Some years ago I was depressed, very depressed, for the length of several years. I had been studying applied psychology for years and I read every self-help book there was to read on the subject but I was unable to apply the material to myself. I could not connect the dots. At some point I felt that I had enough and I basically sold most of my possessions, put the rest into storage and I said goodbye to Finland and flew to Canada.
When I arrived I had really no idea what I was going to do. I had really no money and no job but I had a very strong determination that I wanted to stay. Not because I instantly fell deeply in love with the country, but more because I seriously never wanted to go back home where I felt my old problems were waiting for me. I felt like I literally had left all my problems thousands of miles behind me, and there’s no way I’ll go back.
I quickly noticed that not all problems can be left behind, but without taking that step I would have never gotten the space to recognize the other issues I carried with me. I learned that I had a pretty hard case of agoraphobia which made me extremely anxious, socially awkward and paranoid. So now in my new environment I am presented with my new challenge, dealing with agoraphobia.
I quickly hit the books again and forced myself out there looking for jobs every day. I learned all I could about my condition, and again the same elements kept coming up. I realized that if I’m going to rebuild the way I view the world I need to first dismantle the ego I have built in the past. So the plan was to do exactly that. Dismantling my ego, piece by piece and then to build a new one with more consciously selected patterns and principles. But the actual revelation was close on it’s way.
After I had questioned every thought I ever produced in my head, every thought pattern I have ever looped with, every reaction that I’ve ever produced, every fear I have created, after all of that was done I felt like I had successfully cracked my ego. And very quickly that crack started a chain reaction that completely crumbled it away. It was like a 3 metric ton pile of bricks had lifted off of me. I felt a freedom that I’ve never felt before. I was free from the role I had spent the last 27 years scripting for myself. It was absolute bliss. Now there was the question of what to build on the empty foundation where the ego used to stand?
Turns out, the answer is – Nothing.
Our brains have two separate entities. The ego and the being. These can easily be expressed, with the words of Deepak Chopra, by imagining the ego as the thoughts and the being as the thinker of the thoughts. I believe the being is a part of the natural world and the ego is an overdeveloped tool for human survival. I say overdeveloped because these day it is the only part we tend to use. We completely identify ourselves with our ego.
The being deals with the senses. What you hear, see, taste, smell and feel. When you feel a connection with someone or something, the being is in play. Whenever you are completely immersed in the moment without any kind of barriers or presuppositions, the being is in play.
The ego deals with subjects such as the past, the future, fears, associations, motivation, language, worries, expectations, wants, obsessions, ownership, comparisons, etc. The list goes on and on. The ego is the never-ending succession of thoughts going through your mind.
The whole idea of Separation is to learn the difference between these two states of mind and getting access to each of them separately. We need to have access to this exact moment, to the only place where true happiness and bliss resides, and believe me, it’s not found in the same place where our blind ambition resides. We need to be able to distant ourselves from the overwhelming realities we find ourselves in from time to time. We need to be able to separate who we are from what happens around us.
If you are a human being living in the western society, odds are that your mind is confused which is affecting your physical being negatively. We are living in the middle of a non-stop bombardment to most of our senses, urgent messages and always having to be available. The amount of signals we are receiving to want or fear something is staggering and can’t be ignored. This is why it is so important to realize the separate states of the mind.
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
– Viktor E. Frankl
The above quote is THE advice that has influenced so many books I don’t care to count. It has inspired them because it is absolutely true. When we have successfully separated these two states of mind, we can actively tweak that space between stimulus and response. We can reprogram our responses to ones that actually serve us. When you feel that space between stimulus and response you get a kind of freedom, a freedom to choose your reactions. This in itself is power.
And lastly, the most important reason why the separation is so important is the fact that happiness and true love happens in the physical being. True all including love for life and others is what I think life is about. People who live in their head, filtering the world with their ego and not immersing in the moment can’t be truly happy. The happy people in the world can enjoy the exact moment they are experiencing without adding any conditions for their happiness. This is the reason you feel that time has been starting to go past quicker as you’ve gotten older. The less you experience the moment you are currently living, the faster the time flies by. It can be slowed down again if you like. We need to get out of our heads and look closer.
It is a very common misconception that going deeper in the mind is the path to a more full being. In reality we are desperately looking deeply into the layers of the same smokescreen we are trying to get out of. It is like furiously trying to use a hammer to hit itself.
The infinitely complex web of thoughts and associations IS the problem.
The ego is an interesting thing. We come to this world as a part of the world. But as time goes by we tend to move towards the idea that we grow into something that is separate. We create an image or representation of who we are compared to other people. This image is the ego. The peculiar thing is that this ego starts to live a life of its own.
