What is the ego?

What is ego, and can we identify it in ourselves?

When we experience a physical attack on our body we instinctively defend against it. We also defend our beliefs because the sense of who we are includes what we think and feel. 

It is logical that we protect our physical self, but why do we get so attached to our ideas and beliefs?

We know we think and feel things because we are conscious of the thoughts and sensations. But what is it that is conscious or aware of them? When we look at this question, it is rather like stepping out of the play, to watch from the stalls. We can see our mind at work and examine the experiences but without being instantly drawn into them.

So what are these thoughts, feelings and beliefs that are being watched? ...The Ego. 

And what is watching? ...You Are.

As we settle into the position of the watcher, we realise that being conscious of all that happens, without it taking us over is natural, peaceful, relaxed, unstressed - and we only miss out on living like this when we are totally caught up in the experience of the thinking and feeling - when we live as the ego - which is the state that most of us live in most of the time!

How does the ego come about? Well, when we become conscious, from a very early age, we gain our sense of self and individuality. We call this the ego. But the ego takes over and becomes entrenched in what it believes - it takes on a life of its own, and we believe it is who we are.

The ego is essential for survival in the physical world, but in our modern life in an affluent society, most of us are fortunate not to only be forced to focus on food and shelter. So our ego looks around and begins to acquire external attachments. It becomes obsessed by acquiring and keeping and defending. An unchecked ego can take on extreme and bazaar beliefs. And it sees everything it attaches to as possessions, part of who it is, and as its life depends on these, it will defend them until death. All kinds of behaviour can result including incredibly selfish or hurtful thoughts, words and actions, all cruelty and wickedness that the human being can perpetrate. 

We can easily see the ego in others, but can we see it in ourselves? Can we be the witness to our ego? It is only when we start to watch the ego that we sense the deeper self - our real self.