Inner freedom and lasting happiness. Why are they so elusive?
For the ego, the physical body is downstream to the mind. In contrast, from the standpoint of existence, the mind and ego are downstream to the body. The confluence of ego and life happens in the body. The ego tries to give the mind the upper hand over the body. Through the body which supports the mind and ego, existence gains the upper hand. Ego continually tries to prove itself, while existence has nothing to prove. Four factors influence inner freedom and lasting happiness. They are:
1. The Ego
2. The mind
3. The physical body
The physical body is the primary medium of expression for every individual. The modes of expression are mainly through actions which are greatly influenced by the mind and ego. The body has a fixed size and proportion, While the ego and the mind are very fluid, and their size and ratio vary significantly from one individual to another.
Compared to an individual, the material aspect of existence is infinitely large. Human life is possible because of the largesse of existence. The body is an offshoot of material existence and forms the bridge between reality on one side, and the mind/ego combination on the other.
The relationship between the ego, mind, body, and existence.
The example of a ship may help with a clearer understanding of the relationship between these four quantities. The physical body is like the engine and hull of a boat. To steer, a captain and a rudder at the bottom of the hull are essential. A rudder translates the movement of the captain’s wheel, and the ship turns accordingly. When the mind and ego are dominant factors in an individual’s life, existence becomes like a rudder. It becomes secondary to the mind and ego. However, just as the rudder of one ship cannot influence every ship sailing in the sea, the mind and ego may manipulate the actions of the individual body but cannot impact existence as a whole.
Ego vs. Existence.
Depending on whether the existence or the mind/ego combination is in charge, life takes very different turns. When existence takes the wheel, the mind/ego work becomes like a rudder on a ship, and they will have to work by following the bigger picture. Since existence has nothing to prove to an individual, the energies in the body and the mind move in the direction of the greater good of humanity. The ego, when it has a lot to prove, it steers the energies of the mind and body towards smaller goals.
Children are closer to existence, and adults are closer to the ego. Narrow individuality is absent in the way children think. This, however, is very prevalent in an adult mindset. As a consequence, there is a wide disparity between adults and children, especially when it comes to the enjoyment of life. In adults, happiness depends on the presence or absence of something other than themselves. In contrast, children are freer in their expression. Joy is more spontaneous and comes from within. Their happiness adds to the world.
We connect with the ego through thoughts, and our feelings can help create a bridge to existence. Thoughts cannot always be trusted, but feelings can be trusted. The manipulative aspect of the mind can dress up ideas to misrepresent reality. The mind may influence attitudes, but whatever the feeling, it is real. For instance, the feeling associated with love and that with anger is entirely different. The mind cannot mislabel these feelings. They are experienced as such.
Comparing ego with existence is like comparing an ocean to a tiny trickle of water. A small trickle of water has the potential, however, to join a more significant stream of water which may lead to a river that eventually merges into the ocean. But the sea cannot shrink into a small stream. Similarly, ego has the potential to flow, merge, and disappear into the broader context of life. A crystallized ego keeps us very confined, and we become like a small trickle of water. As the ego melts, we begin to flow with the rest of life. That is the start of joining the bigger picture and moving towards infinite joy and happiness.
Ego and happiness.
The mind is like a lake, and the heart is like a river. When the ego is in the lake like mind, it remains confined to individual needs and interests. But when ego joins the flow of feelings in the heart, it can leave the confines of the mind and flow outwards. Ego then goes from serving individual happiness towards working for the joy of others. That outlet for the ego is the ticket out of narrow individuality.
We cannot hoard or accumulate happiness. It is an ongoing experience in the present. The limiting step in accessing joy is the mind. It functions as an on and off switch. The ego controls that switch. Ego links itself to the vault of memory from where experiences and thoughts stored for future enjoyment reside. Bypassing that switch involves living through the heart where happiness can be continually experienced.
Existence does not accumulate or hoard. In nature, there is no fear of wiping out evolutionary gains and going back to the drawing board. For instance, at their peak, dinosaurs were the pinnacle of creation. Upon their extinction, existence took a new route, and we are now the at the pinnacle of creation as dinosaurs once were. One day humankind may suffer the same fate as dinosaurs. In the meantime, there is ample opportunity to enjoy existence to the fullest.
Thoughts take us to the past and future. Feelings keep us in the present.
Enjoyment of life is through either thoughts or feelings. Thoughts take us back to the past or the future. Feelings keep us in the present. Joy is in the now, and suffering is also in the now. Thoughts take joy or suffering in the present into the storehouse of memory. Feelings pull thoughts of pleasure or suffering from memory back into the present.
It is better to complete the experience of joy or suffering in the present rather than postpone or avoid those experiences. This will prevent those experiences from coming back at a future date and contaminate the experience of the present. Any joy or suffering when it becomes total and complete does not leave the present.
For this to happen, all comparison must drop, and consequently, thoughts of the past or future. In that totality, where there is no comparison, the interpretation of an experience of joy or suffering also disappear. What’s left is the energy of intense feeling, which has the power to open the door to the heart.
Giving up the ego = entering freedom.
Just as a river gives up the freshness of its water and accepts the saltiness of an ocean in order to merge with it, the individual must give up the ego to merge into existence. The ego may feel ‘fresh and palatable’ compared to existence when may appear to be ‘salty and unpalatable.’ This creates a great resistance, within each, in giving up the ego.
Giving up the ego is the hardest thing to accomplish. There is freedom in existence, but not within the mind. Ego wants liberty and individuality. This is an ongoing psychological battle that takes place every day. Ego has walls. Existence has no walls. It is not hard to see where freedom lies.
Whenever we think of ourselves, we move towards the ego. By including others, we move towards a greater existence. In every moment, there is this choice of moving towards or away from the ego. The choice we make moment to moment ultimately determines whether we remain in the narrow confines of the mind where there is a constant battle for freedom and happiness or the vastness of existence which is the freedom and happiness we seek.