present moment as an obstacle or enemy or means to an end. The basic dysfunction.

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  • Realize that you are not your mind. Here’s a practice: Simply watch your mental activity. Which usually arises in the left side of your head. Can you see that this activity, or ‘voice in head’, is automatic, pointless, compulsive and never stops?[9] [10] . Deeply realize that it’s not You but your mind or Ego generating an incessant stream of thoughts and reactions in your space of consciousness, based on its conditioning, to ensure its survival. As you will read later.
  • Here’s another pointer: if you are the ‘watcher’ or observer of the voice, reactions and emotions (observed), how can you be them?
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  • “Recognizing the false as false is meditation. This must go on all the time” Nisargadatta Maharaj. What is ‘false’ in you? Incessant ‘voice in head’ (conditioned mind) and emotions.
  • A large part of suffering and problems arise when you believe the voice, reactions and emotions are “you” and follow or believe them.[11] [12] . In other words, when you become the voice and emotions. That’s the sickness of mind-identification or ego. And the ‘phantom self’ takes over your whole life and thinking becomes compulsive. You are not even there but a mind created image of you.

5. See that mind is an impostor that pretends to be you.[13] Mind is a wonderful tool, but the problem comes when you seek yourself in it; then it becomes an egoic mind and takes over your whole life. That’s when your sense of self is derived from the ever-changing content and conditioning of your mind, which is based on past and identification with forms. This does not mean that all the thoughts are painful or unproductive. However, we are primarily pointing to certain repetitive, persistent, pointless, negative thoughts, reactions, and emotions that form the core of ego. Which consists of about 80-90 percent of your mental-emotional activity[14] .

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  • So some thoughts (which also includes these words becoming thoughts in your head) can point you to the spiritual dimension within [15] , can be practical and counter or replace negative, repetitive thoughts and beliefs; thus not letting you fall into deeper level of unconsciousness. However, they are no ordinary, repetitive or attention seeking thoughts. So words or content can be part of your spiritual journey. However, deeply realize that words or content can at best point to the truth but are not the truth.[16]
  • You are the truth. The timeless, perfect and formless ‘awareness‘, that is aware of the incessant voice in your head, reactions, emotions and world[17] . As ego implies unawareness of the formless dimension.[18]

6. Realize that this world is like a playground. Like a sportsperson has their gear, tactics, strategies, practice, etc. for a match or game or event, in the same way, you have your body, things, mind, and knowledge, as your gear, to play in this playground, this world.[19] Realize that it’s just a ‘gear’ and not ‘you.’

Quotes The World Is Our Playground. QuotesGram

Yes, this gear (mind, body, skills, and knowledge) has its place to play in this world, but that does not mean you need to identify or lose yourself in it. You, in essence, are formless consciousness and you share that essence with all beings.[20] It’s because we are all expressions of One life.

Engaging in Practices to Dissolve the Ego

1. Listen. When you truly listen, a sacred space of knowing holds both the perceiver and perceived, that connects you with others on a much deeper level than the movement of thoughts and emotions. In that space, there’s no ‘other’. So listen with your whole being or inner body, which is an essential part of true listening, and to be present.

