Human beings don’t trust life. Why? Because we have an ego, and egos are programmed to not trust life. Why? That’s a deeper question and may not be entirely answerable. The answer, in part, is that the ego is an aspect of the human animal that keeps us safe, so it’s always on the lookout for what might be dangerous or a threat to our safety. As a result, we notice movement, inconsistencies, differences, details, and the slightest changes in our environment, all in service to our safety. Our ego is there to watch our back. It thinks of everything that could go wrong. It assumes the worst and attempts to plan for it. This is valuable, of course. But the ego’s viewpoint is narrow—“Life is dangerous!”—and the ego doesn’t notice or acknowledge the other half of the truth: Life is supportive.
Isn’t it interesting that we can even talk about the ego this objectively? It must not be who we really are. The ego and its perceptions must not be the whole story. What is it that is able to be aware of this aspect of our humanity and able to recognize that the ego’s perceptions aren’t necessarily the whole truth, or at least able to contemplate this possibility? Our mind has the capacity to reason, think, evaluate, and decide whether the ego’s reactions to life are helpful or not, whether they even need to be paid attention to at a particular time. There’s something else here that’s aware of the dangers the ego perceives in the environment or in another person and concludes whether or not it’s an actual threat. What is this that uses the mind but isn’t the mind or the ego? What is it that is wise?
In addition to the ego’s watchful eye, wisdom is here. Wisdom shows up in our body rather than in our mind, as an instantaneous knowing, or clarity, about something. We may put this knowing into words, but wisdom isn’t the same thing as our thoughts about something. Wisdom is the ability to apply our knowledge and experience to a particular situation and act effectively. When we’re faced with a problem, something uses the mind to search through memory banks for information, weigh the information and experience stored there, and balance that with our ego’s reactions.
There’s something else here that is living this life that is beyond the mind, beyond conditioning, beyond information, and beyond the ego, but it doesn’t have a face or a personality. It’s beyond the body, beyond gender, beyond roles, beyond personas or personality traits. It is the Silent Watcher, who acts and speaks through the body, who uses the ego and body-mind but is more than the sum of all of these parts.
The funny thing is that it seems like we are inside the body. And it seems like we are a male or female with a set of thoughts and other conditioning that seem to be our personal thoughts and conditioning. It seems like we are an individual with lots of fears, desires, beliefs, and doubts and questions about life and how to live it. Much of the time, we don’t feel very wise, but confused and at the mercy of life and our thoughts, feelings, and desires.
And yet, when we’re able to move beyond the smaller definitions we have of ourselves, we can sense and discover that we are much more than all of our fears, desires, beliefs, judgments, opinions, self-images, memories, fantasies, and other thoughts. There’s something else here that is more real and yet less tangible, something that can’t be put into words.
What is this that exists and is conscious beyond all your thoughts, all the problems you believe you have, all your fears and desires, all your images of the past and future, and all your self-images and roles? What is aware of and beyond all of these—because there is something, isn’t there?
You can see why spiritual traditions have often referred to this great mystery of who we are as Emptiness, Nothingness, the Mystery, or the Nameless. Something exists that is you, but it isn’t what you normally think of as yourself. It is given many other names, such as Essence, the true self, the higher self, the Self, the Silent Watcher, the Witness, the Divine, Source, Being, Silence, Presence, the soul, and Spirit. To be a little more precise, I use the term Essence to refer to the Divine, or the Oneness, as it manifests through an individual—as the God within us; while I use the term God, Oneness, or Source to refer to the godhead, or Creator.
So there is what we think of ourselves as and there is what we really are. We have a dual nature—the ego and Essence, the false self and the true self. What’s odd is that we’re programmed to believe we are who we think we are—the false self—and to overlook our true nature as Essence. We’re programmed to believe we are something we’re not!
This programming allows the Oneness to have the experience of being an individual (which it couldn’t have as Oneness) and to have a unique experience through each of us, which is how the Oneness is exploring its own creation. This programming, as mentioned earlier, also provides the suffering that eventually wakes us up out of the nightmare of ego identification and motivates us to discover who we are and how to live as that in the world.
From Trusting Life: Overcoming the Fear and Beliefs That Block Peace and Happiness by Gina Lake