Chapter 1 – Substituting the Word ‘God’ for ‘Consciousness’
‘No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.’
What is consciousness? Consciousness is not only a person’s awareness and ability to think in each present moment, but also their ability to choose well in that moment. It is what differentiates humans from all other life forms. Humans have the instinctive ability in the very millisecond of any one moment to consciously choose between good and bad. Consciousness is to choose the path of love, life, goodness, and peace over ill-will, hatred, violence, and war. It is what inspires great books, great works of art and music, great religions, great love stories, great individual accounts of rising above personal tragedy, and best of all great free societies founded upon basic principles of natural law as it relates to humanity. In the face of great conflict, particularly in this day in age where we have the ability to extinct the entire human race with a mere push of the button, we make the conscious decision not to. And thus, we continue to exist and think for another day. It is both an individual entity that we struggle with within our personal lives and a collective entity in the form of today’s governments and religions.
Consciousness is where you find God; some might say God is consciousness. The English word God is just a little three-letter word, like the word Allah in Arabic or El in Hebrew, humans have conjured up to try and describe something that there are no words in any language to describe. Sometimes we even attach two legs and two arms and a gender to the word but it is much more than that. Perhaps the word infinity would be a more appropriate word than God. Maybe over the course of your life you were fortunate enough to study calculus, or unfortunate depending on your experience, and you can recollect trying to wrap your brain around the concept of ∞. It can be challenging enough for us to understand the concept as it relates to math but in doing so we can move closer to seeing how relates to all of life.
Infinity is so much more than just a series of numbers that go on indefinitely as in the world of mathematics. To look at the microcosm of ∞ and see how carbon atoms link up and interact to form life, then to zoom out into the infinite ends of the galactic vacuum of the universe; that and then some is ∞. It is all of life, all the universe’s mysteries uncovered, and all the limitless possibilities through the mysteries yet to be uncovered that are accessible when we choose to be conscious in every decision. When we fail to grasp the concept of infinity in the world and refer it to as “my Infinity” (i.e. - my God), we reduce it to nothing more than just another religion from which there can be no other thoughts on God beside “my religion” in our mind(s). We must each be like scientists and be casual observers to the world in which we live and allow the infinite potential to flow from being conscious in each decision we make as individuals and collectively.
You don’t necessarily have to believe in Heaven or Hell to know that consciousness exists. All thoughts, and therefore all books which are nothing more than manifestations of thought, are products of the human mind. All you have to know is that you were born of a mind that thinks and recognize that sometimes that mind transmits negative thoughts and sometimes it transmits positive thoughts. Through this all things are possible and the world around us is a mere reflection of our thinking minds. It has the ability to shift in accordance with our individual minds shifting in a positive or negative direction collectively. Many in today’s world struggle individually with it in the form of obsessions, anger, anxiety, depression and even thoughts of personal annihilation, suicide.
Many religions try to define God as their God and only theirs which cannot be shared. Other religions like Buddhism don’t even invent a word to attempt to describe God in the external sense but rather know that which in western culture is referred to as God is found internally through seeking inner peace (i.e.-Zen) in the present moment. You don’t have to wait until death to ‘find God’; that which is commonly referred to as God is present in every moment if you allow consciousness to be present in all your decisions. The moment you take your eye off the present moment with your thinking and look to some future or past thought is the moment ego seeps in. God does not have to be an external, future thing as much as it is an internal level of awareness to each present moment/decision. To simplify even further, God is love. To know love is to know God. Everything else is just something within our thinking minds which tries vainly to grasp onto the concept of God in the service of something that is not love.
The opposite of consciousness is called ego. It is present in all of us; some more than others and it is able to change intensity at any given moment. It is that voice in all of us that is trying to satisfy something that can never be satisfied. If you had to define it in terms of one single emotion, it would be fear; fear of everything! It always wants to be more, take more, conquer more, and be superior to others. Or, it says you are not enough, are less than, suck at this or that, are a victim of this or that, etc. It doesn’t want you to be the best that you can be, or be at peace, or actually be happy; it just wants you to be better than or less than you are or everyone else is. The ego also doesn’t think that the rules apply to that mind in which it resides. The rules and laws are just for everyone else in that external world in which that body and mind exists.