When the ego is developing, we start to get these ideas of ownership and influence. These ideas are tightly bound to the ‘self’ of the ego. We spend a big portion of our lives comparing traits in other people and adopting the ones we like. We acquire possessions to call our own. And because of this unprecedented abundance of questionable role models and stimuli, the ego can develop in very strange ways. As people we are more exposed than ever before, especially via social media. This encourages us to really polish and fine tune our outer image. This all feeds the ego and it becomes an entity of its own. We all did the work of building this entity, but at some point the power shifts to one side to the other. At some point most of us give up control to the ego.
Trying to separate the being and the ego will create reactions. The ego does not want to let go. Just think about it. Are you willing to let go of all possessions, status, rapport and security? (not that I’m suggesting any of that). But in the same way the ego wants to stay in the limelight. The ego demands significance. When you try to take this away from it there will be some backlash. There might be anxiety, fear and/or anger that arises with no apparent reason. Just like when ignoring a troubled child, which is very descriptive of a modern ego.
I’m not saying that the ego is a bad thing. What I am saying is that the absolute control we’ve given to it is. Just like a family should not be run by a troubled child, one’s life shouldn’t be run by the ego alone. We need to give more power to the being that is responsible for all natural interaction.
How to separate?
The best place to start is to practice getting an objective understanding of motivation for action. To be afraid, to avoid, to pursue, to want are all actions that are motivated by some belief you have. Some beliefs might be justified and some might actually be accidental and have never been analyzed, this is why we need to create ways to take our beliefs and views and analyze them.
When you understand the concept of separation you have the option to quiet down and experience the physical world without distraction. Not in a spiritual way but the way you experienced the world before the illusions of “more important” issues we’re created. You will have the option not to dwell over the little things that cause stress. You have the option to sometimes stop analyzing and just experience.
I believe that the best way to start is…
Start a habit to write at least three pages of text every day by hand.
Writing has awesome power. The psychology behind is simple. To write something you need to describe it, to describe it you need to understand it, to understand it you need to analyze it. Combine that with the fact that it is impossible to write something and be concentrating on anything else, and you got the most powerful mind tool ever created.
So I recommend you to get a journal and for the rest of the program take every subject matter in hand and personalize it. Think how the subject applies to your life and what that means to you. Don’t run through the material like reading a book. There’s no reason to read through this material quickly. I wrote this material so tight that it is absolutely not beneficial to go through it quickly just so you can forget it a couple of days later. Take every subject and write about it. Make your own story, and make it good. Make everything in this program about you. Imagine this program is written specifically for you and write down the reasons why this is true.
When writing, remember not to hold back. It is better to write down everything that you honestly feel and rip that paper up and throw it away rather than censor yourself so the journal could be read by others. Don’t hold back. Leave everything you have on that paper. This is extremely powerful, so don’t make the mistake of doing it half way. Reveal your weakness in all its glory. Let go of your disturbing thoughts and fantasies. Plan out your ideas that people might think are stupid. Go all out! Leave everything you have on the page.
I heard of this trick that coders use to debug their programs called “Rubber duck debugging”. This method was developed by a coder who kept a rubber duck on his desk and whenever his program was experiencing a bug he would take the duck and explain the code to it line-by-line. By doing this the coder noticed that if something is difficult to explain to the duck or something he’s explaining is contradicting something else, that was where to look for the bug. This is what we are doing on the page. We are trying to “educate the rubber duck” how our mind works. You don’t need to worry about actually learning and understanding all the material, all you need to do is try to “explain to the duck” how this material applies to your life. The rest comes organically.
Start every day by writing at least 2 pages of text. Whatever excess weight you can pour out of your head to the page, you don’t carry with you that day. Try it out and see what happens.
Understanding our true motivations.
It took me the longest time to break down the process of separation to a single method. I kept going back and forward with what are the most important principles and actions that produce the result of being able to separate the ego and the Being. I honestly thought about this close to 4 years until it hit me. Understanding our motivations is a microcosm of the entire concept of separating these two states.
Think about it. If we understand what truly motivates us in our day-to-day life, that means we know how to recognize the difference between want and need, rationalizing and truthful expression, portrayed motives and hidden motives, basic needs and greed, and the list goes on. When we recognize these things in the way they are versus the way we want them to be, we can start seeing the difference between the ego and the being. We recognize which one is causing the motivation and whether our ego is trying to make it look like something else.
This is a great way to start the process, because when we start seeing the true nature of our motivations we start to see the illogical connections we have made that cause us unneeded stress and confusion. We also start to naturally see the way the ego and being interact. The being has a need and the ego tries to find a way to implement it into our lives, or sometimes tries to hide it completely. When this process is observed objectively it is one of the most interesting aspect of human psychology.
