Ego manifests in many ways but the way I have been talking about it over the past year is that ego is the defender of our knowledge. This knowledge includes all our concepts about who we are.
Intellect is the processor, storer, and retriever of information and ego is the protector of that knowledge.
Stop and think about it - any time someone questions you, questions what you think is right, a feeling starts coming up from inside like a wall. We begin to get defensive, whether we show it or not.
The ego can also exhibit pride or arrogance about the information it defends. Even to the point of thinking that 'no one is as good as I am.'
All this seems to spring from our primal defense network. Perhaps ego is the further evolution of the fight-or-flight response.
In prehistoric times we were constantly aware of physical threats to our body and were always on alert to protect it. This defense has now shifted to our thoughts and feelings. We are a world of intellect. Fear for the body is less but defending our thoughts and ideas is more!
Our ego is stubborn, persistent, we can't outsmart it in a head-on attempt to surrender it.
But the ntellect is even more tricky. Someone who tends towards being intellectual in nature is skeptical of accepting new knowledge until their intellect has performed its due diligence. They will generally keep returning to their verified knowledge base to arrive at conclusions.
Ego is all about SELF-PRESERVATION.
I am afraid of not existing because I am my thoughts, my opinions, my emotions, they need to live because they ARE me. I must protect my identity.
In spirituality, awareness that "I Am" is the beginning of the sense of self.
In my observation, life continues a complicated trend because we engage with everything that is “other than I.” The more we see everything as other than myself the more separate, the more isolated, the more protective, I become. Thus my own sense of I-ness increases.
So is there a way out?
Yes. It is to meditate and make a choice to go deep in samadhi–profound inner absorption. This is the tool.
The reason is that in samadhi we lose our individual identity and experience a oneness that is beautifully profound. It is complete. There is nothing lacking. There is no “other than I."
We practice meditation, first to return to the oneness within, and then, over time, we begin to feel that oneness everywhere outside us as well. My need to be isolated and defensive about my knowledge goes away. Oneness returns.
This is the process of refining ego. The ego is not bad, it has just become too complex and too active. We need to become simple inside and out.
In this way, happiness and contentment begin to return to us because life stops being a contest. We are happy about the success of others and sad with them about their struggles too.
Meditation is the tool for our evolution. First to rebalance, then to let go, and finally to merge the small self into the big Self–the many voices in our head become only one–the still silent voice of conscience which has been trying to guide us all along.
Our ego has become a master of ignoring our conscience. When we are no longer the defender, we can live our lives under the guidance of the Higher power or Source within.
The ego sublimates, and in this struggle, when you surrender the battle you win the war!