What then to do? I have written on this question in previous posts dealing with freeing oneself. (See for example, “Freedom - What Does It Mean,” and “Freeing Yourself from Fear.”)
But this is not an easy matter and requires a very disciplined practice. If you are not at that stage, then a recent meditation I had suggests an easier although more temporary answer.
We are taught that we find joy in offering joy to others, in seeing other’s joy as our own. The reason one typically relates positively to this lesson is because it makes sense that if you make someone happy, or see someone who is happy, that will make you happy too, bring a smile to your face. It also sounds like a no-brainer. Definitely not threatening on any level.
But there is a deeper reason why offering joy to others has such a profound effect. During my meditation, I became aware that one way to be free of the intervention of my ego-mind in the moment is for my focus to be on someone or something outside of myself. This is consistent with my awareness that the mind cannot be two places at the same time (see my post, “Proof of the Nature of Mind - Fear, Ego, and Buddha Mind”).
Thus, when I am offering someone joy, when I am in the company of loved ones and friends, or even when I am reading a good book, or listening to music, my mind is focused on something outside myself and so I feel joy, peace, happiness. My ego-mind sits on the sidelines waiting.
Clearly this cannot be the whole answer because we are not focused on something outside of ourself 24/7. This doesn’t resolve the problem, for example, of not feeling at home wherever I am because of my mind’s intervention. What about those moments when we are not so engaged?
The somewhat more complete answer is to be present. Unfortunately, I cannot say that I am engaged, truly present, with every activity I undertake throughout the day, whether it’s going for a walk, or just sitting and breathing. If I were then my ego-mind would never have an opportunity to insinuate itself into my thoughts. This is an on-going working goal of mine.
These answers I have just discussed work by shoving the ego-mind aside because your mind is concentrated elsewhere. There is a deeper, more complete, and more difficult answer, which I referred to above, and that is to be aware when your ego-mind arises, acknowledge it but not engage it, and allow it to subside, saying to it gently but firmly that you are not going there as it will cause you suffering but instead will seek guidance from your heart.
I have spoken to this in several posts. It is my intent. But it is more difficult both because of the strength of the ego-mind and our unconscious identification with it, even after we’ve turned our will and our life over to our true Buddha nature, and the difficulty of being aware 24/7. But I am aware of progress.
If one were able to always keep your faith in the Buddha dharma front and center and were able to never engage your ego-mind when it arises, then all the other “tools” would not be necessary. But until your practice is at that point … that would be close to enlightenment and I for one am certainly not there yet … then it is very helpful to be flexible in your approach to the challenges of your ego-mind and the world around you.