When you take into account every single ounce of information available to your brain and formulate a set of ideas, that single defining opinion is called your faith. Usually, that faith in what you know is so completely and utterly engrained in you that you accept it as The Truth and there shall be no other truth that exists not in complete harmony with your Truth. And so, you have fulfilled your ego's desire to live and thrive another day. It is permitted to operate silently in the aspect of our thinking we are unaware of, the unconscious mind. Ego serves us as the parasite that holds humanity back. It is the process of accepting our truths as absolute belief systems that can cause us to shut down our hearts and minds making us no longer students of life. We must be committed to continual openness to learning throughout life if it is the goal to ever find the solutions to our problems as individuals or as one race.
If God, in the conventional sense, saw what we did with His message(s) found in all religions, He (or She) most certainly would line up most of humanity single file, shoulder-to-shoulder and then (like in the old TV show The Three Stooges) with one fell swoop of His hand slap all of us across the cheek for our stupidity in warping His message of love and peace. Would God really do this!? No probably not, nor does He probably have a hand to do it with. Perhaps you found visualizing this amusing or even funny. This is to illustrate yet another point. Humor is very important in this world, more so than even guns or bombs. They both however serve the same utilitarian purpose; one obviously being much more peaceful than the other. That is to buffer between ego and consciousness.
We take ourselves so damn seriously, particularly when we are talking, writing, or thinking about God. And to a lesser extent, people around the world do this when they talk about their nationality and government. God would not want us killing over differences of opinion. The Golden Rule that is shared by all great religions premised on consciousness encourages that we attain peace by doing unto others as we would have done unto ourselves. Many atheists understand this point and it makes pretty logical sense. Humanity’s Creator would prefer that we just accept each others' differences rather than trying to condemn or destroy one another for those differences. It is no coincidence then that you will often find atheists and agnostics closer to God (i.e. more conscious) in their chosen path of love and peace relative to many who profess to be believers and followers of God. Instead, people all too often use God through religion to hate, justify condemning others, or just defer responsibility for their own thoughts and actions. Such is the Myth of a Christian Nation.
Sometimes we are held back by choosing to focus on God in the context of things we do not understand nor need to in terms of living a good, happy, and virtuous life. The afterlife is a prime example of how many religions are inclined to use it to promote fear. They have a tendency to play on our fear of the unknown and tell us that if we don’t do exactly what they tell us to do we will go to Hell. Then, we follow our so-called spiritual teachers and now we don’t have to wait until we die to experience Hell, for we have already created it on Earth. We unconsciously persecute each other for not following a certain religion in a certain obsessive-compulsive way; sometimes this occurs even within the same religion. This Battle for God found in the feuding that occurred amongst sects of Christianity in Europe during the 1700’s caused people to risk their lives and flee to America. It also is present in the quarrels that occur today between different Christian denominations in United States as well as Shiite and Sunni Muslims in the Middle East.
To enter into consciousness or to even make a single conscious decision, you must first be at peace with yourself. This means to internally embrace the belief of ‘It is what it is’ and stop allowing one’s own ego to not be content with one’s self or the world around them. Doing so permits an individual to hit the mental <reset> button. The various religions each have their own name for this resetting process whether it is salvation, nirvana, enlightenment, etc. So often in today’s world, people suffer from the complete opposite of acceptance of what is in the form of anxiety and the pinnacle of that lack of acceptance in the form of a nervous breakdown. Through complete passive acceptance of all previous life events and learned emotional responses, and detachment from future expectations or fears, we can truly be at peace with each present moment as an individual.
Through discovering that peace we are permitted then to make the most conscious decisions possible both as an individual and collectively in the external world in which we reside. But, the ever-present ego seeks to maintain a mental state of discontent and sometimes even hostility. For individuals, the most difficult challenge is freeing one’s self mentally from childhood learned emotional reactions particularly when there was some type of abuse or neglect in the past. Sometimes this entails the help of a professional therapist. For collective bodies such as religions, races, nations, difficulty in residing in the present moment lies with being able to emotionally detach from suffering or oppression endured at the hands of other such entities over extended periods of time. Slavery is the most apparent form of oppression that has plagued us throughout history and is one of the toughest to move beyond.
