I’ve been getting slightly addicted to computer chess lately. When I get stumped, I ask the computer to give me a hint. A voice, distinctly female, chimes in with the suggested move. Sometimes I find myself questioning the move, thinking, ‘What is she getting at?” Notice I said “she.” Then I wonder if “she” will get offended if I don’t follow “her” advice. Maybe “she’ll” even think that I’m stupid if I don’t. I am anthropomorphizing this disembodied voice, which for all I know is probably computer generated and therefore not even human.
So what is a human? Just having a voice doesn’t qualify – there has to be body out of which this voice arises. Then we have to label it – male, female, son, daughter, tall, short, blonde, brunette, stockbroker, lawyer …you get the idea. I’ve called these labels our ‘false identities.’ And by the way, thinking of yourself as ‘human’ is a label or false identity as well. So when you look in the mirror and you think you are seeing yourself, what you’re really seeing are all the labels, which constitute your ego.
If what you see in the mirror is merely a reflection of the ego, which is not the real you, then where are you? A better question would be, “Who are you?” Let’s first look at what you’re not – the ego. Psychology defines the ego as the personality. Eastern philosophy describes it as a bundle of karmas packaged in a body we call human. But the simplest way to spot the ego is to realize that the ego is only concerned with itself. It needs to feel important. It experiences self-doubt. It gets offended. All of its time is spent fulfilling its every whim. Back in the 1980’s, with the advent of new age thinking, we were urged to extricate ourselves from our egos. There was so much written back then giving us advice on how to tap into our “higher self,” which was described as the better part of ourselves that is not narcissistic or ‘ego-centered.’ Sounds pretty simplistic, which it is, but it was a good start.
Whenever I finish teaching a yoga class I press the palms of my hands together in a prayer position and say “Namaste” to those who shared that time with me. “Namaste” is a Sanskrit greeting, which loosely means, “The best part of me honors the best part of you.” So is the ‘best’ part of you and me that ‘higher self’? Yes, but it’s more than that. It is referencing, trying to connect with, the real you. The real you that is the essence of awareness buried underneath all the layers of false identities called the ego. You may not be able to see it but it exists all the same.
Here’s a little exercise that might help you see what I mean. Look at yourself in the mirror. Now look into your eyes, all the while thinking about who you really are. Hold your gaze steady. As you continue to stare into your eyes, you will notice that everything, including your body, and eventually your facial features disappears. But you, the real you, is still there as pure awareness or consciousness. All that is present is the disembodied essence of reality.
The real you has no form. Which can be quite convenient when you think about it. No more time spent on hair and makeup or worrying about what to wear. No more teeth to brush, and the best….no more weight to lose. But we will continue to worry about these things because we can only go by what our senses show us. And our senses show us the ego in the mirror. But if we look closely enough we just might catch a glimpse of the formless essence of the Reality that is our true nature.