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  • Experiment. When you find someone complaining or ranting about their life, people, in general or a particular life situation, just truly listen to them without any mental interpretation or judgment, as you hold the frequency of intense presence or alertness. If egoic thoughts arise within, allow them to be. Don’t validate their story by reacting or confirming, no matter how sad or great it is. That is to say, look through their ego rather than looking at it.
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  • As when you look at the ego, it’s your ego that’s looking. But when you look through the ego, it’s the awareness that you are looking at itself, because essence of all things and beings is formless consciousness. In other words, relinquish all mental positions or judgments and be there as a field of spacious presence. This may bring out the sanity in them and you may witness them to realize the insignificance and irrelevance of their stories, complaints and problems.
  • It’s because when people complain, it’s the Ego that complains through them. Ego wants reactions, conflict, validation, drama and enemies to create further suffering and strengthen its illusory sense of self[51] [52] However when you hold it in loving embrace of your awareness, without any judgments or giving any reality to its stories, it looses energy because its not getting reactions to feed on.
  • “Can you be there as the space for the other person? I would say that’s the greatest gift you can give to someone” (Eckhart Tolle).
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  • Similarly, your own mind complains to trigger reactions, so it can feed on them. So listen and look through your mind, which also implies watching the mind. Recognize the interconnection? What you do to others, you do to yourself. So when you look through other people’s ego, you also naturally go deeper within yourself. That’s why it is said that human interaction can be a great spiritual practice. Read Stay Rooted in Being for more depth.
  • “Art of listening is essential for a relationship to deepen.” Eckhart Tolle.
  • 2. Be extremely alert to detect and bring the unobserved mind patterns in the light of your consciousness. Thoughts and reactions can be slippery, quick and can be gone in just milliseconds, especially pre-verbalized or unverbalized thoughts and reactions. However, they have a great power to manipulate you like a puppet. So a high degree of alertness is required to detect and make them conscious.[53] One practice is to write your recurring, negative and persistent thoughts. As writing can help bring the deep seated thoughts in the light of your awareness or consciousness. Plus, it helps to give them full attention and full attention implies full acceptance.[54]
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  • Of course, it can be daunting to write down thousands of thoughts and reactions. So you can just spend a few moments on this every day. If you meditate, you can also make this a part of your meditation practice, as it can help clear your mind, which allows you to go deeper within. Alternatively, you can also verbalize your thoughts. This means you verbalize and inquire into what you are feeling and deep seated mental patterns (unspoken assumptions or reactions), as they arise in the Now, to bring them in the light of your consciousness. However, be aware that there is a sense of dis-identification from thoughts and emotions. Again, you are not your thoughts and emotions. It helps a lot to be aware of inner-body and/or breath and/or sense perceptions as you verbalize. Read How to Stay Rooted in Being for more depth.
  • You can also count your thoughts. Especially repetitive and compulsive thoughts and mental patterns. As counting can help you remain alert. Like an alert cat watching a mouse hole.

3. Use memories to learn and become more aware. If you use your memories to learn and not for psychological suffering, they can help you become more aware of your unconscious patterns and mistakes without actually having to indulge in them again and again.

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  • As an analogy, memories are like watching yourself the same way a player/athlete watches himself/herself in a video footage. You are in a more comfortable and less stimulated environment, thus are more aware. That’s why having a good memory can help you become aware of the mistakes and learn from them. So you don’t make the same mistakes again and again.
  • However, be honest and alert that mind doesn’t falsify the memories

4. Allow. When you detect yourself resisting ‘what is’ or whatever arises, say “I accept” or “I allow” or “I forgive” or “I surrender,” or “I yield”, again and again, depending on the situation or condition and whatever feels natural to you. It’s even more effective if you synchronize your breathing with these phrases.

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  • If you can’t accept, then ‘accept that you can’t accept.’ Or take action immediately[56] Read How to Surrender to the Present Moment for more depth. As far as inner transformation is concerned, there’s nothing you can do about it but can only create a space for it to happen by practicing being present.
  • Realize that even if you say “I allow” or “I forgive” etc., that is just a thought or pointer. It’s what the thought points to, is what brings acceptance and transcendence. Otherwise you will remain stuck in the walls of concepts and thoughts. These words are not saying “look at me” but “look beyond me”.[57] . Again, Truth is beyond any words and forms.
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  • When you detect resistive or egoic patterns in you or others, then resistance or beating yourself over them is just more ego and keeps them in place. Instead, simply become aware and allow them to be, or shift attention away from reactions and mental patterns to present moment anchors or Now. Whichever practice feels easier and natural. When you simply allow and don’t resist ‘what is’, egoic patterns naturally dissolve, and peace and joy of Being emanate from deep within.

5. Watch egoic reactions. Have you noticed when the mind experiences an undesirable stimulus (thoughts to smell), it reacts or resists or creates irritation or other forms of negativity? Why did the mind create it? Because it holds the unconscious belief that its resistance, which you experience as negativity or unhappiness or discontent in some form, will somehow dissolve the undesirable condition.[58] This, of course, is a delusion.

The resistance (irritation or anger or discontent) that it creates is far more disturbing than the original cause that it is attempting to dissolve. It may seem like the situation or condition is causing the suffering but if you look deeply, it is actually the automatic mental-emotional resistance in response to them. We spoke about this earlier.

  • “The greatest difficulty is the mental resistance to things that arise, and the underlying assumption is that they should not” (Eckhart Tolle).
  • Resisting ‘what is’ is no different than doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. Which is also how Einstein defined insanity when he said “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”
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  • To deal with the automatic mental resistance, be there as the background witnessing presence or the Knower and/or allow or accept it to be. You can also immediately shift attention from thoughts, reactions and emotions to present moment anchors like inner body, breath, or sense perceptions i.e Now. If that’s not possible, accept that you cannot accept or take action or remove yourself from the situation. Whichever seems easier and natural at that moment. There are few more pragmatic practices in the article Stay Rooted in Being.

