It does not mean sitting in a cave on a mountain in Tibet chanting Om.
Nor does it necessarily mean having some form of amazing esoteric or transcendent experience.
The two phrases dying to self & dropping the ego are Christian and Buddhist expressions of the same fundamental truth - the need to correct the inbuilt, hardwired tendency to assume that everything revolves around "me".
This is all about achieving a balance between the harmony and peace of the inner world of consciousness and awareness with the requirements of surviving and functioning effectively in the outer world of duality.
This balance occurs when we draw daily guidance and inspiration from our inner world and execute and implement with our thinking minds.
Dying to self and dropping the ego occurs quite naturally when you quieten your mind and shift your focus away from yourself.
One of the best ways to do this is with mindfulness practice, the practice of gratitude or indeed any meditation practice that allows for space between the stream of thoughts and for consciousness to arise.
It is a practice and it grows with focused attention and repetition.
Dying to self can also occur in response to a direct request (or prayer) to your higher consciousness/higher self for help.
Putting someone else first and acting in a selfless way is another practical way of practicing it.
Quite often you just need to get out of your own way, stop trying to figure out the "how?", understand that seeing is not always believing and let the energy flow, in other words:
So Is The Ego All Bad?
Absolutely not. The ego is your operating system we can liken it to your own personal "Windows 10"!
ego is essential and does a wonderful job of running things for you and
marshalling your mental and emotional resources to work for you.
But your inner "Windows 10" has one big fatal flaw, it creates and sustains the delusion that it is who you really are - and in so doing it cuts you off from your relationship with the energy of life.
The Ego Is Sneaky
Your ego is clever and
it is sneaky because it will always be looking for ways to assert
itself in all sorts of subtle and not so obvious ways.
Stuck in seeking syndrome
For example, over many years I have attended a large number of different spiritual groups and heard people (often experienced practitioners who really should know better) saying things like: "One day, in 10,000 lifetimes I look forward to being enlightened."
Of in another context: "One day, when I get to heaven, I look forward to being more like Jesus."
This is a clever deception by the ego because being stuck in seeking is the single biggest stumbling block to present moment awareness. There is nothing of truth that we can find anywhere but NOW right here in this present moment.
The Ego Paradox
To drop the ego effectively you have to have an ego to drop!
The more healthy and strongly developed your ego is the more effectively you will be able to drop it.
This might sound strange, but there is something that I have observed many times over the years within Buddhist groups and also in Christian groups and it is particularly prevalent amongst young adults.
The "Wounded Seeker Syndrome"
It is what I call the "wounded seeker syndrome". This often happens because spiritual groups [of various beliefs] are usually welcoming and
inclusive and therefore provide a safe haven for people who
for a variety of reasons have not learned to be able to cope with life
and have sought refuge in these circles.
"Nothing wrong with that" I hear you say, and to a point you are right, but the problem arises over time - usually several years - as these people develop a sense of self/an ego that becomes heavily identified in a role within the confines of the group to which they are affiliated.
Unless wise and skillful leadership works with these people and guides them to the help they need they never move and do not grow, and without a developed ego to drop they fall apart when they try .
Paradoxical as it may
sound, until you have a strong and well developed ego, it is difficult
and sometimes dangerous to try and drop your ego.
If you feel that this is where you are at right now, then I would strongly and lovingly recommend that you seek help and deal with your unresolved issues first.
But I am wary of dying to self & dropping the ego...
I understand your concern and maybe I can paraphrase it this way:
" It's all very well talking about all this stuff about dropping the ego or dying to self but if I am ceding control, if I am not in control, who or what is?
I could just say, that you'll never know until you do it, but that probably won't help you.
This can only be experienced, and what you will be experiencing is framed differently according to the spiritual expression within which you are practicing.
Within the Buddhist tradition what you will experience is described as "emptiness", consciousness that is beyond form and substance, the energy from which all things arise and into which they decay and recede.
I also want to offer a different perspective that draws from the deep well of Christian experience of The Energy Of Life that expresses this experience as relationship.
It was early one sunny summer
morning, and I went out for a walk along the seafront. It was a
beautiful day. An expensive looking yacht was moored in the bay. The sun
was shining, the sky was blue and the tide was in and as calm as a
millpond, unlike my head which was in turmoil from questions I couldn’t
Over and over I played and replayed the sequence of events that had led to this moment, the loss of all my money, the death of my business and the impending death of my reputation as I filed for bankruptcy.
Thoughts of despair, thoughts of failure, thoughts of shame at having failed my family…
I found quiet spot, on the cliff path adjacent to the seafront, I sat on a bench and focused on my breath and meditated. I focused on the sound of the sea lapping on the beach, the seagulls overhead… my mind stilled and I felt at peace.
After about 30 minutes I decided I ought to return to the house as my family would be waking up and wouldn’t know where I was. As I walked down the path back towards the seafront a most extraordinary thing happened: suddenly and without any prior warning of what was about to happen I felt that it was as though I had become two dimensional and was as thin as a sheet of paper and had taken on the shape of an open door frame… and then it happened…
I suddenly became aware of an enormous surge of energy flowing through this open two dimensional door frame shape, I could see it coming from way behind me flowing through me and surging off into the distance. It was like a river about four feet deep and six feet wide…and it poured through me…it swirled through me…and I heard a voice in my head saying:
“I am Life, The Energy of Life, and I flow through you; I always have and I always will…”
I came back to myself and the moment was over. The sense of that experience stayed with me, and remains with me to this day many years later. The veil was lifted and I had a glimpse of a far deeper reality than the world of my thoughts.
Did my life suddenly change? No. Things were still tough and remained so for a while longer. But my sense of the underlying reality that I had experienced changed my perception.
From that day onwards I dropped my heavy thinking and behaved far more
intuitively. In a very profound way I understood what it means to go with the flow.
Next Article: The Confident Mind - 4 Keys To Peak Performance
Return from "Dying To Self" to: Walking The Talk
Or to: What Is Spirituality?