By Jakeb Brock
One of the most mysterious qualities about human life is that, on one hand, we are each a unique individual. While on the other hand, we are all the same. As separate people populating this planet, we number eight billion. As a created collective entity, we are one.
This paradoxical truth about who we are affects us in many ways. It can make human life interesting and intriguing. At the same time, it injects life with a kind of tension. Not only are we uniquely the same; we are also, simultaneously, solitary and social creatures. We are compelled to relate meaningfully with others. Yet, we are always aware that we are separate and alone—that we each have an inner makeup that no other human being shares.
As we go through life, our awareness of both of these seemingly irreconcilable aspects of our being increases. Our relationships deepen and become more fulfilling, and our sense of self-knowledge expands. Meanwhile, the more that our self-knowledge expands, the more we realize how unique and alone we really are.
Our uniqueness resonates from deep within us and then works its way out into expression. Its most obvious manifestation is our physical body. It is an amazing biological fact that though all human beings are basically alike in appearance (that is to say, we all walk upright on two legs, have two arms, etc.), when we look more closely, we see that we are all at least slightly different. We each have differing body attributes, facial features, etc. No two of us are exactly alike—not even so-called identical twins. This is because, scientifically speaking, we all were born with a unique genetic code or DNA. One way that this unique genetic code expresses itself is in our physical body.
Another aspect of our uniqueness involves our sensual perception. Not only is each of our bodies at least a little different, but also, no two of us perceive life in quite the same way. This has been proven through extensive psychological research, but it really needs no proof as it is quite obvious. The fact that we each perceive things a little differently also means that we will have unique responses to those perceptions. Our thoughts and emotions will be uniquely our own. This is one of the reasons that relationships can be difficult at times. We tend to assume that our friend or mate should be able to relate to and share our thoughts and emotions, but they do not have the same frame of reference as ours to do so. Their perceptions of life are completely different than ours, and therefore, so are their responses.
These unique aspects of our human persona are not necessarily reflective of our spiritual state of consciousness. However, out of our unique perceptions and responses, we form other unique defining attributes of self, such as opinions, likes and dislikes, values, and judgments. These mentally constructed positions are what make up our personality and ego. They tend to pile up over time and become layered and complex. They build upon and expand our sense of separateness and aloneness. Moreover, these egoic (ego-like) aspects of us are reflective of our state of consciousness.
The fact that we so readily indulge in the formation of self-defining values, opinions, and judgments is expressive of a state of consciousness—a state of consciousness that is largely dualistic and isolationist. In this egoic state of consciousness, we not only build and express these mental positions, but we also hug them closely to ourselves. Eventually, we come to view life exclusively through the lens of their influence. For example, when getting to know a new friend, we find ourselves freely sharing our likes, dislikes, preferences, etc. We might say, “I like going for walks at sunset.” Or, “I love eating watermelon on a hot summer day.” As our friendship deepens, our sharing deepens as well and becomes more bound up with our opinions and judgments. We might then say, “It makes me really mad when someone says that to me.” Or, “I think people who do things like that ought to be locked up.” Interestingly, just voicing statements of our thoughts causes our opinions to solidify and become more defining of who we think we are. Once this happens, we begin to be dominated by our ego as if it were someone separate from us and always insisting to have its way. We begin to feel trapped and restricted by our defined sense of self, and with these conflicting sensations comes an overall sense of being fractured and divided inside.
This helplessness about not being able to break out of the box of our encrusted self-image can lead to problems. It can turn our social life into an unpleasant game of one-upmanship. We may find ourselves feeling constantly defensive as we seek unconsciously to justify who we think we are. We may even become combative. The biggest problem spawned by an encrusted ego is probably that it makes us feel increasingly self-contemptuous, which in turn, makes us feel more and more isolated and alone. When this happens, we might find ourselves withdrawing from social activity—even when we desire and need it. We may pull back from others under the pretense that they do not like or accept who we are. They do not agree with our opinions or appreciate our viewpoint. Thus we become experientially victimized by our ego.
What is the way out of this self-made prison? We must take our self-knowledge to a new level. We must uncover and examine our unconscious inner impulses and be willing to look at ourselves in an entirely new way. How do we do this? We start by asking ourselves: “Are these ideas about myself that I have been clinging to (my long-held opinions, likes and dislikes, judgments, etc.) who I really am? What would happen to me if I just let them go? How would I define myself without them?”
By the simple act of being willing to detach ourselves from these self-defining ideas about who we are, we instigate a revolutionary rearrangement of our inner world. Though it may seem that there is nothing inside of us waiting in the wings to take the place of these ideas and that if we let them go we will be like an empty shell of a human being, this is not true. There is indeed something waiting in the wings. It is our spiritual consciousness—that part of us that is one with not only other human beings, but all life. It is in all of us. While it may not carry around the baggage of self-defining ideas about itself, it does have a personality of its own—a personality expressive of sameness or oneness.
The state of consciousness in which our ego dominates our perceptions is a dualistic, divisive, and combative one. In this state of consciousness, our individuality and sense of separateness are prominent while our sense of sameness is, in truth, nothing more than an intellectual concept—one that we give assent to but do not really experience on a deep level. In contrast to this, as we detach ourselves from our egoic perspective and begin to move in the new ego-less consciousness of Self, we begin to feel more connected and at peace. Our sense of sameness becomes prominent. It becomes more than an intellectual concept in our minds; it becomes who we are. We experience it as a state of consciousness—one that soon comes to define who we are as individuals. Thus our individuality and uniqueness do not disappear. They are still there, and we are still aware of them at any given moment. But they cease to call the shots in our experience. They no longer tend toward isolationism and divisiveness.
This revolutionary rearrangement of our inner landscape and perspective also constitutes an evolutionary unfoldment of consciousness. So there is an element of needing to be ready for it. Willing ourselves to do it in our natural human strength will not, by itself, bring it to pass. But being both willing and ready will turn the trick.
What does it mean to be ready? Generally speaking, this implies that we have come to a point of weariness and frustration with our former egoic perspective. We are tired of the sense of smallness and entrapment that come with the egoic orientation. We may even catch ourselves the next time we utter some long-held defining idea of Self and feel like, “That’s not me anymore; that’s just something I have been believing about myself for as long as I can remember.” When this happens to us, we will have recourse to examine some of our other self-defining beliefs and be able to let those go. Our conscious awareness will then go on high alert so that we do not even need to speak out loud. We can simply watch our thoughts and let go of them within ourselves.
Once the ego is exposed and its self-definitions debunked, we will see clearly that none of that stuff is really who we are. Our true identity is universal spiritual consciousness. We also will see clearly that our egoic perspective had been a form of enslavement. Thus this transition of consciousness is also liberating. Our former perspective of “I-me-mine,” and the sense of confinement and restriction it carried, give way to one that is greatly expansive and free. Our smallness and narrowness of mind are shattered, revealing infinite and limitless horizons.
The mystery is that, as human beings living on this earthly plane, the sense of individuality and separateness never entirely dissipates. We each continue to be a unique offshoot of humanity with a unique genetic code, set of sensual perceptions, and our own responses. All that we lose is the content of our ego—content that was never real to begin with. This loss is sure to make us into a totally different person. No longer will we build walls of exclusion and isolation around ourselves. Instead of our uniqueness being a divisive wedge between us and others, it will be a cause for celebration and enjoyment. Hurt, discord, and strife will no longer color our experience. We will still be unique, but we will be uniquely the same.