I've been reflecting lately on what it means to have an ego death. I think that I'm finally coming out the other side of mine and it's been a massive three-year journey just to get to this place when I can start to feel again.
"What I’m finding that the only thing I know for sure is where I am now. I cannot make any promises for the future or plan too much because ultimately I will die, and the path that I take there will be dependent upon my decisions and reactions in the now."
Richard Dawkins, in his 2006 book, The God Delusion, proposes that all religion, particularly those with a creator of some form, is a kind of collective delusion, “that a belief in God is both irrational and profoundly harmful to society.” This theory is often applied to Christianity, Judaism and Islam, but increasingly I’m finding it coming up in the worlds that I inhabit. I have always been, I suppose, a spiritual person in the sense that I appreciate nature with a huge sense of gratitude; I am in awe of this planet from the microcosmic to the macrocosm of all that science has discovered. But I have never been religious in the traditional sense.
When I was about 10, I discovered that I was the only one of my primary school friends who wasn’t Christened, and I was mortified. What was I missing out on? I attended Sunday School briefly and after my parents discussed it with the minister, who astutely advised to wait until I was old enough to make my own decision, I didn’t get Christened. I vividly remember writing a poem about Jesus and was quickly put in my place by a girl who asserted her literary and religious dominance.
I needed to convert to Islam when I was about to be married, as my ex-husband is a Muslim. However, Muslims believe that all people are born Muslim and nobody converts, they revert back to what they always were. Needless to say, I didn’t take this reversion seriously and said all the right things to become Muslim so I could marry. But I didn’t revert from anything because I have never had a label attached to my belief, so in my mind, nothing changed.
Religion has skirted the edges of my life and I have met some wonderful people of all faiths but I wonder if Richard Dawkins was right all along and we are all under a delusion? If I transfer that thought process to my recent growth and development, I am very influenced by Buddhist and Hindu teachings, particularly around my yoga teacher training. Interestingly, I think all religions originated in India and the big five; Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism are just a different interpretation on the same thing. Somehow the message gets warped and it turns into its own version of events and wisdom. The culture that is developing in the new age or spiritual community is an interesting one and I’m asking myself now if we too aren’t under a delusion of belief; if the things that we all started out believing are being warped into this ego-version of what it originally was. Our shared stories are turning into something else.
So if all oral and written stories aren’t true and there is no great God or Goddess, what are these stories? Are they just a way to explain our existence? Are they a way for our tiny minds to find some meaning in why we are here? And why are we here? What is the point of life? And why haven’t the beliefs of Indigenous populations become more mainstream? The reason for our existence is truly a question that has no answer and not one of us will ever find the answer. So many people turn to religion because it is familiar, it is comfortable, it creates community and there is historical evidence of sorts that the people in the stories were real or that they provide lessons in the best way to be human.
I’m finding that I’m questioning all of my beliefs at the moment and I think that is a healthy way to be, I get to be conscious about what I believe in. I love the human story, our collective history, and while growing up in Australia has been a fairly Western, Christian version of events, I’m constantly asking more questions about the human story in other parts of the world. We are all influenced by so many things and in this age of the internet, while we have limited censorship (at this stage), ideas can spread and, in technological terms, go viral. That, to me, is so exciting. We can start to hear the voices of other humans and not just from Western, English-speaking countries.
And the future? How can I be sure of the future and do I really want to know what will happen? If I spend too long worrying or thinking about the future, I miss the dragonfly that lands on my chair or my children asking for my attention, or being thoughtful as I vacuum the floor and being grateful for electricity and a home to live in.
What I’m finding that the only thing I know for sure is where I am now. I cannot make any promises for the future or plan too much because ultimately I will die, and the path that I take there will be dependent upon my decisions and reactions in the now. There is no delusion in the present. The messages that go to our brains from our senses; what we see, hear, feel, smell, taste and intuit that is true, it’s how we interpret and react to them that then defines us and our human experience.
©Alyssa Curtayne, 2016
In the movie Chocolat, the protagonist Vianne is moved from town to town by the call of the wind...I am her...Some part of me wants permanence and stability but when I get it, I get BORED ...I get restless.
Some people are addicted to drugs, food, alcohol, sex or increasingly social media. The addiction brings about connection and a feeling of being alive when the dullness of life makes us feel numb. Humans want to feel and when we can’t feel we seek out stimulation to make us feel alive again. But I can’t claim any addiction to the above, but I do seek out variety, you could say I have an addiction of sorts to it.
To me I am constantly thinking about where to next? New house? New car? New suburb? New city? New adventure? New friends? New relationship? This need for variety even extends to my daily routines such as a new route in a bushwalk or different route to work…I get bored easily.
New, new, new…
What drives this constant driving for newness, for variety and why do I seek the feeling of being alive in newness. Has the variety been about running away; from my family, men, from being “normal”, of the familiar? Or is it simply how I am?
In 2015, I went to the Ignite Leadership Seminar led by the charismatic Brett Jones. He highlighted things that a person needs but it was divided into the Ego needs and Leader needs:
Certainty – control
Contribution – how may I serve?
He went onto say that each one of us is driven by one of these needs, particularly in the ego list. What do you need? Look through the list yourself. What drives your life? Are you coming from a place of leadership or ego?
I was surprised to find that in the ego section, that it wasn’t connection that I craved, but variety.
In the movie Chocolat, the protagonist Vianne is moved from town to town by the call of the wind until she finally finds a place to put her roots down. I am her; the woman who goes with the wind. Some part of me wants permanence and stability but when I get it, I get BORED and I think about how many other places and people there are to meet. Some people find comfort in routine, but I get restless.
