July 2024

Many spiritual teachers emphasise the importance of disidentifying with the ego, because if our goal is God, then the ego is a major impediment. An amazing book I have recently re-read is A Vast Illusion – Time According to A Course in Miracles, by Dr Kenneth Wapnick. He refers to the term, “a little willingness,” which is mentioned in A Course in Miracles (ACIM), and says it refers to having the willingness to step back from the ego’s thought system. When we notice we are starting to get angry (or react in any way) we should immediately stop ourselves. “The idea is to try and stop the ego reaction as close to its starting point as possible.” p.171.

He continues on the same page, “We are not trying to stop the thoughts, but simply stepping back and watching them. Consequently, the power of those thoughts is diminished because their power lies in not looking at them…This initiates the process of weakening our identification with the ego…” This sounds rather contradictory because if we watch our thoughts, then we are looking at them. But I think Dr Wapnick wants us to simply observe the thoughts and let them go; let them flow through the mind, like a cloud flows through the sky, but not get fixated upon them.

In the spiritual masterpiece, The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle says something similar: “…the single most vital step on your journey toward enlightenment is this: learn to disidentify from your mind. Every time you create a gap in the stream of mind, the light of your consciousness grows stronger.” p. 17.

It is quite a challenging task to stop the incessant mental chatter of the mind—the egoic mind. That is why meditation is so important. But even when we do meditate, we will notice thoughts floating through the mind. The problem is we are constantly using our minds, e.g. at work, when reading, watching television, chatting to others. The mind is always active.

One way I have fairly recently discovered to slow down thoughts and even eradicate them at times is to paint. I started gouache and water-colour painting a few years ago. I tend to focus on birds, flowers, and natural landscapes. What I found out recently to my surprise is that whilst painting I am at peace. My mind stops almost completely while I focus on the task at hand. I do not listen to music or have anything
on in the background—just complete silence. In this way, painting has become a form of meditation and a way of rising above the ego, at least temporarily.

There are other ways of disidentifying with the mind. Exercising is one way, if one is out in the countryside or another place of natural beauty, and not listening to anything or chatting to anyone. Beautiful music can also free the mind of egoic thoughts. Any hobby that we are passionate about and that is completely engrossing is to be recommended to help in our endeavour to overcome the ego.

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