Failing to detach from such emotion, will cause you to enter into the service of all that has weighed down humanity for as long as we have roamed the Earth. You will fall prey to always looking for something to make you happy or seeking to be superior to your fellow human(s) whether it is through money, authority, age, morality, religion, nationality, gender, title, education, etc. The list is endless because the fact is it does not matter how you try to assert your superiority or preserve your sense of inferiority. All that matters is that you recognize this is how the mind works when we are not consciously aware of it which for many is the majority of the time.
There is also a cumulative component to ego as described by Eckhart Tolle as the pain-body. In Christian terms, it’s symbolized in the crucifixion cross that all humans carry according to Christian teachings. In other religious contexts, it might be referred to as ahamkara (Hinduism) or dukkha (Buddhism). It is not just something that you start accumulating after you graduate school or even at birth. It is a ‘wonderful gift’ that we humans quietly pass along to each subsequent generation. It is that thing that you are sub-consciously told that ‘this is just how it is and must be’ usually through some form of authority. Perhaps, we might even refer to it as a mental bank account for all of life’s emotional suffering. It is the collective deposits of negatively charged emotion that we give to our children unknowingly to start feeling less equal and hating more those who our ego perceives as superior or inferior. And as we age, the pain-body in many people hardens or even grows. Racism and gender discrimination are two prominent examples of pain-bodies that exist in our world today.
All humans are composed of these two thinking parts within one mind. That which we refer to as ‘me’ is in fact two different ‘me’s.’ It is much like the cartoons of our younger years where you see a little devil representing ego whispering in one ear and the angel representing consciousness in the other. Human nature is derived from two separate brain hemispheres working in conjunction with the ability to be one’s own worst enemy when we are unaware of these two forces working in opposite directions. It will benefit you before going further to accept the duality of this belief as truth temporarily and attempt to challenge it after reading this book. Plato referred to it as two thoroughbred horses pulling at a chariot opposite to one another and Sigmund Freud referred to the internal struggle as the id vs. the super-ego. There are indeed two voices inside every human head and we each get to choose which voice is heard. That is the essence of human nature.
Virtually all religions at their core, when you strip away the thousands of years of dogmatic, indoctrinated layers of ritual and worship, talk about these two essential parts: ego and consciousness. It is the story of Original Sin and God in the form of the Holy Spirit in Christian terms or Atman and Maya in Hindu terms. How each religion wishes to define those parts is irrelevant for now. It is very relevant though when you look back at history and see how a person, a religion, or a government becomes that which it claims to loath.
Some people are born of one extreme or the other, but most are somewhere in-between on the spectrum. The world in which we live also heavily influences whether that mind shifts in either direction towards ego or towards consciousness. History is full of examples of extreme cases of that shift or just the fact that some people are born a certain way. Moses, Jesus Christ, the Buddha, Muhammad, Confucius, Benjamin Franklin, Abe Lincoln, Albert Schweitzer, Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King Jr., and Nelson Mandela are all examples of humans who, whether through nature or nurture, we often perceive as very conscious individuals. A few of these individuals we consider so divinely conscious that religions were established and evolved to memorialize their lives, wisdom, and ability to transcend ego.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have plenty of examples of highly egoic (unconscious) individuals in the likes of Caligula, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao Zedong, Saddam Hussein, Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, Charles Manson, and Jim Jones just to name a few. And there are even individuals who are difficult to categorize as they were great and noble humanitarians but their life pursuits contributed to weapons of mass destruction such as Albert Einstein and Alfred Nobel. Thomas Jefferson and George Washington are also historical figures who we often consider great conscious humanitarians in terms of their writings and leadership but both participated in the conventional thinking of their time that the horrendous practice of enslaving fellow humans against their free will was permissible.