The simplest way to begin this process is to start challenging our present motivations. Taking all these beliefs we have for granted, interrupting them and re-analyzing them. So any thought pattern that goes in the lines of “I want that because of this” must be opened with questions like “Why is that really important to me?”, ”Is this the best way of achieving that?”, ”Is this or that my own idea or was it imposed upon me?”, “Could I be happy without this?”, “Is this a motivation simply because it is expected of me?”… The questions go on and on, and I encourage you to explore as many of them as you can. Start writing and dive into these questions, see where it takes you.
Some of the most powerful questions I made myself answer were:
“If no one expected anything from me, what would I do?”
“If I would forget all my principles, religion and beliefs, how would I feel about…”
“Am I really going to die some day?”
“What EXACTLY is it that I am so afraid of?”
It’s important to notice that a large number of people find this extremely uncomfortable to do, because it calls into question what they think is the very foundation of their security. But keep in mind, true security resides in the being. Our self-esteem and our humanity is the only rock we have to rely on unconditionally in the physical world. All the symbols of security we have built in sand are completely on the mercy of the turmoil of the world. Our being and the relationship we have to the world is the foundation of a strong feeling of security.
Remember, anything that can’t survive closer inspection never really had a strong foundation to start with. Ideas and concepts must be challenged constantly to be forged into truthful beliefs or principles.
This questioning of our motives should become an ongoing process that becomes second nature to us. This will bring us closer to truly living the life we’re supposed to live. A life that is not in conflict with our true self.
Following this process comes something that is very closely tied to it, but a challenge of it’s own – Removing Illusions.
Television, Internet and radio. Constant distraction. Celebrities, reality-shows, Idols, politics, debates, sensational journalism, Spam, advertising banners, commercials, jingles, salesmen, sponsored events, etc. How do you feel about success? What does it look like to you? Do you want to succeed? And if you don’t believe that you might accomplish this “success” there’s always the possibility that you might win the lottery.
The noise is not only never-ending it is never-pausing. We are told what to want and what to fear so many times per day that there’s absolutely no way to avoid being affected by it. But what we can do is distance ourselves from it. We can have an objective outlook about all this noise.
Just like when re-analyzing our motivations we need to re-analyze our basic beliefs. Do we really want to be rock stars, actors and business gurus? Don’t get me wrong, I do believe we all have aspirations to something bigger, but I also believe whatever our aspirations are shouldn’t be clouded by the accepted models by the media. There are people whose biggest aspiration is to be the best skateboarder in the world where another wants to be the theoretical physicist that proves string theory. Neither one of these people should be spending their time pursuing the others aspiration. That is what I believe is happening in a huge scale these days. Millions of people blindly working towards a goal that isn’t theirs.
I once read a great quote that said something like “A person is most useful when they are working on something they are passionate about”. I love that quote. It doesn’t really matter how well your passion can be monetized or utilized in the modern world. If you work every day on something you are deeply passionate about, you are bringing the most value to the world you possibly can. Find out what this is for you. I spent a decade just thinking about this question. It took so long because I tried to force myself to be passionate about things that were easily monetized. I did it again and again, and every time I grew tired of what I was doing. Finally I gave myself the opportunity to sit down and write. I had absolutely no idea how to make money with it, but since I was a child I’ve been passionate about writing and speaking. I’m still on this journey and I wouldn’t change a thing.
Start writing about your passions every day. Just a couple of paragraphs to keep it in your mind constantly. When you keep this in your mind you’ll automatically steer your focus in that direction on the long run. Keep it simple. Try to remember what you were passionate about as a child, because that is usually very close to where your true passion lies even today.
Also take the time to question these illusions and unwillingly installed responses that are caused by the constant noise of random media. Recognize them as what they are. Analyze your feelings about celebrity, success, status, money and also about things you are conditioned to be afraid of. Is the world as scary as we’re told?
Are you spending your life doing what is expected of you?
Are your fears justified by your actual experiences?
Are the opinions you defend furiously actually yours to begin with?
Quite commonly the ideas we are the quickest to defend are the ones that are too fragile to be taken into closer examination.
The world described to us by our media and entertainment is quite different than the world you can go outside and experience for yourself. The keyword here is ‘experience’. It’s absolutely amazing how completely we can forget how to do this when we get older. Let’s look into that.
Experiencing the physical world.
