Why? Why is the power of the ego-mind so great? The simple answer is that we’ve identified ourselves with our ego-mind for our whole life. We have thought of it not just as our identity but as our protector. To change that paradigm is thus no small matter.
It’s important to realize what you’re up against. It’s not just your identity; we have been programmed by our ego-mind. It’s responses to our various life experiences have caused synapses, connections, to be formed in the brain that determine how we react to various stimuli.
We are taught and think that we have free will, but in fact we do not. Or at least the free will we have is available only within a very small range of options. What we are trying to do in walking the path is to create new synapses that will in time become our default response.
So if one is going to have a chance of freeing yourself from the control of your ego-mind, the first step is that you must have the intent to do so. There is no progress without the requisite intent. But a point of frustration for many practitioners is that even though they say they have that intent, it doesn’t work.
Part of the reason why is that often they really don’t have that intent … not fully. They may want to free themselves from the control of their ego-mind in certain areas, but they have not completely renounced their ego-mind, not on core issues; they have not disassociated themselves from it. And it takes that complete break to have the necessary intent to free oneself from control of the ego-mind.
For most people, this is a scary thought. And that’s precisely the point. It is a thought. Obviously this is not something one can “think”oneself through, because thought is a function of the mind and the mind will not help you here.
The only way you can reach the necessary intent is through meditation. By just observing yourself, your thought process, going deep within to your heart (see my post, "Your Unwounded Heart”), remembering the Buddha’s teaching that “if it causes you suffering, it isn’t you,” going through the “Not me!” exercise (see my post, “Not Me - Peeling Off the Layers of Our Ego-Mind”), aware of the distinction between pain and suffering (see my post of that title), and finding clarity regarding your true self v your ego-mind.
Once you realize from within that your ego-mind is not your true self, that your heart is, and that the ego-mind causes you nothing but suffering, you should be ready to disassociate yourself from it. Even then, your ego-mind will not disappear or slink away defeated. It will still pop up and when it does it is your responsibility to say to it, “no,” and return to the positive energy of your heart and the neutrality of your senses.