Having teenage daughters have forced me to give them stability because it’s what they need at this time – a stable home, a stable mum, but always within me I’m seeking the next adventure, the next home, the next moment, do I run away from things that are too hard? Or do I seek variety? Or should I just sit in my boredom and observe what is?
According to Brett, it’s my ego, trying to validate itself yet I would argue (or is that my ego arguing?) that I feel like life is so short, that I need to make the most of it and have the full range of the human experience. The human experience can be ecstatic, so incredible and transformational but it also can feel heavy, dull, repetitive and without challenge. I’m not planning to come back for another life here after this is done.
I was speaking to a girlfriend yesterday and she observed that I was again looking to move house (only after a couple of months) and noticed that I’m always seeking outwards and not drawing in. I am not seeking the stillness within or loving and trusting where I am, right now. And she’s right, I need to trust that this is where I am and that everything is perfect. In variety, I get outwards movement, yet nothing within me changes.
Life is not about what we achieve, but how we grow as beings of love. I can’t say that I’m totally cured of my need for variety, but I am aware of it when it comes up now and need to make sure my decision making is not a result of a desire to run, but of a deep desire for growth within me. And maybe, just maybe, my next stage of growth will come as a result of putting down my roots and doing the opposite of what my ego tells me to do.
What drives you? Are you willing to do the deep reflection to find out? For more information about Brett's work and Ignite Leadership seminars click here.
©Alyssa Curtayne 2016
Have you ever got into an argument with complete strangers online? I got sucked into it again yesterday and the moment I posted a response to my initial post, it was like something came over me and compelled me to keep putting my opinion first until there was a clear "winner." My ego loved it! But I felt completely out of control and lost the amazing joy and gratitude for life that I had woken up with.
Ultimately, I ended up feeling like I had been dirtied by the negative vibes of the two or three other “posters” and needed to have some detox from such negative energies. Of course, a few other people supported my case, but this feeling happens every time I engage with this type of discourse. I end up feeling like I’ve been put through the wash. My girlfriend said that it would be best to go for a walk, so I did. I embraced the beautiful landscapes and walking track only minutes from my house and I immersed myself in the sounds, smells and sights of the amazing Australian bush.
Needless to say, I don’t want to feel so sullied like that again that I needed to do some debriefing about how it all came about and more importantly, how I felt disconnected from my true self during that horrible interaction. And that, I think, is the answer. I became disconnected from the source of my true self and became someone who liked to have the last say! It’s strange, but I feel like I have spent the first forty years of my life learning how to fit in and now I need to unlearn all that I know. It’s only in the past few years that I can start to feel like I can strip back the layers of what “normal” behaviours that I’ve adopted in order to fit in and start un-learning all that the world has taught me in order to be myself again. Which brings me back to the online argument…we’ve been taught that our opinion matters and that it’s valued. And it does. We are lucky to live in a country which by some miracle, still has a culture of free speech (whether that lasts is an issue for a separate debate) and people feel empowered enough to speak their truth.
But what is truth? Is my truth more valid than yours? The moment we start to separate ourselves based on who is right and who is wrong, better or worse, there is a clear loser. There is someone who is elevated higher than another. If I follow the belief that everyone is a mirror of me, bringing up dross within me that needs clearing, then everyone is a teacher. Those young men who engaged me in a heated debate yesterday taught me that at times my ego can get out of control, that when it’s an issue that is seemingly important to me, it’s like waving a red flag at a bull, I react. I lose my centre. I lose my balance and more importantly, I let my positive energetic space drop to a lower vibrational level…of who I used to be, of who I learned to be by my life’s experiences and of societal expectation of conflict and operating from the ego centre.
Social media is one giant distraction from life. We have arguments with complete strangers, look voyeuristically at other people’s lives from the comfort of our homes and pass judgement on things that pop up. I’m not saying it’s all negative, but for me, the more I engage with it, the more I place more and more of my life into the time I spend checking and responding to notifications, the less time I have to BE in the moment of life. It distracts me from the birds singing outside, the fresh, clean air that I breathe into my healthy body, time with people I love and the creative projects I have inside me that just want to get out.
This morning this came up in my newsfeed from Osho, which was timely (as the universe always is):
“Give life to things which are beautiful. Don’t give life to ugly things.
You don’t have much time, much energy to waste. With such a small life,
with such a small energy source, it is simply stupid to waste it in sadness,
in anger, in hatred, in jealousy.
Use it in love, use it in some creative act, use it in friendship, use it in meditation;
do something with it which takes you higher. And higher you go (the) more energy
sources become available to you.”
There are so many issues going on in the world and we cannot sit back and watch it happen, but we can make a change from an elevated space, not dropping down to responding in how things used to be or how we learned to respond. It is not about sticking our heads in the sand and allowing terrible things to happen to people and going “it’s their journey.” It’s our journey too. All life is a reflection of who we are. So, how can we address the things that trigger a response? With love, with loving action, loving words, loving kindness…we don’t need to change the entire world and bring everyone into our way of thinking, we just need to adjust the way we respond to the world and our little place in it in a way in which we feel authentic and centred in our divine power.
So instead of knee-jerking to the new issue that triggered a response in me this morning, I reflected on what would be the most loving course of action, where I still felt empowered by speaking my truth and yet could make a positive difference. I dropped deep into my heart and I spoke from there and it felt good and I let it go.
©Text and images Alyssa Curtayne 2015