The way to experience the physical world is to shut down the ego. Our ‘rational’ mind tends to look for meaning in everything we look at. “How does this help/affect me?”. Experience should happen without any evaluation or expectation. Experiencing the world demands that we are a part of the world. We can’t be a part of something and at the same time be objective about it. Perhaps you notice that this is almost the opposite paradigm compared to what we talked about earlier. These are the two different sides.
Earlier we talked about analyzing our motives and analyzing possible illusions. That is a part of getting aware of the working of the ego. Experiencing the natural world is all about letting go of the ego. That doesn’t need to be as dramatic as it might sound. You can let go of your ego in small doses. I do this constantly by going for a walk in the nearby forest without my cellphone. I walk to a good view point and just stand there for a long time. During this time I avoid thinking about any of my ongoing projects, any of my challenges or problems, I refuse to acknowledge stress or anxiety. The point is to just stand and listen to the forest and be a part of it. That’s it. There shouldn’t be any other motive than being a part of the surrounding nature. This is your view point. Use the same place as often as possible, because this is the place where you will come back in your mind whenever you need to access the ego agnostic state we’re going to start working on.
You can do this anywhere, but I recommend you also have a special place where you feel that people can’t easily bother you. For me this has always been the forest. I feel that my responsibilities can’t follow me into the forest. While there, try to shut down your racing mind. Don’t go along with the random thought patterns that come along to distract you. Just experience. Try these things.
Imagine the world without language. Think of a world where the only way of communication is body language. Where the way to know how other people feel is to read their face or posture, and the reason of friendship is because of the feelings the presence of the other person causes. Remove the idea of memories or visualizing the future. This brings you to the present moment where the physical being lives. Every now and then use this mind practice to bring yourself to the present moment and when you get there try to experience it without any distractions.
Experience the moment. Another way to quickly get to the present moment is to stop and experience what you smell, taste, hear, see and feel exactly at this moment. Anything extra that happens is the product of your racing mind. Try to do this and look around yourself and try to experience the physical world clearly. Focus on one sense at a time.
Think of this moment as separate from the past or the future. Remember that the past and the future are created and upheld by your mind, and the present moment is only experienced by the physical being. So, to realize the two very different natures of the future and past compared to the present you will easily realize the difference between the mind and the physical being. Think of this moment without any past of future. How your life would feel like if you suffered amnesia and couldn’t remember anything from your past.
Get a birds view of your surroundings. Imagine how you look like from the point of view of a bird. Expand this to look at yourself in different situations that have seemed overwhelming or stressful. See what it might have looked like from the birds view and continue to fly past and see the vast nature around all these situations. We tend to make our small worlds seem almighty with all our little sand castles. Getting a birds view of our life can really help us to get better perspective.
I recommend doing these practices every day. Anything that gives you distance from your overactive mind is helpful. When you learn how to take a step away from the ego you start to learn how how to create a space between the ego and the being. This space is very important.
Space between stimulus and response
As I mentioned earlier, this is the concept that endless amounts of self-help books are based upon. There’s a good reason for that, it is a very effective concept. We tend to react to anything and everything that happens around or to us. This makes us somebody to whom life happens to, instead of experiencing and interacting with the world while living a life.
We tend to take things, that have absolutely nothing to do with us, way too personally. This is something that must change to take a step towards personal power and freedom. We shouldn’t even take most of the things that do affect us personally. We all have our unique way of experiencing the world. Sometimes our way of experiencing the world collides with someones extremely conflicting way, and when this happens we tend to clash. This can cause us to get upset, angry, frustrated, hurt or stressed. The other person is not acting logically by our standards and so we don’t know how to react. This is a great example when the space between stimulus and response is handy.
Whenever something happens to or around us that would normally cause us to react strongly, we can instantly step back from our ego and experience the situation as a being. That gives us a truly objective stance and then we can come back to think about an appropriate reaction that could bring us the outcome we’re after. This is our first application of separation.
Always remember that the story happening around you is not you. There’s your life and then there’s the story. Don’t identify yourself with that story. Things happen and then there’s you. Whatever ‘you’ is can’t be affected by every story that happens. This is what leads to an inspiring story, that is you.
Also remember the state of mind you work on while at your view point we talked about at ‘Experiencing the physical world’. Remember the perspective. You can bring this state with you to use whenever you need it. Whenever you need to step back from a situation, you can instantly go to the ego agnostic state you’ve practiced by writing, thinking, visualizing and by going through the exercises at your view point.
Most of us insist on controlling our lives. There are so many things that we desperately try to control that are simply not under our power to control. Sometimes we want to make other people happy or protect them from some harm we imagine. Sometimes we believe that it is up to us to make the people around us enjoy themselves. We give ourselves so many responsibilities and after a while others might actually believe that they indeed are. We need to let go of some of these responsibilities that have no other effect than putting unnecessary pressure on the person claiming them.
