How Spiritual Enlightenment Helps Us to Live an Egoless Life
What is the key factor of waking up and discovering who we are?
In many ways, it’s very simple but it can be extremely difficult to do. When we’re around the age of two or three, we start identifying with things. For instance, we like and dislike certain things, we realize who our parents and grandparents are, we take on a name, we take on a personality. The longer we live, the more solidified our egoic identity becomes. We start believing everything that we’re told. But we need to take a moment and really reflect on and think about what we have taken on.
When I was growing up I had a sister named Kim and when she got married she changed her name. She wasn’t Kim Puff anymore, but she became someone else. So who is she? Is she now this new name or is she her old name? Then her husband died of brain cancer and she got remarried, taking on a new name again. So who is she? Our names cannot be who we are, but they tell us that we’re our name.
We may have family members who pass away, such as grandmothers or grandfathers, who are part of our lives and yet they’re not there anymore. I was very close to my grandfather on my mother’s side and he passed away one summer while I was at university. Is he the person in that graveyard, full of dust and bones? Or is he in my memory? But even memory changes. For instance, my mother got Alzheimer’s when she grew older and she didn’t even remember some of her relatives. Does that mean they don’t exist for her anymore?
Life keeps changing. And yet, we identify so much with who we are. Before we had children, my wife was a teacher, then she became a mother and now she’s a university student. Who is she? What’s her career? That changes. Things change. How can we truly be that which changes? Everything changes and yet, we identify to such a large extent with this ego of ours.
That’s really the problem: we identify with what is impermanent and is subject to change. If we want to wake up and live an enlightened life right here and right now, we have to let go of our egoic identity. We have to live egoless.
What does that really mean? How do I, Doctor Puff, live a life without any ego, without any identification? Who will I be? Obviously, we’ll still answer to our names, but what we won’t do is identify or be solidified with the labels that change. Right now we may identify ourselves with our careers, but when we retire what will we be? If we stop identifying with these labels and realize that they are impermanent, they are manifesting right now but they’re now who we are, then we can realize that who we really are is that which witnesses all the changes.
The only thing that is permanent, that’s been there from the beginning and will be until the end, at least as long as this life we live lasts, is awareness. It is witnessing, without labels; silent awareness, silent witness, egoic-less awareness, egoic-less witnessing of what is, without saying “mine,” “yours,” “his,” or “hers.” We drop all the pronouns and just be. We flow with life and we stop taking on the labels that were given to us or that we take on ourselves.
When we drop the labels and just live life in the present moment with our minds being still, what happens is a beauty or peace, even bliss, arises. There is only one way to experience it and that’s to experience life without egoic labels. When we drop all the labels life becomes a beautiful adventure that keeps unfolding. It’s like going to a movie. We don’t know what’s going to happen next but we just experience it. We enjoy the ups and downs. We enjoy life because we don’t identify with anything. We lose pride, fear, hope and desire. These all come from identifying ourselves with the ego.
For example, let’s say that we have a job we like but then we lose it. Instead of feeling ashamed and thinking “I’m bad, I’m terrible, oh what will people think?” let’s rather think that we never identified with the job and we just enjoyed it while we did it. Now the universe will bring us something else, and God will bring us a new adventure. Perhaps for six months we’ll have the opportunity not to work; we’ll be home and we’ll enjoy time with our families, or we’ll meet new people along the way as we try for new jobs.
Instead of saying “What’s wrong with me? Why did I lose my job? What will people think?” those thoughts and fears all disappear because there is no identification with being a worker: we just work. There is no identification with being successful: we just do life. We do it well because we just do it. However it turns out is beautiful and really doesn’t matter.
When we live a spontaneous life we may find that life unfolds beautifully. When we’re not attached to anything, how could it not? How could anything not become a wonderful adventure? We don’t care what people think because we don’t identify with our egos and labels anymore. We’re not worried about thoughts of other people and we don’t judge others because we realize that they aren’t their egos either. There is just life, just living, and we enjoy it. No matter what happens we say “Wow! This is kind of cool” and we see its newness. It’s really a childlike approach to living because everything becomes new and fresh. Instead of labeling or saying “It’s this,” “I’m that,” “You’re this,” or “You’re that” we lose those things and we work towards just being. Being present and just enjoying the journey, no matter where it takes us.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re going to become homeless wanderers, but it does mean that instead of our home, car or family, we see the whole universe as our home. The sky is our roof, the earth is our ground on which we live and we just enjoy this experience while we’re here.
While we’re living the 20 to, say, 100 years that we have on earth, we just live and flow with life. We realize that there are going to be many changes but we flow with them and life can go well. But the key is that we can’t be attached to anything, not even the desire to be awakened, which can be an attachment.
The ego is pretty tricky. It can say “I want to wake up. I’m awakened! Wow, I got it!’ but that’s still the ego. There is awakening, but it doesn’t happen to anyone. It just is who we all are. We’ve forgotten it but if we stop identifying with all the labels and our egoic self, what happens is that we identify with our true self –that which is impermanent, that which always is and always will be. Then awakening is who we are.
We are that. We’ve always been that and we’ll always be that. All we have to do is let go of every egoic attachment and egoic identity, and just be.
