I have written a lot about ego, so I won’t go into too much detail here. First of all, I am using ego in the sense that Buddhism and Hinduism does.
We never get “rid” of ego. We loosen it’s grasp. The technique for doing this is a basic mindfulness meditation practice like mindfulness of the breath (anapanasati) or mindfulness of the left hand. Instructions for the breath meditation is in the block quote below. For more general information about these practices, see my blog post Getting Started with Mindfulness Meditation
- Attend to the sensation of breath at the nostrils. Notice the difference in the sensation of the inbreath and the outbreath.
- If visual perceptions arise, ignore them.
- If the mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to the point of contact of the breath.
- Hold attention on the spot throughout the entire duration of in-breath and out-breaths.
- The sensation or perception of sensation of moving air will change to a static feeling, this is the sign of the mind stilling.
- Dwell on this airy, buoyant quality, which should pervade the head. One should experience a cool and airy emptiness of the head. This may extend throughout the body. This is a further “sign” of increasing stillness.
- Remain with this airy lightness as an experience to focus upon.
From THE MYSTERY OF THE BREATH NIMITTA by Bhikkhu Sona with the first and third steps modified by me.
Ordinarily, we have discursive thinking that we usually are not aware of. As you begin meditating, you will be overwhelmed by the sheer power and might of non-stop thinking. These thoughts are very much from one’s point of view. They are ego.
As you continue with a daily meditation practice, you will start to experience selflessness in two ways: 1) You will start to have the sense of the thoughts as being quieter and taking place in vast empty space. This is one of the meanings of the work emptiness as used in Buddhism. 2) You will start to have gaps of silence between the thoughts.
Eventually, the silence and spaciousness increase until you have an experience of reality as more vivid, colors as brighter and sounds as crisper. At some point, you will realize that you have gone a few minutes without thinking. This is being totally in the moment without any limitations caused by thoughts. Since thoughts are always from the narrow perspective of one’s self, not having them is selfless.
However, mindfulness alone is not enough. One needs to develop compassion and other positive qualities. Metta meditation practice is a good starting point for this.
At anytime, you can think. The thinker didn’t disappear, so you still have ego. It’s just that the ego is no longer controlling your life like a tyrant.
©2017 Stephen L. Martin
Painting: John William Waterhouse – Echo and Narcissus