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The Illusory World Created by the Mind and Ego

This is one of eight talks from Gina Lake's online course Moving Beyond Ego, which is about the ego and how to free yourself from the voice in your head and what it's like to live unencumbered by this voice. A transcript of this video message can be read below.

Because we’re identified with our thoughts, we misperceive the world, and this creates an illusory or false sense of the world—a misperception of the world. The thoughts that I'm talking about are the thoughts that come from the ego, or egoic mind, the thought-stream, the voice in our head. This voice is the illusion generator. It’s the ongoing commentary in our head that centers around “me, myself and I,” particularly the me in the past and in the future: “What am I going to do? What did they think of me? What will happen to me?”

This is the kind of commentary that goes on in people's minds, which creates the false self. From these thoughts, you get the ideas about yourself that you believe to be true. And we believe these thoughts simply because we're programmed to believe them. And so, that is how the illusion of being a separate self is created—simply by the thought-stream that pours into each of our minds from who knows where.

Where do these thoughts come from? They come out of nowhere, and yet, they’re taken to be who we are. They seem to be who we are, but these thoughts don't even belong to us. We didn’t choose them, and they don't really describe us—not our true self. They describe the false self, a character who feels a certain way, who thinks a certain way, who’s been programmed to believe certain things.

The thought-stream wouldn't be a problem if our attention wasn't constantly glued to it. Not only do we believe the thoughts in the thought-stream, we are fascinated by them. We can hardly take our attention off of them.

If we don't take our attention off of them, what results is an illusory sense of ourselves and the world. Like a cloud or fog, our thoughts cover over reality, and we’re unable to see clearly. We live in a virtual reality, one created by our thoughts about life and ourselves.

This thought-stream distorts our perception. It blinds us to the truth and the beauty of the world—because another feature of this thought-stream, which is problematic, is that it's generally negative: It makes you feel fearful, insecure, lacking, and not good enough.

The ego is a survival mechanism, and although we need to have some remnant of ego to function, we don't need the thought-stream. The thought-stream is archaic and dysfunctional. When you first see this about the thought-stream, it’s pretty shocking. But those who are awake or enlightened no longer refer to their thought-stream for how to live their lives.

They use the rational mind, the intellect, to problem-solve, to read, to follow directions, and to navigate life. The rational mind is very different from the thought-stream. The thought-stream is the voice in your head that talks to you. That voice is what is outmoded. And although some of the conditioning reflected in the thought-stream may be helpful or neutral, a lot of it is simply lies.

What you discover after awakening is that your body and the intelligence embedded in it already knows what you need to know. The conditioning you need is already in your body-mind. It’s already known to you. So, to keep yourself safe, you don't need to refer to the thought-stream, which essentially just repeats things you already know. It's also quite amazing to see that.

You don't need any of those thoughts, and it took me a long time to realize this. It took a lot of investigation of the thought-stream to see that I don't even need a thought like, "Take the pot off the stove now! It’s boiling over." We don't need a thought like that because the body moves to the stove and takes the pot off when it sees what’s happening.

So, the mind takes credit for telling you what you already know. It seems like we need those thoughts, those seemingly helpful, safety-oriented thoughts. But the truth is that knowing moves the body, and the thoughts come later. And we just think we needed those thoughts to tell us what to do.

This is really good news—that you don't need the thought-stream—because that means you don't have to go sorting through your thoughts to find the important ones, the necessary ones. It means you can disregard the thought-stream and put your attention on something else. This is a radical teaching: You can disregard the thought-stream! But you have to find that out for yourself through investigation and by, little by little, letting go of each thought as you see how useless it is. And keep doing this until you’re convinced that the entire thought-stream is useless.

This takes a willingness to look at your thoughts and discover the truth about them. Most people are so identified with their thought-stream that they aren’t examining or questioning it. They're just believing it, and their lives are run accordingly. Their thoughts say, "Go here. Do that," and that's what they do. And that's the right experience earlier on in our human evolution. There's nothing wrong with that.

It is as it's meant to be until we reach a point in our evolution when we begin to wake up and see that we don't need to live like that any longer. But until then, it's perfectly fine to be lost in the illusion. The illusion serves evolution—until it no longer does. It's all just fine the way it is.

But I'm speaking to you, and you’re here because it's time for you to wake up. So, how do we begin to see through the illusion and break free of it? I frankly don't know any better way than a practice of meditation, which trains you to detach from the voice in your head so that you can begin to see this voice for what it is. I will be saying more about meditation in a later talk.

We automatically believe our thoughts, so unless we can get some distance from that programming, there's no choice but to believe them. That distance, the ability to notice our thoughts, gives us some choice around them—to believe them or not. Without that distance, we automatically believe our thoughts, and we’re run by them, by our programming.

Overcoming that programming doesn't just happen, and it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes effort, and that effort is usually in the form of meditation or some other spiritual practice that develops our ability to be aware of and at a distance from our thoughts.