History has shown at any given time that all humans have the capacity to shift conscious thinking both individually and collectively. Many great spiritual leaders whether it was the Buddha, Jesus Christ, or Muhammad were able to influence people around them initially and spread their positive messages of peace, love, and enlightenment. Over the centuries though, their messages often became severely misinterpreted and perverted. The end result was a justification for inflicting great suffering and murder on fellow innocent humans as in the case of the Medieval Inquisitions by the Catholic Church centuries ago and what is occurring today with Muslim radical terrorists. In some cases, the leaders of certain movements were never conscious but only pretended to be so and promoted things like fascism, socialism, or communism to benefit society when the only real benefactor was themselves. The subsequent suffering inflicted turned out to be most horrendous as in the case Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and others.
Fortunately the voices of those innocent men, women, and children who were harmed or were not permitted to live can be collectively heard through life work of people like Dr. Rudolph J. Rummel, a professor at the University of Hawaii. Men and women such as him have dedicated their lives to pursuing the truth in terms of documenting the millions of human atrocities committed by fellow humans and thus providing us with the frightening statistics so we hopefully might learn from history. According to R.J. Rummel’s research, ultimately 42.6 million deaths resulted from Stalin’s regime and 20.9 million deaths from Hitler’s reign. As difficult as it is to arrive at a definite number of deaths, it is virtually impossible to determine the total human suffering that was incurred. Both leaders rose to power claiming that government could cure their people’s ills. Both Russia and Germany were in the midst of great suffering from poverty and high unemployment following of WWI and the subsequent worldwide Great Depression of the 1930’s as these two quickly rose to power. The average family was looking for someone to blame for the suffering and desperately yearning for a leader who promised much more than just freedom.
Making a conscious decision does not have to be a grandioso thing like refraining from committing suicide, joining the Nazi party, or activating an atom bomb. It is in even the most mundane decisions we make. It can be found in deciding to swing by and pick up grandma to tag along on a trip to the mall (Even though you know she’s going to talk your ear off about nothing!). Electing to not undermine a co-worker or business partner is a form of consciousness. Choosing not to be the gossip king or queen even for just a day is another form of consciousness, especially if it is something you have a propensity to do often. In fact, it’s usually quite easy for us to see what is ‘being conscious’ is in others. But, we largely fail to Shift our thinking in a manner where we allow our own consciousness to be our guide in the decisions we make for ourselves. The hardest part in becoming more conscious is identifying the ego within us relative to seeing it in others.
One of the best examples of the lack of conscious thinking and actions in our society can be found on any given Saturday at a little league ballpark, soccer field, or basketball court. Watch how parents and coaches act towards each other, towards their kids, and towards their opponents. There are many parents who forget that the main objective to kid’s sports is to teach them life skills such as teamwork, discipline, fairness, competitiveness, respect and kindness for their opponent, and love of the game in which they choose to play. The ultimate lesson is that sometimes despite all of our effort in playing a game and hopes to win, things don’t go as we want or had planned. If we can’t win every time should we choose to not play at all? Would we even want to play or be willing to put forth our best effort if we knew we would win every single time we set out to do something or play a game?
There are a significant number of parents at such events who verbally abuse coaches, referees, the children and in some rare instances even resort to physical violence that their ego justifies as necessary. Some parents also choose to inflate or deflate their child’s self-esteem to thinking they are better than or worse than another child because of their skill level at a given task or sport. There are also some parents who choose to not show up to any of their kid’s activities or fail to even sign their kids up for any such activities.
Then there are societies and countries that are so unconscious that it’s not safe or structured enough for children to have organized activities apart from trying to survive. Yet fair competition, whether it is through sports or capitalism, when we look back at history is responsible for breaking down the many mental barriers which divides us. Despite our different backgrounds, viewpoints, and circumstances, it has often been through engaging in sports whether nationally in the likes of Jackie Robinson and Jack Johnson or internationally with the World Cup or Olympic Games that we can see that we are all just players in the game of life.
So what does it say about a society when children’s behavior is better than adults’ behavior? Parents’ primary role should be that of teacher and we have to each decide what kind of teacher we want to be. We must as parents teach our children that people make mistakes, have setbacks, have accidents, that it is ok and actually healthy to lose, and all we can do is be the best we can be at any given moment. It is beneficial to teach our kids that such occurrences and things in general happen for a reason. Often, the reason is to teach us something which we have yet to learn.
