Continued from Part 2…
I was reminded of a woman who used to live on a beach in southern Thailand. We stayed on that beach for many months, and so did she. She was there when we got there, and she was there when we left. She used to talk to herself all the time. She would sit on a chair facing the water, light a cigarette, and begin an imaginary dialogue with someone in her head. She had brown, wavy hair that was beginning to turn gray. She would wear sarongs and go barefoot. She talked all the time. She would argue politics, shout out as though she had been personally affronted, speak intelligently about world history, and cry quietly, accusing the person in her head of hurting her, of breaking her heart. We got used to her after awhile, but it was always strange to hear how intelligent she sounded, even when she was talking to no one. It was uncanny, a perfectly lucid, one-sided conversation.
I was reminded of her as I listened to this voice in my mind rage on and on. I still don’t know what mechanics of meditation brought that voice to the surface of my consciousness, but what struck me was that it seemed as though it wanted to be revealed. Or perhaps more accurately, it knew that it was being brought up anyway, and so it came out fighting tooth and nail. I noticed that he used my name all the time. I also knew that some consciousness was choosing to do this on purpose, because it increased the separation between me and it, the ego. Every time that voice screamed my name, I knew he wasn’t me. The constant, repetitive use of my name served to draw a distinction between the speaker, who was that angry little man, and the listener, my higher consciousness.
That voice raged for a day and a half. From the time he revealed himself to me after breakfast, he talked non-stop until ten o’clock that night, when I lied down to sleep. He talked on and on then, and only when I slipped off into dreams did I lose track of him, or he of me. When my alarm went off at the crack of dawn, I was just opening my eyes and remembering where I was when he started screaming at me. “You stupid bitch! You thought I’d leave, didn’t you? Well I’m STILL FUCKING HERE! You can go to sleep, you little bitch, but you CAN’T WAKE UP! What does that mean? I don’t fucking know! I’m just the crazy fucking guy around here, REMEMBER? Don’t you fucking remember, Sarah? Don’t you fucking REMEMBER?!”
The man talked, and screamed, and wheedled, and pleaded all through my morning meditations. He screamed at me as I ate breakfast, and desperately begged me to let him live while I practiced walking under the boddhi tree. He roared at me as I walked to lunch, and berated me as I ate. He growled at me as sat through several more hours of meditation, and laughed hysterically as I showered. Nothing and no one was sacred from his abusive tirade. The more personal, the more revered the person or subject in my life, the worse they suffered his verbal condemnation. He conjured up every disgusting scenario imaginable, and held them up in front of my mind’s eye in vivid detail. When I didn’t react, he went further, playing on my (or rather, his) deepest insecurities in an attempt to disgust me, to make me flinch.
Imagine you have a tiny kitten who you absolutely love. This voice would have tortured the kitten to death and then mutilated him. He would have ripped out the guts, eaten them, and smeared the blood all over his face. Then he would have wiped shit all over the kitten’s fur. Then he would have stamped on the furry body and torn out its eyes with his sharp fingernails. Then he would have pissed on it. Then he would have made you kiss it, just as he was lighting fire to its tail. And that would only be the beginning. He did this with everything that was sacred to me, taking situations to the furthest possible reaches of the mind, making them as disgusting and as horrifying as possible. He desperately wanted me to break. But the harder he tried, the more clearly I saw him for who he was- an insane illusion. When I finally went in to report that afternoon, he had been talking and screaming and abusing for thirty hours in a row, with only the short break when I slept. He hardly paused for breath the entire time. He was wearing himself out. The more he talked, the more energy he was giving up. And yet, he was desperate to live on some level, and so he talked on, and on, and on, in an attempt to stay heard, to stay alive.
I had several mental images of what was happening. This thing, this ego, was like a huge, white worm that had been unearthed. He was as long as three men, and hugely obese. Have you ever seen crane fly larvae? They come out in the spring, after a good rain. You’ll find them all over the lawn, these fat, worm-like things, that are slimy and look like they’d explode into pus and guts if you gave them a good pinch. They have rolls, like a fat woman’s arm. This is what the creature in my mind was like, only he was huge. I had a mental image of him writhing in the hot, yellow sun. He was lying on a square patch of orange dust, and he was trapped, because this patch of packed dirt and dust was sunken a bit, and the shallow walls were too high for him to roll out of. He had come out of a hole, perhaps in the side of that sunken square, but the hole had closed, and he was stuck. He was used to living in dark, moist tunnels in the depths of my mind. No one ever knew he was there. He was in charge, he was running the show. The tunnels were infinite, endless, and in those dark depths, he reigned. But somehow, he had been urged out. He emerged into the sunlight, and the door closed behind him. Now he was twisting and screaming in that orange patch of dust, the sunlight burning down on him, zapping his vital energy. I felt like I had a finger on his pulse, or a beam of light focused straight on him, and it was impossible for him to escape. It wasn’t even that hard for me. The more he talked and screamed and writhed, the easier he was to keep track of. He never disappeared again, he just stayed under the spotlight.
I’m not saying that I am free of ego. I’m far from it. But during the time that that nasty worm rolled and screamed and pleaded in the dirt, a notable chunk of ego dissolved itself. It died in the sunlight, or the light of conscious awareness. God only knows how much ego is left in those holes and tunnels of my mind- I imagine there are plenty of worms slithering around and giving birth in there. And yet, a BIG one came out during that day and half. I still hear his voice occasionally, but it’s fainter now, and I recognize it immediately. I know it’s not me. It’s almost funny. I get a little smile on my face, or I continue what I’m doing, and the voice dies in just a moment. In fact, I like it when I hear it, because I know that more is revealing itself to me, and more is dying.
There are so many things I want to say here, but I don’t want this to turn into more of a mammoth essay than it already is. I suppose the reason why I am sharing this with you is because I hope that you can relate to some of this in some way. All of us have egos. I didn’t even come close to sharing the goriest parts of what that layer of my ego said- they would disturb even the most hard-core of you- but I wonder if maybe you can see some of that voice in yourself. Sometimes it is entirely benign. It comments on that girl’s cute shoes, or tells you that he is hilarious. It judges, it compares, it remembers. It projects. It makes you think that it is you, and in your lowest moments, it is probably beating you up pretty good. It often sounds like a running dialogue- one person talking, the other one responding. Sometimes you are sure it is just “you.” You know your voice pretty well. You know what you say, you know how you judge. Sometimes you surprise yourself, sometimes you disgust yourself. But the fact is, that voice in your head is not you. I know a million people have said this a million times, but I’m just another person telling you the same thing. I had that ugly, ugly creature out on the table, and it was disgusting, and it was clever, and it was not me. It was something entirely separate, and knowing that was a huge relief.
If this is catching your attention in any way, and you think it rings true, I’ll stop here and let someone who understands this a whole lot better explain it. I know I sound like a repetitive geek, and I’m sure there are some of you who will go out and buy it and then disagree with me, but Eckhart Tolle explains all of this with beautiful lucidity in both of his books. You might be interested in reading one or both if you sense or feel a nasty little ego in YOU, making you insecure, judging even your closest friends, ruining relationships. It controls our lives in different degrees, but egos are alive and well in pretty much all of us. And they are ugly creatures. I also hope that this can give one or two or many of you a moment of relief- the second you realize that that voice in your head is not you, you know that you are not a judgmental bitch, or a raging pervert, or an ugly duckling- your ego is. The voice in your mind is not you. You are the awareness behind the voice. You are the consciousness that’s watching it. And that, my friends, is a huge relief 😉