6. Watch physical reactions or patterns. Have you noticed when an egoic (mental and/or emotional) reaction arises, then the body also reacts in form of pressure, muscle or physical movement, sensations, twitching, tension, etc. in the brain, heart, body, tongue, hands, face muscles, etc.

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If you are alert enough, you may notice sensations or movement in muscles or body parts as if trying to control or fight or suppress ‘what is’ (thoughts, emotions, condition, situation, etc.) in form of fidgeting, muscle contraction, leg shaking, clenching hands, etc. These are reflections of egoic reactions on a physical level.[59] . The stronger the reaction, the more tense the brain, face, or body muscles become and may even cause physical pain.

  • Just as you watch the thoughts and emotions in you, detect and watch the physical reactions and patterns. As becoming aware of physical and/or emotional reactions also makes you more aware of Egoic reactions, especially pre-verbalized and unconscious ones, that cause them. For example: Body may respond to an anxiety pattern, even before it becomes a thought, in form of leg/legs shaking, fidgeting, anxious emotions in your chest, you grinding or clenching your teeth, scratching objects, biting your lip or finger nails or inside of your mouth, tension in face, brain and other muscles, and so on.[60] 
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  • This is so embedded that you may not be aware that you are engaged in these pain inflicting patterns and reactions, and may likely detect them later when they pass away. For example: You may notice your arms and legs being tired after fidgeting or shaking for a long time, experience pain after biting your mouth/lips or digging your nails in your palm, headache or soar body after muscles contraction, stinging sensation after unconsciously rubbing toes and fingers or scratching body parts etc.
  • Even the slightest and subtle physical and/or mental and/or emotional reactions need to be detected or they will continue to remain unconscious and run your life. Therefore a high degree of alertness is required. Here’s a hint: see if you can detect physical reactions or patterns like tension in heart, tongue, cheeks, jaw and brain muscles (especially left side) in response to an undesirable thought or situation or people, as if trying to control or suppress mental reactions, condition or situation. That is to say resisting what is.

7. Free yourself from all concepts. Did you notice your mental interpretation after reading ‘Watch your inner-self, ‘Accept what is’ and other pointers in the article? Your mind may have asked something like, ‘How can I watch my inner self?’ or ‘What does ‘watching inner self’ even mean?’ And mental answers to these questions may become your definition of ‘watching your inner-self,’. That is to say, ego has found another concept or constructs to identify with.[61] 

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As the mind has a compulsive need to conceptualize or label what it experiences because that’s all it knows. Another reason is that concepts (thoughts) and emotions are familiar and the mind adheres to the known. As it thinks the unknown is dangerous. This is why the egoic mind ignores and dislikes the present moment.

  • Concepts and pointers can be part of your spiritual journey, but deeply realize that they are no more than stepping stones or viewpoints to be left as quickly as possible, and never to be taken as absolute truth.[62] Again, thought by its very nature is limited and can at most show you the relative truth. In your spiritual journey, concepts may get replaced with more helpful spiritual sounding concepts or explanations or pointers. However, they are still bundle of words (thoughts). Hence limited and will become great obstacles, if used as crutch.
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  • True intelligence is holistic, formless and unconditioned. It’s the stillness within you.
  • “Can you step back from your own mind and thus understand all things?” (Tao Te Ching). Read How to Surrender to the Present Moment for more insight.

References

  1. Tolle, Eckhart. The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment. Vancouver, BC: Namaste Publishing, 1999. Page 23
  2. Tolle, Eckhart. A New Earth. Vancouver, BC: Penguin, 2005. Page7.
  3. Tolle, Eckhart. The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment. Vancouver, BC: Namaste Publishing, 1999. Page 28
  4. Tolle, Eckhart. The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment. Vancouver, BC: Namaste Publishing, 1999. Page 22
  5. Tolle, Eckhart. A New Earth. Vancouver, BC: Penguin, 2005. Page 41.
  6. Tolle, Eckhart. A New Earth. Vancouver, BC: Penguin, 2005. Page 80.
  7. Tolle, Eckhart. The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment. Vancouver, BC: Namaste Publishing, 1999. Page 18
  8. Tolle, Eckhart. A New Earth. Vancouver, BC: Penguin, 2005. Page 54.
  9. Tolle, Eckhart. The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment. Vancouver, BC: Namaste Publishing, 1999. Page 21

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