Our default is to believe our thoughts and identify with them (“This is who I am!”) and let them run our life. Waking up is about changing that default and coming into some control and choice around our thoughts.

We have to step out of the thought-stream long enough to discover that there's something else guiding us and living our life and always has been. The being that we are allows the egoic mind—the voice in our head—to run our life until it’s time for us to awaken. And then, some mysterious force arises within us and says, "Wait a minute. This can't be right. I'm making myself miserable. Everyone's making themselves miserable. What is this voice in my head? How do I release myself from this suffering?"

You finally ask those questions, and you discover that the answers to those questions have been available throughout history from spiritual masters and mystics, enlightened beings who knew the way out of suffering.

And so, the beautiful, wonderful, good news is that there’s something at the core of life other than all of our thoughts about it. There is one being behind all of life, and you are an expression of that. The only thing that's ever been living your life is this awesome, magnificence that you are. And the only thing that has ever interfered with this magnificence expressing in life is thoughts about yourself—the false self. Isn't that amazing that thoughts are powerful enough to obscure our divine nature?

Your divine nature, your true self, has never wavered. It is the only thing here. It's the only thing that has ever looked out of your eyes, moved your body, breathed your lungs, and beat your heart. It's the only thing. And it's the same in everyone. So, our work here, as spiritual beings who are waking up, is to remove the obscurations to this beautiful fact, to this beautiful truth, so that we can begin to see the world through eyes that are clear and pure, ones that see life and the world as it truly is, as the beautiful and magnificent creation that it is.

Once we drop out of the thought-stream, that is our experience. The experience is that the world is one of wonder, awe, and beauty, very similar to how many of us remember experiencing the world as a child: every moment fresh and new. That is the true self's experience. That is the true experience. And the only thing that has ever kept you from that experience is your thoughts, particularly thoughts about yourself.

Those are the biggest obstacles—all of the “I” thoughts: “I need this. I want this. I'm too scared. I never do anything right. I have to have this.” All of the ideas you have about “I” are a lie. If you just say, "I," that's not a lie. That's about as true a statement as you can make. Or you could say, "I am." That's true too. But anything you add after that is likely to be a lie. It's too small a truth to be true. It’s too incomplete to be true.

Of course, language is necessary, but language, by its nature, creates separation. Language is more often the tool of the ego than of the divine self. Nevertheless, we're here to learn to speak in a way that is not egoic but expresses truth. We're here to learn to move in a way that is not egoic but expresses our true nature and our true beingness and what it wants for us in this lifetime.

Each and every one of you has a plan, a certain destiny, that your soul set out to accomplish in this lifetime, and by attuning to your true self, you find your way to that. The egoic mind can take you away from that, and it often does. But the beauty is that the divine self has so many ways of contacting us that most people don’t entirely lose their way.

Most people are living a dance between their egoic self and their divine self: They identify with their ego, and then they say something wonderful and loving. Then, they identify with their ego again, and then they say something loving and wise. Eventually, we become more aligned with our spiritual self and speak and act more in alignment with that and less in alignment with the ego.

It's a long process. Breaking our identification with the ego and learning to live from a deeper place doesn't happen overnight. The trick to living from this deeper place is learning to attune to the subtle realm and the true self’s subtle communications, which for the most part, don’t come in the form of words.

Now, I'm a channel, so I do receive guidance in the form of words in my head, but that's a rarity for most people. When someone does receive such guidance, it doesn’t feel like the thought-stream. It feels clean and clear, and it's also very short. It doesn't go on and on like the thought-stream. The egoic mind is quite a chatterbox, and it's all about “I.” Your deepest self doesn’t communicate with you that way.

If you're looking for guidance, you won't find it in your mind. You'll find it in the more subtle realm, in the subtle urges and drives that come from deep within yourself, which arise suddenly out of the moment: Suddenly, you’re moved to call someone. Suddenly, you're excited about creating something. Suddenly, you say something true and meaningful, and it feels good to everyone—to you as you speak it and to others as they receive it.

This is how the true self operates. Moment-to-moment, it shows you how to live. It doesn't let you know what your life will be like in the future. It's all about learning to live moment-to-moment. And since each moment is complete just as it is, you don't need a future. The ego needs a future because the ego makes us so unhappy in the present that we need a pretend, happier future to try to get to. But if you're present, the moment-to-moment experience and guidance you receive is enough. The experience of the moment is enough. It's full, it's complete.

I can't stress enough the importance of meditation for getting some distance from the mind. It's nearly impossible to get beyond a lot of negativity or negative feelings without some kind of practice of meditation and, also, some healing work. A negative mind is very difficult to detach from because it feels alarming. Negative thoughts feel like you have to pay attention to them or you won’t be safe.

That's why there's so much emphasis in spiritual circles on changing negative thoughts to positive ones. If your thought-stream is more neutral or positive, you’ll be able to drop into Presence more easily. Eventually, with a lot of meditation and inquiry into the mind, your thought-stream does become more benign, more neutral, less troublesome, and less compelling and sticky. And so, it's important to do whatever you can to minimize that negativity. There are lots of different tools for that: affirmations, inquiry, Bryon Katie's work, and various methods of healing.