The recent events of Tiger Woods’ private life also provides an excellent illustration of the internal battle between consciousness and ego. On the golf course, he is a force yet to be reckoned with as he uses his talents to the best of his abilities, not the concept of best that is established by the golf world. He came along and challenged everything we know to be true in the world of sports and is sometimes said to be in a league of his own. He in the world of sports is highly conscious operating at an exceptionally high level in each present moment in the midst of competition. But internally, his ego says, “still not enough… and the rules do not apply to me.” And so, off the golf course his conduct has been what many consider to be highly ego-driven. It is easy to point out his ego in action but how many people do you know if put in his shoes and left to their own devices would act in a similar manner?
Our desire to hear more about Tiger Woods’ personal life and all the paparazzi that rely on tapping into the world of ego as a source of income also provides an excellent example of how ego attracts ego. It is encouraging to watch Tiger Woods, the human, progress as he now is aware of his own balancing act between consciousness and ego. We should allow him and his family to be in peace to do the work of awareness and forgiveness that they need to do. That is a very difficult thing for us and our press to do. Why? Because, we want more! Not us, but it is our egos that want more. Perhaps, we can then use stories such as his as an opportunity to open up the door for us to individually do our own inner work then collectively as a human race.
We must be aware of what the news media is doing to us, not for us. They claim to be reporting but they are in fact selling. They are profiting from our egos. Stories on people doing good in the world do not sell ads or move newspapers and magazines off the shelves like stories of pain or suffering; stories based in ego. At best, a story based on consciousness might be worthy of putting in the back section of the newspaper or a magazine once a year documenting one person that has made a significant positive contribution in the world. They instead mirror our egos and provide us with sensational stories of murder, rape, infidelity, terror, violence, overt greed both individually (Bernie Madoff) and collectively in terms of corporations (Enron). All of this is to satisfy that which we desire and are willing pay for.
Why does ego exist and where does it come from? It may be something that God, in the conventional sense, instilled within us when Adam and Eve were banned from the Garden of Eden. Or it may have resulted from hundreds of thousands of years of evolution and is the residual effect of our animalistic fight-or-flight response. Really it doesn’t matter where it came from, what is vitally important is that you just recognize its presence. In the animal kingdom, one bad decision can result in you being another's meal ticket literally. For most humans today though, particularly in the United States, to survive is not a series of absolute life or death decisions. But, we have a tendency to want to blow every single situation and decision out of proportion to appear as if that were indeed the case.
Many decisions seem like life or death and we have a propensity to take ourselves, or at least our egos do, very seriously. Sometimes people justify things like hating, lying, stealing, and even violence because we have this tendency to feel we are entitled to be given everything we think will make us happy, not just the freedom to choose to be happy. Often in the realm of government, we allow people who claim to offer something that might make us happy to climb the political ladder. Looking back on history, all prominent leaders, good and bad, rose to power offering their followers something much different than the present times offered.
In today’s political climate, it has become increasingly more difficult to determine which politicians are conscious and which are of the ego. The ego is extremely cunning and sly, as to not be recognized for what it is. Most dictators in the past such as Mussolini and Hitler made it obvious by using strong, angry language shouted into microphones and laced with fist pounding on a podium. Our politicians today however usually wear great big smiles in front of the cameras swearing to bring progress and positive change. They deliberately lie to us claiming to not recollect certain events or worse stage intricate stories to cover the truth. Such was the case with President Richard Nixon in the Watergate scandal and we see it in more recent times with politicians such as with the John Edwards’ sex scandal or congressman Charlie Rangel’s ethics violations. Sometimes they really do believe what they preach and when that is the case it is usually due to a lack of understanding or respect of the basic principles of human nature and economics upon which the United States was founded.
Conversely, there are a few people in the media today who speak out with great emotion and rhetoric much in the same mannerisms that many dictators in the past have used. Glenn Beck and Jon Stewart provide examples of this. And they do it for a reason; because it attracts a significant number of people. Like two magnets, ego attracts ego. And when you strip away all the tears, ranting, and humor they too carry a message. We must be able to look at all messages at face value and not be swayed by the messenger. Are you able to differentiate between the anger, conceit, ignorance, and deceitfulness of the ego from the passion of consciousness?