We need to become aware of the fact that we are, and everything comes out of who we are. All there is, is beingness. Silent awareness, things that can’t be described but what we are, and everything, is not two, non-dual, isness.
The universe in which we are living is more like a play. It isn’t really real. It’s merely a play and we’re not real as players in it. We’re just acting our parts or being acted, and the only thing that is permanent is our awareness, our witness of our playing our part. We’re the actor, director, playwright, lighting, background scenes; we are everything. But what we remember is our own beingness. We’ve forgotten our full beingness of being everything that’s a part of the play.
There are many decisions we need to make throughout our lives. If we awaken to the fact that we are, and everything is merely a shadow of who we are, then we know it’s just a play. But then how do we live our lives in this play called earth? How do we live, make choices and know what to do? How do we decide what to do for our careers? Who should we date? Should we have children? And so on.
Essentially, how do we play our part well? It’s actually very simple. Again, this is about getting back to the basics and the basics are that because we aren’t, we just are the witness to what’s happening. Whatever we do is going to be the right thing to do because that’s part of our play. Whatever we do is going to be what we’re supposed to do. However, if we want to live our lives well, and that seems to be the way our part is going to be played in this play, then the way to achieve this is by making choices that are spontaneous, effortless and without much egoic commentary.
Our egoic minds are constantly thinking about what to do. But if we learn our roles and we understand that we’re pure beingness, we’ll live our lives like a beautiful dancer. It is true that the dancer has to learn how to dance, but once he or she learns how to dance, then they dance life. We can do the same thing and just flow with life. We will go with what seems most natural and spontaneous. It’s almost as if life unfolds beautifully as if things happen spontaneously, but in a very mystical, beautiful way.
When we just experience life in the freedom of knowing who we are and then make choices that seem right to make at that time without thinking too much about whether they’re right or wrong (we need to be careful of labels such as “right” or “wrong” because they can become a trap), what happens is that we realize that everyone is part of the play.
Another thing that will happen is that we won’t try or desire to hurt other people; rather, we will want to love everyone because everyone is really us. We will love everyone and flow from that love. What spontaneously arises from us is something beautiful. What unfolds – even though it is still a play – is a beautiful play that we get to enjoy and it leads to what I could call happiness. A happy ending.
Living in a sense happily ever after, or at least as long as we live this life, will occur because we’re flowing with instead of fighting life. When we don’t fight life and rather just flow with it and we trust that things are happening the way they’re supposed to be happening, then we relax. In this deep relaxation and deep trust, life goes well. Ultimately, whatever happens is exactly what’s supposed to happen. So we can just relax and even enjoy it. It’s the same as going to a movie in that we enjoy watching the movie even though we don’t know how it’s going to turn out.
The ups and downs, the dramas and excitements, the happiness and sadness can all be pleasurable– even sadness can be pleasurable when we enjoy it from the perspective of a witness instead of getting engaged in it. Rather, we can respond to it spontaneously. For a few days let’s try spontaneous living through being the witness. Let’s see if it doesn’t go pretty well when we don’t have any fears or desires that we’re holding onto and we realize that every aspect of life can have something beautiful in it. Then, whatever happens is something we can find pleasurable, something that we can find joy in. Life will be able to flow well simply by the fact of stepping back and not getting so caught up in everything. We realize “Hmm, this life of ours is really just to play and it’s one we have played infinite number of times before and an infinite number of times again.” So why don’t we just enjoy it?
Again, it’s like going to a movie. We just enjoy what we watch, whether it’s a good or not so good movie. Let’s treat our lives in the same way and just enjoy our lives. With losing expectations and thoughts like “What is going to happen? It needs to turn out this way” what happens is that we’re just good with whatever happens. We flow with things and life becomes far less of a struggle. It becomes more of an absolutely beautiful experience.
Even when there is sadness or loss, we can still find that life flows well because we don’t expect things to stay the same. We know that life changes and we know that we’re not even in control of everything. Our main purpose is merely to just be the witness of our lives. From being the witness, we spontaneously flow with life.
We can try living a far more spontaneous life in the moment. Instead of being two years into the future or three years into the past, let’s be right here and right now. Life in the right here and right now is called ‘living in the zone’ and it enables life to go really well because we are the silent witness living in the present moment who is flowing with life. We are listening, watching what arises within us and in others, and we are flowing. We are not fighting life. What will happen is that life will get better.
If we work on living in the present moment just in beingness, from there we can see what spontaneously arises from us and we can see if life goes poorly or well. The key is to watch the mind. The egoic mind loves to plan things and make things happen. Living spontaneously is far more raw and spontaneous than that. It’s not about “I have to have this and I want that so I’m going to go after it.” Right now it’s far more about “What am I to do? How am I going to live my life right now without any thoughts?” and see what happens.
We may find that life is beautiful, but at the deepest level, life just is. We are.
Dr. Robert Puff, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, author, international speaker, and meditation expert who has been counseling individuals, families, nonprofits, and businesses for over twenty years. A contributing writer to Psychology Today, he has authored numerous books, including Spiritual Enlightenment: Awakening to the Supreme Reality and creates a weekly podcasts and articles on enlightenment, spiritual enlightenment, nonduality, Advaita Vedanta at: http://www.EnlightenmentPodcast.com