Writing down your negative thoughts, I think, is really helpful to clearly see what's in the thought-stream. When people do this, they're often surprised at how negative their own mind is. There's something about putting those thoughts down on paper that gives you power over them. They're just words. They have no reality, but the illusion gives them reality—and they can become self-fulfilling prophecies.

If you believe your negative thoughts, they do create a negative reality. They create a negative internal climate that, in turn, creates a negative external climate, as people respond negatively towards your negativity. If you live in a negative internal climate, others feel that and are repelled by that, so you don't get the love, support from others, and opportunities you’d like to have.

So, anything you can do to become more aware of your thoughts and make them more positive will be really helpful. Inquiry into your thoughts to see if they are true and useful is especially helpful. You will always, I guarantee, discover that the thoughts in your thought-stream are not useful or even true. They have such a small amount of truth in them that they can’t really be considered true. I think Byron Katie’s inquiry process, which she calls “The Work,” is some of the best cognitive work you can do.

If you have a lot of negative emotions or trust issues due to an abusive or a neglectful childhood, it can feel scary to drop into Presence and stay there. So, you may have to work on those issues first with a therapist, an energy healer, or some other kind of healer. Your deepest self will bring various tools and people into your life to help you heal. Notice what kinds of healing methods you're intuitively drawn to. I'm all for psychotherapy if you can find a good transpersonal psychotherapist, someone who acknowledges the spiritual side of life. Most people need to do some Inner Child work at some point, which I’ve written about in a number of my books.

A question I’m being asked now in the chat window is, “Is thinking a decision?” If you’re talking about using your intellect, your rational mind, then that type of thinking is a decision. We consciously decide to think about something: We decide to plan our next vacation or plan what we’ll make for dinner. But the thinking that goes on in the thought-stream just happens to us, at least initially: A thought pops into our mind from out of nowhere. But then we may jump on the bandwagon and purposely think more about that initial thought. That initial thought is not a decision, but to continue to think thoughts along the same line is likely a decision, although an unconscious one for most people. We consciously or unconsciously agree with certain thoughts and reinforce those thoughts with more of the same.

It takes a certain amount of spiritual development and awareness of your thoughts to get to the point where you can make a conscious decision to not join the thought-stream. Most people are unconsciously and automatically identified with their thought-streams, so they don't feel they have a choice. Meditation will help you feel you do have a choice and you don't have to jump on that thought train and get lost in it.

Here's another question: “When the ego is purged, what, if anything, takes its place?” What takes its place is what's been here all along; it just doesn't express itself through words in your head. It is the silent presence that is who you are, the silent presence that is hearing these words, the silent presence that is sitting, listening, seeing, sensing, and intuiting. It experiences a thought. It experiences a feeling. It experiences sensations. What's left when the ego has fallen into the background is the Experiencer, but I hesitate to use the term as a noun like that. It's better to say that what’s left is pure experiencing, absent of any evaluation.

Who you are is the Noticer, the Experiencer, the Witness. But what’s left isn't a thing. It isn't an entity or individual. It is all of life living through you. What you experience in the space between your thoughts or when the thought-stream quiets down is who you are. You are that silence. You are that experiencing, that awareness, that awakeness, that Presence. That being that is experienced in between your thoughts has always been there, but it allows your thoughts to take you over.

And here's a nice comment from somebody sharing something: "One day, when I saw a bird, I didn’t think of the bird. I was the bird. One day, when I was able to love all creation, I had no thoughts of creation. Rather, I was part of all creation. Duality was absent. Oneness had taken its place."

That's beautiful, and that’s the experience of dropping into your being. That is how your true self experiences life. It experiences a connection to all of life in that way.

The desire for oneness is the one desire that is worth keeping. You don’t really need the rest of your desires. To get what we need in life, we don't need our desires. Life is taking care of us. We are being held in God's hands. It's very beautiful that way. If we could only trust that, then we’d be able to discover that. But it takes trust to move out of the egoic mind, which does not trust life. You have to have enough trust to move out of the egoic mind to discover that life is benevolent and provides everything we need.

One last question: "Do you think your experience came from your practice? Does practice really do anything?"

I think that practice is extremely important. I practiced meditation for over twelve years, one or two hours a day, before I awakened. I think awakening is grace. It's not necessarily something we can order up or cause to happen through practice. But I think that the sincerity and intention you bring to a practice and the training of your brain that creates a foundation for awakening, so that if awakening does occur, you’ll have a stable experience. People who awaken without practices often have a destabilizing experience after awakening. In any event, whether you awaken or not, meditation will lead to a happier and better life for you and everyone around you.

Messages similar to this are shared in weekly online gatherings where Christ Consciousness Transmissions (CCTs) are offered by Gina Lake and her husband, Nirmala. These transmissions of higher consciousness will assist you in your spiritual awakening, in awakening to your true nature.

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