It is extremely hard to do in these present times as we just don’t know who is telling the truth anymore. Who is acting out of love and who is acting out of hate or fear? It has become such a mental game that many citizens who watch our narcissistic-minded politicians and media personalities in action question the real intent of their agendas and moreover their sanity. We also wonder if what we see through the media is reality or just the filtered reality they or the media wants us to believe. The world of politics has become, and perhaps has always been, nothing more than a big actors’ guild and we’re finally waking up to realize the truth of their antics.
There are plenty of non-political examples to show how our egos work. How upset do you think the average person in Zambia gets when they receive a cable bill that is 3x’s as much as they thought it was ‘supposed’ to be this month? That is right; most don’t have cable or a TV to run the cable through. And many don’t have an electrical outlet or even a house to plug that TV into. How about in professional sports where we love to cheer on our sports icons so much so that we make them into heroes (…what exactly defines a hero?) and they may even start to think they are gods? We also pay them like gods and some of them might at times actually believe they are the center of the universe (LeBron James and Michael Vick). Watch how some of them lose. Have you ever seen them so upset they accidently forget to shake hands and congratulate their opponent? It is easy for the ego to realize how fortunate we are to have the ability to play sports for a living and live in a country that is free enough to have sports. Rewind the clock 2000 years to the Roman gladiators. It was considered sport to throw people such as Christians into pits with lions or to enslave individuals then have them battle to the death. The fate of the loser was often left in the hands of the spectators; thumbs down and you were dead. Perhaps athletes today would be a bit more willing to shake hands after a tough competition if it meant not having to be killed afterwards. Ever question what it’d be like to be born into different country or time in history that you were, and have more or less than you do have?
We also ‘like’ to get so emotionally attached to situations or events, particularly interpersonal relationships. Often our minds like to make us feel as if someone is trying to harm or even kill us. Our brains get so emotionally charged that there is a physiological release of adrenaline into the bloodstream just as in the fight-or-flight response. When someone offends us with words or actions, you can feel your heart beat faster, blood pressure rise, brow furrow, and muscles tense up. That is your body’s response to that release of adrenaline. Over time, that continual biochemical release in response to stress gives rise to other chemicals like cortisol which has been linked to depression, immune deficiencies, and digestive problems. But, consider if we were to each accept as our truth what is conveyed in the Sufi poet Rumi’s quote, ‘If you are irritated by every rub, how will you be polished?’
The human mind does not know how to adapt to life today in the real world, particularly the United States, which is relatively safe. It is really safe when you think back to life 100 years ago or even further 1000 years ago was like. There were no antibiotics, no vaccines, and usually no governing bodies to protect us against anything; including ourselves. But life is not and will never be perfect. In today's society, the world of TV shows and movies leads us somehow believe it should be easy with nice, happy endings in everything we do after a 30 or 90-minute struggle. The thing we call 'Reality TV' serves as a reminder that humans are humans because they have yet to identify that which thinking and actions are derived from the ego.
Fortunately and unfortunately, most humans aren't born at the extreme ends of the spectrum between ego and consciousness. We are mostly born somewhere in the middle and the environment in which we live in influences us to choose our life's course shifting in one direction or another in response to the world around us. It should be the first thing we teach our children. And for most people on this planet, it is when we expose them to religion. But children's brains don't understand all the layers of indoctrinated, extraneous <insert word of choice> that we expose them to through religion.
Most of the world’s spiritual texts were written at a time when it was thought the Earth was assumed to be flat, disease was believed to be caused by demons, the universe revolved around the Earth, that night time stars were literally Heaven, and they had yet to even begin to understand things like DNA or H2O. It makes it difficult at times to see through some of the religious parables at the essence of their lessons. But finding God possible through religion is a vitally important endeavor when done appropriately and can provide us with the moral and spiritual compass we need to guide us through life. Religion should serve to teach us that God works through us in each conscious decision that we make and how we choose to conduct our lives. But in today’s society some parents don’t accept the responsibility of passing on religion to their children for whatever reason: they don’t have the time, they don’t believe in it themselves, they are too strung out on drugs or alcohol, etc. The baby that is spirituality gets thrown out with the sometimes murky bath water of religion. At times, it’s even challenging for those of us who do teach our children about God through religion when we see and hear of stories of individuals within our own temples of worship who are assigned the role of spiritual teacher harming children.
