Letting go of the ego-self
Descartes’ famous statement of “I think, therefore I am” is only half true: it is true that you “think” and you “thoughts” become you, but it is not the “real” you; you are not your mind, and your mind is not you. Do not readily identify yourself with your thoughts. The more you identify yourself with your thinking mind, the more you become attached to your thoughts, and thus you become controlled by your memories, which are no more than the thoughts of your past—they are toxic to the mind because they create a “false” image of the self.
Can you be who you really are, without striving to be someone else that you are not? Yes, but you need true wisdom to know your true self.
“Knowing others is intelligence,
Knowing ourselves is true wisdom.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 33)
With wisdom, you learn to let go of your ego-self. Without the ego-self, your mind becomes enlightened.
“Blessed is he who has no ego-self.
He will be rewarded with humility to connect with the Creator.
Blessed is he who has no judgment of self and others.
He will find contentment and empathy in everyone.
Letting go of everything is the Way to the Creator.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 9)
To know your true self, you need humility, which is the opposite of ego.
With humility, you let go of your ego-self to liberate you from the false self-image you have unconsciously created for yourself through your erroneous thinking. So, you must deflate, if not eliminate completely, your ego.
With humility, you begin to look honestly inside yourself to discover your true self.
Eckhart Tolle, the author of the bestseller The Power of Now, says in the beginning of the book:
“A beggar has been sitting by the side of a road for over thirty years. One day a stranger walked by. ‘Spare some change?’ mumbled the beggar, mechanically holding out his old baseball cap. ‘I have nothing to give you,’ said the stranger. Then he asked: ‘What’s that you’re sitting on?’ ‘Nothing,’ replied the beggar. ‘Just an old box. I have been sitting on it for as long as I can remember.’ ‘Ever looked inside?’ asked the stranger. ‘No,’ said the beggar. ‘What’s the point? There’s nothing in there.’ ‘Have a look inside,’ insisted the stranger. The beggar managed to prey open the lid. With astonishment, disbelief, and elation, he saw that the box was filled with gold.”
With humility, you may reverse the conventional pre-conditioned thinking of looking outside to others for credit and recognition. Instead, look inside yourself, and you may discover your true self, just as the beggar discovered the treasure he had been sitting on for years. Only with humility can you truly become who you really are, and not what you wish you were.
With humility, there is no ego-self. Without the ego, there is no need to build up a false self-image. With humility, there is no need to protect and sustain the ego that often creates the fear of failure, which originates from the expectation itself.
Remember, an expectation is merely a projection by the mind into the future of the desire to repeat a certain past experience, and that desire is kindled by past memories stored in the subconscious mind.
“Success is avoiding failure; avoiding failure is seeking success.
Both originate from fear and pride: the sources of human suffering.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 13)
With no expectation, there will be no fear, no disappointment, and no resultant toxic emotions, such as anger, anxiety, bitterness, envy, disappointment and regret, that may become toxic thoughts and ultimately toxic memories in the subconscious mind.
No judgment, no control
Letting go of the ego-self with no expectation reinforces the need to let go of judgment and control.
Remember, human suffering, pain, and misery are necessary for the co-existence of their counterparts, which are contentment, pleasure, and happiness, respectively; they complement each other according to the natural order of the universe.
“Good fortune and misfortune are all in one.
Seeking one and rejecting the other,
we become completely confused.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 58)
“There is no gain without loss.
There is no abundance without lack.
We do not know how and when
one gives way to the other.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 42)
Therefore, do not pick and choose because picking and choosing may often lead to making wrong choices and decisions in life, resulting in regret and bitterness, which are toxic emotions, creating toxic thoughts and memories in the mind.
“The Creator has no judgment, no preference.
He treats everything and everyone alike.
Every manifestation attests to the mysteries of his creation.
So, we, too, embrace everything and everyone with no judgment, no preference.
His grace, never depleting and forever replenishing, shows us the Way.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 5)
In life, there are many problems. Each of us is 100 percent responsible for his or her own problems. However, many of us also strive to solve the problems of others, erroneously believing that solving others’ problems may eliminate some of our own problems. Nothing could be further from the truth. Solving the problems of others is no more than a futile attempt to control the lives of others, thereby instrumental in controlling our own lives and destinies. Control is only a byproduct of expectation and judgment. Let go of control, especially control of others; it is a toxic action coming from a toxic mind.
“Letting go control,
we no longer strive and struggle.
Without strife and struggle,
there is no resistance.
there is no suffering.
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 30)
Controlling external events is futility. Control is but an illusion: whenever we try to control, we separate ourselves from our true nature.
To let go of the ego-self, let go of control, which may come in the form of extra effort or over-doing.
According to conventional wisdom, greater effort may lead to better result. However, if you understand that all things follow a certain natural order, such as the four seasons, you may have second thoughts about exerting extra effort. As a matter of fact, extra effort is a means to controlling the direction of one’s life. Very often, in the process of controlling, undue stress is created. If there is no expectation, there be no need for over-doing.
There is an old Chinese idiom: “Push the boat with the current.” It means the wisdom of availing the opportunity to move forward but without really exerting extra effort. There was also an ancient Chinese fable about a competition of drawing, in which candidates were asked to draw a snake in detail. One of the candidates finished his drawing well ahead of all his competitors. Thinking that extra effort would give him extra credit, he took it upon himself to add some detailed legs to his snake. As a result of his extra effort, he was disqualified and lost the competition. Even President Ronald Reagan made a reference to the wisdom of not over-doing in one of his state-of-union addresses when he said: “Govern a great nation as you would cook a small fish.” The President was referring to “little or no intervention” in world affairs; just as when we cook a small fish, we simply don’t flip the fish too much, nor do we overcook it.
Confucius, another great ancient sage from
rightly said: “Going too far is as bad as not going far enough.” Maybe the
golden mean is the wisdom of not over-doing in a futile attempt to control
one’s fate and destiny. China
No matter what choices and decisions you make in your everyday life, there will be wrong ones, resulting in problems of all types. The wisdom is to embrace them all, but without anticipating them.
“The Creator seems elusive among the changes of life.
At times, he seems to have forsaken his creations.
In reality, he is simply observing the comings and goings of their follies.
Likewise, we watch the comings and goings
of our likes and dislikes, of our desires and fears.
But we do not identify with them.
With no judgment and no preference,
we see the mysteries of life and creation.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 7)
No matter how challenging or difficult a life situation may be, embrace it and learn from it.
“Everything that happens to us is beneficial.
Everything that we experience is instructional.
Everyone that we meet, good or bad, becomes our teacher or student.
We learn from both the good and the bad.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 27)
Embracing is acceptance of what life has to offer, instead of fighting against it: the difficult and the easy; the pleasant and the unpleasant; the good and the bad—they all complement each other, and ultimately become “nothing.” The wisdom is that when you are in the middle of nothingness, you are in fact in the presence of all things, because everything originates from nothingness, which is God before the Creation.
Copyright© by Stephen Lau