Many people walking the path understand that this is necessary, and yet they find it almost impossible to free themselves from their ego-mind. For many, they do not really want to free themselves from their ego mind because they still identify with it so strongly. But even for those that do want to free themselves, as I have written often, the ego-mind is very powerful, it’s roots go deep. It has for our whole lives defined who we are, how we relate to ourselves and to the world around us. In trying to free ourselves from its control, we are trying to change the paradigm of our life.
What is necessary to make real progress on this aspect of the path is to believe without any doubt that your true self is your true Buddha mind, your unwounded heart. And you must know what that means; you must be able to clothe that concept with substance, put flesh on the words of those bones.
Until you have knowledge and absolute confidence in your true self, knowing that your ego-mind causes your suffering will not give you the strength to say no to it, because it’s all you know. Knowing that your ego-mind is not your true self, that it’s just a product of the mind, will not give you the strength, because even with that knowledge, there’s no positive alternative there. If you try to embrace all aspects of your being and experience before you have knowledge and confidence in your true self, you will likely come up short because your ego-mind does not want to embrace all aspects of your being and experience.
So how do we gain this knowledge and confidence in our true selves? How did I gain it? It happened in stages.
The first stage occurred when I was meditating one morning. I saw a photo of me as a smiling toddler in my mind’s eye. Happy, open, unwounded, smiling for no reason at all other than just being. I knew at that moment that was my true Buddha nature, and I wept, tears rolling down my cheeks.
But as powerful as that experience was, it didn’t stay with me. There was nothing there for me to connect to, other than the image.
Then I read a Sufi book, Personality - The Art of Being and Becoming, by Hazrat Khan. He teaches that for the heart to be tuned to the right pitch, “it must have a certain awakening, a certain amount of life in it, that can only be brought about by sympathy.” And what is inner sympathy? It is a combination of kindness, mercy, goodness, compassion, gentleness, gratefulness, appreciation. “It is in reality love. And what is love? Love is God.”
Following this teaching, I discovered through meditation that my heart is light, love, compassion, humility, gratefulness, joy, contentment, strength, courage, and wisdom. With wisdom being the knowledge that my ego-mind is not my true self and seeing all things through the eyes of my unwounded heart, experiencing things directly without the intervention of thought. Now I knew what my true self was.
Finally, to more completely connect with my true self, I undertook an exercise that I heard of. Imagine yourself in a bare room. And imagine finding your true self in that room; for me it was my smiling toddler. Say to it, “I’m coming home.” See it reach it’s hand out to you. Take that hand and let your true self lead you out of the room into the world.
Every time now when I am in some negative energy situation, and I feel that smiling toddler beside me and my hand in his, I feel his positive radiance course through me and outward. I am filled with light regardless what is happening around me.
And so I have found absolute confidence and belief that my true self is my unwounded heart. And my ability to conjure up my smiling toddler enables me to create a forcefield of positive energy around me that my ego-mind cannot penetrate. And so I am able to experience things directly and be at peace and happy.
But as I’ve learned before, I must still remain ever-vigilant, awake; if I am distracted, my ego-mind will use that opportunity to rise and try to pull me away from the light within me into darkness.