Think about any responsibilities you have claimed for yourself that you would never expect others to have. Odds are, they shouldn’t be expected from you either.
What beliefs and principles you have which are not your’s to begin with? Maybe the truth is that you actually disagree with them but never allow yourself to even question them.
What things do you still do after it has become painfully obvious that it’s something that you should not be doing? Something that would make the 8 year old you disappointed if they’d see you now from the past.
Think of the things that you have a complicated relationship with. Maybe the source of your security. Something that gives you security but has evolved into a small jail cell in time. Many times in our search for certainty we build a small box around ourselves to protect us from the world outside. Do you still need this box?
Think about things in your life you can let go. I’m talking about all the things that give you unnecessary emotional baggage. Things that hinder you and cause stagnation or paralyzation. Things that you grasp to desperately simply because you always have but have never served any purpose or brought you any good.
Write a list of these things and reflect on them. What would your life be without these things? What is the worst that could happen? What is the best that could happen?
You can’t control all the things happening around you and this is good. Let the world wash over you and only grasp to the things that are important. The other things aren’t meant for you. You have no control over the flow of the world, but you do have control over how you swim in it. Let go a little and don’t spend your entire life swimming upstream. By this I mean following the natural flow of things, which might be very different than going with the social convention of things.
I’m also a big believer in letting go of unnecessary physical baggage as well. Things that we save just because we’ve always had them. Getting rid of excess stuff is liberating and creates a feeling of renewal. Letting go of the old invites the new.
Stuff tends to accumulate automatically. Letting go is a choice.
Most importantly, let go of resentment. Forgive and move on. We all get our share of unfair experiences in our lives. Some more than others. But what is important to keep in mind is that we aren’t what happens to us, but we might become just that if we hold on to resentment or hate. We can change this the very moment we choose to forgive and let go.
People who have had more than their share of negative experiences in life can take some solace in the fact that they have more potential for growth than others. To forgive someone or something is a very maturing experience.
Why do I think letting go is an important part of separating the ego and the being? A lot of the negative baggage we carry with ourselves is a clear manifestation of the ego. The ego likes to take negative experiences and wallow in them to get significance. It is a very powerful way to grab your undivided attention. The ego feeds off of drama.
Forgive, let go and move on. Things happen and then there’s you.
What is it that separates you from everything that has happened and will happen in your life? It is this moment. Nothing has ever happened in any other time than in this moment.
The culmination of Separation is this – Complete awareness and acceptance of this exact moment without adding any unnecessary expectations or conditions to it. I will go more into this during the “Paradigm” section.
Ability to step back away from the ego and watch it objectively. To be able to disassociate yourself from your ego and control your own reactions, and not being in the mercy of the temper of an ego running wild.
This can be a long immersive process or a sudden shift in realization. There’s no reason that this needs to take a long time. However, it might, and that’s okay. Keep writing and be aware of your thinking. Don’t allow your mind to take you to places you don’t want to go. You have a choice in the matter. There’s a space between your thoughts and your reactions to those thoughts, in that space there’s freedom.
Keep an eye out for these things and whenever you encounter them, make a note of it, analyze them and actively process them. This will help you a lot when experiencing backlashes from the temperamental ego.
For some reason we tend to create different types of negative illusions during our life. By a negative illusion I mean some belief we’ve made that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with reality. Like something we think other people think or what we think people expect from us.
Do I really know how to read minds?
Sometimes it’s unreasonable expectations we put on ourselves because of reasons we can’t really specify.
What makes me so special that this is expected from me while I expect it from no one?
Catch any negative thought or belief you encounter that has no real proof in reality, examine it and discard it.
Do people really expect this from me?
Sometimes we develop a horrible habit of always thinking about the worst of what could happen. Sometimes it even gets so bad that it resembles fantasizing about very negative things. This is a fearful ego at work. Whenever you catch yourself doing this, interrupt the thought immediately and create a happy ending to the thought. Don’t stop until you’ve made a compelling happy ending to whatever thought you were toying with. This is the single most effective way to create a more positive mind and limit negative thinking. You can even take this further and make outrageous, adventurous or erotic endings to the thoughts, but the end result must make you feel good and positive. Don’t try to neutralize a negative thought, use it as a launching pad for an extremely positive thought.
All egos have unique triggers. Things that immediately cause a lightning fast emotional response. Take notice of these. Use this as a clue as to where to look for insecurities. By being aware where your unique triggers are you can easily realize when someone is activating them. By being aware of this happening you can learn to find the space between the trigger and your reactions here as well.
You have started the habit of writing. Continue this habit forever.