As science has advanced and continues to advance with increasing speed, more and more people might feel disconnected from the religion which they were born into. Most people today with all the advances in technology, particularly advances in medicine, have relatively little exposure to death. So the thinking mind, the ego, creates all this drama to make us feel we like we are somehow unsafe, drowning in pain, or perhaps at imminent risk of dying. This is despite the reality of the relative safety of our daily lives as demonstrated by the significant increases in life expectancy compared to centuries ago. Live a thousand or even a hundred years ago and death wasn’t just something that elderly people experienced, something on TV, or something down the street or even at your doorstep. It was under your roof!
What we probably consider to be the most horrendous experience for a human to go through today, the death of a child, was back then pretty routine. You usually had multiple children and accepted the fact that statistically only about half of them would mature into adulthood. And then even into adulthood, life would be a constant struggle between life and death for reasons beyond comprehension. It was common for those adults who happened to live into old age relative to today’s life expectancy to be witness to many slow and extremely painful deaths around them usually of some type of easily treatable ailment or disease with current medicine. That is why people throughout history have leaned so hard on the concept of God.
In today’s world, when there is suffering or death the tendency today is not to lean on God or perhaps even blame God (an initial response in the grieving process) but to blame each other for life not going as perfectly as we would like. Such thinking accounts for many of the lawsuits in America. Whether it is spilling a cup of coffee on one’s own lap, losing a loved one in surgery despite all our advances in medicine, or blaming police for accidents resulting from a lack of cooperation when they are trying to do their job to maintain order there is increasingly a mindset in our culture to not accept responsibility or accept things as they are. We instead want to find other people or parties to hold responsible for unfortunate situations often of our own ego-driven doing. Our ego is unconsciously allowed to make us victims and has the potential to keep us in a perpetual state of discontent.
Often, when there are heinous crimes committed sometimes society even has the propensity to turn criminals into victims. Those who violate the rights of others as a result of behaviors strongly rooted in ego are not held accountable often due to their ego’s attachment to prior life events such as a traumatizing childhood event. Yet, there are many people who have less-than-stellar childhoods and do not use it as a license to inflict harm onto other innocent people. The current legal system makes it hard at times to differentiate between a crime and a true accident when people don’t accept responsibility for their actions. We are even lead to believe there is a monetary amount by which our own egos can let go of such emotional attachment to life’s unfortunate occurrences. Money is then just substituted as ego’s drug of choice if we don’t first have a healthy relationship with and understanding of wealth. Unfortunately, accidents will always happen and we are each always going to not be perfect. We can however each do our part to strive to do our best, minimize the risk of such accidents, and hold each other accountable when crimes are committed. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. eloquently stated this as so, “The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins.”
It really doesn't matter the origin of ego or consciousness, all that does matter is that we recognize the existence of the duality of our minds. These two entities exist into every human being that is born into the world. In failing to recognize our ego in all our decisions and actions, we are actually inadvertently making the real world less safe. There is an endless list of examples in our present culture of ego pushing the world to a much less perfect union of people: Obsessions with things like food and cell phones, expansion of the use of both legal and illegal psychotropic drugs, crimes on our fellow humans, expanding government and its control, lobbying for special interests, entitlement programs, excessively greedy corporations, and businesses that don’t have the welfare of the people they serve in mind. We are worshiping things like profit, fame, material things, or even our nationality above God or each other. All we have to do is watch or read the daily news to provide us with examples of egoic behavior. The list of examples will continue to grow until we are able to recognize what is ego and what is consciousness. The longer we choose not to recognize the pervasiveness of ego the more disorder and suffering we will continue to inflict with perhaps the ultimate manifestation of ego: another world war most likely involving nuclear weapons and perhaps our own extinction.
