Dr Steve Taylor is a senior lecturer in psychology at Leeds Metropolitan University (UK), and the author of several best-selling books on psychology and spirituality. Eckhart Tolle has described his work as ‘an important contribution to the shift in consciousness which is happening on our planet at present.’ You can find out more about him here.
Below I am posting some of Steve Taylor’s articles which I found immensely heartening, to say the least. To have a UK university lecturer taking up the batton, if you like, of spiritual awakening, is well, amazing.
For myself, at the end of a week of constant activity, chatter, the subtleties of relationships, and general busyness, the weekends provide some moments of spiritual rejuvenation, quiet and aligning with real self. Whilst having such space today I came across Steve Taylor’s blog and thought that some of you would be as uplifted reading his words as I have been.
I’ve picked 3 essays (links below, scroll down) he has written on topics close to my own heart – spiritual awakening experiences, the madness of the human ego and silence. I’ve quoted a few paragraphs from each in case you don’t want to click through and read the whole essays but I’d definitely recommend a full read if you can.
All three essay topics are linked intrinsically. You cannot have any sort of spiritual experience or transformation until your ego is seen for what it is and silence is often the backdrop against which this can happen.
Contrary to what some may think, ego is not just the outward show of ‘looking good’ – fancy clothes, flaunting your body and looks, driving an expensive car, living in a big house, winning an accolade etc. It is all those things but it is much more subtle than that in its essence. It is all the thoughts and beliefs we have about the ‘me’ we think we are – the person, the personality, the self-image we project to the outside world. It is the driving force behind our behaviours and needs.
When, in a spiritual experience, we become the seer of the ego-self we have been believing to be who we are, we see that we are not that ego-self at all, and that it has just been a veil through which we have been living life, but in a second-hand way. This ego never allows us to be real, to really see another, to love another. But we are under its spell lock, stock and barrel and we don’t even know it – until such time as a shift occurs.
As Steve Taylor describes, there are certain different triggers for awakening experiences to occur including conscious efforts to still the mental chatter through meditation, fasting, breathing exercises; or a moment of serene beauty suddenly noticed; or sometimes through trauma or suffering which often engender the most intense experiences. Whichever way it happens, there is a shift away from ego into the intrinsic stillness and joy within.
Here are some insights I’ve had about ego, along this journey of what I’ve called in the past ‘ego loss’ but it is not really so accurate – perhaps, quite simply, it is better to call it ‘you are not who you think you are’…
- The ego involves a subtle and often aggressive manipulation of conversations and people – manipulation and control are its methods of operation
- Acts of so-called ‘generosity’ or sacrifice are done for oneself, rather than the recipient, despite appearances
- The ego at play is constant draining us of our own energy and of others’
- The ego is always grasping, cajoling, forcing and imposing our will on others – and usually extremely subtly
- The ego has a desperate need to be right
- For the ego there is always something wrong
- The ego desperately needs to feel good and to seek approval from others, and in this process, feeling good is mistaken for love, which it is not
- The high (whatever your high is, and there are innumerable flavours!) is never a lasting high
- The ego is the coping mechanism that hides from conscious perception the loneliness we really feel inside at the sense of separateness we feel from others and the world
- We experience the impacts of living life as if this ego is who we are everyday and in nearly every moment, yet we do not take the courage to still ourselves enough to sense the truth of ourselves as not this ego
- We are scared of allowing stillness / silence for we have come to believe that our mind chatter and egoic ways are who we are – we do not see any difference between these and who we are
- If we were to find the courage to just be, we would discover the very peace and joy the ego is constantly trying find yet failing at every turn
- Often, we are so stubborn and ego-attached that it is when we have suffered enough, that it is time!
…Time for seeing just how fine life is without the ego to blur our vision of who we really are.
So here are the articles…
(Click the titles to read the whole article.)
I believe this over-developed ego is the fundamental madness from which we suffer, and the root cause of our insane behaviour. Intense ego-consciousness is a state of suffering. It brings a basic sense of isolation, of being separate from other people and the rest of reality. We experience ourselves as fragile entities trapped inside our own heads with the rest of the world ‘out there,’ on the other side. And our egos send a constant stream of ‘thought-chatter’ through our minds, a chaos of memories, daydreams, worries and fears which disturbs our being and creates a constant state of anxiety.
In addition, because we live in our thoughts so much, we find it very difficult to live in the present, and to appreciate the reality and beauty of the world in which we live. The world becomes a dreary, half-real place, perceived through a fog of thought. As a result of this, most people feel a basic sense of incompleteness and discontent. And this negative state is the basic source of the cravings for possessions and power and status, which are a way of trying to complete ourselves and compensate for our inner discord. We try to complete ourselves – and make ourselves significant – by gaining power over other people or by collecting wealth and possessions.
…our strong sense of ego means that it’s difficult for us to empathise with other people. We become ‘walled off’ from them, unable to ‘feel with’ them and to experience the world from their perspective or to sense the suffering we might be causing them. We become able to oppress and exploit other people in the service of our own desires.
Normally, as human beings we are psychologically attached to a large number of constructs, such as hopes and ambitions for the future, beliefs and ideas concerning life and the world, the knowledge we have accumulated, and our image of ourselves, including our sense of status, our appearance and accomplishments and achievements. These are accoutrements which become attached to the sense of self but which are not actually a part of our true nature. At the same time, there are more tangible attachments, such as possessions, jobs, and other human beings whose approval and attention we might crave. These are the building blocks of the ego. We feel that we are ‘someone’ because we have hopes, beliefs, status, a job and possessions and because other people give us approval.
However, in states of despair and depression all of – or at least some of – these psychological attachments are broken.
Hopes and beliefs are revealed as illusions; your possessions and status have been taken away, your friends or lovers have rejected you. As a result, you feel naked and lost, as if your identity has been destroyed. But at this very point you are, paradoxically, close to a state of liberation. You are in a state of detachment. Your Self has been released from external constructs. In an instant, therefore, the pain of despair and desolation can switch into a state of freedom and joy.
Attachments to possessions or to other human beings consume our life-energy. Simply maintaining the attachments uses up life-energy – for example, the constant effort to sustain our wealth and status, to defend our beliefs against other people’s, or to keep the approval of others. And in a more subtle way, these attachments exist as ‘psychological forms’ which are present within our minds even when we aren’t aware of them.
As a result, when these attachments dissolve there is a sudden release of a large portion of life-energy. And now that this structure of attachment no longer fills our psyche, there is a sudden new clarity and openness inside us, a new sense of wholeness. Our life-energy becomes intensified and stilled, and therefore we have a powerful spiritual experience.
Modern humans have lost touch with their inner ‘true self’. Silence and stillness are a means to recovering happiness and contentment. In the modern world silence has practically ceased to exist.
This lack of quietness has also meant that people are no longer used to silence, and have even, as a result, become afraid of it. Along with inactivity, silence has become something which most people are determined to avoid at all costs, and which, when they are confronted with it, unnerves them.
Ultimately, the most serious consequence of both this inner chattering and the noise and activity of the modern world is that they separate us from our true selves.
It’s not just a question of completely closing yourself off to external stimuli and shutting down ‘inner noise’, so that you can experience a state of total immersion in pure consciousness. It’s possible to have a foot in both camps, so to speak to live a normal life in the world, being exposed to external stimuli and experiencing inner noise, and at the same time still be rooted in your real self.
I trust you enjoy these articles. How has your own journey into stillness been for you? Do you like silence or does it unnerve you? Have you had a spiritual experience you would like to share? And do you get this ego thing or do you feel it’s a strange concept?
As always, comments welcome.
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