The first step in moving beyond our ego(s) is to become aware of the ego that is found in all of those around us and the harder part of recognizing it within ourselves. Through this recognition we can then learn the act forgiveness. Forgiveness is not weakness and it is not the act of forgetting. Rather, it is a sign of strength and is one of the hardest things for us to do in terms of overcoming our own egos. We cannot change our past and it is futile to wish otherwise. We also must not forget our past but use history as our teacher. The teacher’s lesson is this: we are all human, ego will always exist along side of consciousness, and that to move to a higher level of thinking where consciousness prevails over ego we must be able to forgive. We must forgive ourselves, our friends and loved ones, and those who have wronged us individually and collectively in order to love more fully and celebrate and share in freedom in the future.
While forgiveness is critical, we must also respect the need for Boundaries so that we don’t keep allowing ourselves and each other like a broken record to keep repeating the same unconscious, egoic mistakes. Living with boundaries in the spirit of love and establishing consequences for people’s actions may appear harsh initially. The person or group who chooses to live with boundaries may appear to those whose thinking is derived from the ego to come across as harsh much like TV personalities Judge Judy or Simon Cowell the judge from the American Idol® even when they attempt to show compassion or empathy. However, it is necessary to point out the caustic voice of the ego in one another we are all too often listening to so it will step down off center stage and we can move beyond it.
Many people around the world are personally and in small groups discovering and actively pursuing the study of consciousness, often referred to as mindfulness. Throughout the course of history men and women have been examining consciousness through philosophy and religion. The Buddha once stated, ‘the purpose of all religion is to ease suffering.’ While times and technology change, human nature is relatively constant. Therefore, we must seek to understand human nature through religion if progress is to be made in reducing suffering collectively. There are sects today from all the various major religions delving into the realm of mindfulness on varying levels in an effort awaken their followers on a larger scale. But it is the largest of entities, our large corporations, our governments, and many big religious organizations in the United States and around the world, that have yet to incorporate such teachings of those who have come before us into how they choose to perceive human nature and operate. They are instead deciding to take us down the road that has already been tried and failed with disastrous consequences.
Individually we must each ask ourselves this, “do I use everything that up until now I know to be true, my faith (in either God or humanity), to seek personal happiness and do good?” Or do I use it to preserve and ensure the survival of my ego, my religion's ego, my country's ego, or my world's ego? It is that little itty, bitty word 'my' that can be so benign and yet so grotesquely ugly. When we are unaware of what the word ‘my’ entails, our faith can blind us. It doesn't matter if you are applying this to ‘my’… job title, bank account, Bible study group, Atheists group, Ku Klux Klan group, Black Panthers group, political affiliation, government under God or not under God, nationality, and the lists go on and on.
It can be very hard to recognize the ego and see it for what it is. Like the ego’s hatred rooted in racism, for some it will be impossible for them to move beyond their ego in the lifetime that they have left. A minute few will continue to scream, “Black Power!” or “White Power!” Or to a lesser extent, some may continue to use words in conversation or lyrics in music to describe others or even each other in a derogatory fashion. And some may choose to still drive around proudly displaying the confederate flag on their trucks symbolizing not state rights as was it was initially intended, but their own fear and ignorance. Yet, we all have the capacity within us to do it at any given moment if we just choose to do so. We can choose to love; to expand our minds and choose the path of consciousness over our natural tendency towards ego. We must do it for ourselves, our children, our children's children, and our neighbor's children.
‘When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.’
So to review:
Consciousness = It is being completely present in each moment and choosing to do good in that moment when the mind is at peace with itself through which all great things are possible.
Ego = It is wanting everything that you do not have presently, a reason to hate yourself, all people around you, and your world; creating your own Hell on Earth for you and the people around you. It is allowing past or future fear or emotional pain dictate the path of your decision making process.
Pain-body = It is the emotional pain bank account; this is everything your parents, your country, your religion, as well as your life experiences that lead you to have a set of beliefs that are your truth/reality. In your mind, it is the absolute Truth which there can be no others.
Faith = This is when you take an opinion and accept it as your ultimate truth above all others. Faith can be a very positive thing but it also can stand in the way of us expanding our thinking. The act of being open-minded may cease to exist when not fully aware of that having faith is an ongoing, active process.
‘God is a Verb.’
 Eckhart Tolle: A New Earth