The lights are dimmed. We both laid with our backs on the ground. The ceiling was softly lit by one of the lamps in the room. Casting an orangy color across its plastered white surface. We both felt each other’s hands touching one another. It was silent. Both our hearts and minds were still. We could feel the soft hairs of the carpet underneath our intertwined hands. Nothing seemed to matter. My chest felt full. As if a radiating light wanted to go out. It pounded. It spread throughout my body. My hands started to tingle. Her hand in mine felt warm. I didn’t think. I just felt… Felt alive. It felt like floating on a river. Gently moving on. You put your arms underneath your head and observe the clouds. They passed, and you floated on. This felt freeing. Liberating. The complete and utter inner silence ruled. Nothing else seemed to matter but floating on the river.
It was like I was placed into a romantic black and white movie from the ’50s. For the first time in my life, I felt alive. I didn’t have to do anything to get there. I simply relaxed. Felt the bodily sensations. Observed the patterns on the ceiling and her shallow breathing. “Is this it?” I wondered. “Is this the feeling of being alive?” There was no answer. Which made me realize that this was being alive. My thoughts had faded and I was aware. I lived like a movie. I sat up, looked at her, and saw nothing but beauty. I noticed every freckle, every line, and the way she looked at me. Moments passed but I wasn’t aware of time. Why? Because the past and the future had vanished. There was nothing but the now, and that made me joyous. “Can this be forever?” I asked myself. With that question, everything was sucked into the light in the corner of my room.
The feeling of joy, love, presence. It was gone. “Wait? Come back!” I thought to myself. And I realized that this can’t be ‘reality’. That this was a mere skim, maybe even an illusion. Or was it? I doubt that now. I think that experience might be what life is about. It’s pure. There are no thoughts and if there are they quickly slip away. You don’t have to be alive, you simply are. You don’t have to find happiness, you simply are. In these moments of falling in love, we have decided that life is beautiful. Can we do that all the time? Reality is different right?
We Can’t Feel This All The Time, Right?
The moment of falling in love is a blissful experience. We get more of these sudden glimpses throughout our life. Like holidays, dinners, birthdays, and maybe even when you are creating a piece of art. These are moments where we simply feel alive. Where our thoughts are non-existent and non-intrusive. These moments are traded with moments of ‘reality’. I put that in quotation because I don’t know if it is reality. If this blissful state isn’t what life was meant to be. How we should experience it. Are we then meant to feel bad at times?
Well, let’s ask that differently, I think. Do we need to feel this blissful all the time? Do we constantly need to feel like falling in love or like we are on a vacation? We can’t right? We have obligations to fulfill. Things to do. We get stuck in traffic. Have tests to make. Simply put, life gets in the way and we don’t even have a choice whether or not we want to feel this state of bliss all the time. Well, to be honest, I believe we do. So what’s your answer? Do you need to feel joyous, happy, excited all the time? Do you only want to experience good emotions? Only want to experience good things in your life?
The obvious answer would be to answer ‘yes’. But I beg to differ. If we only experience the good, what will that be like? Will it have any value to us? So if I say that we can’t feel happy all the time, does that mean that ‘reality’ is not this blissful state. “Does it have to be that black or white?” I would answer that, I think the reality is somewhere in the middle. In which we experience life as it is, which is bliss. Yet that doesn’t mean that we are excited all the time.
A few hundred years back Aristotle wrote a three-part philosophy for writing stories. It consisted of three acts. The first act is the setup in which the story begins. The second act is the confrontation this is where the problems arise. The third act is the resolution where the problems are solved. This is the moment of ‘happy ever after’. Without the second act, the story wouldn’t be interesting. We wouldn’t feel hooked to read it, watch it, or listen to it. Imagine a romantic film where from the moment a couple met, the movie would be nothing more than romance. They kissed, made love, danced around the streets of New York, talked for hours, in short, they would be in love all the time. Would you watch it? I wouldn’t. There’s no interesting side to that story, there is no growth, no change, nothing to put into comparison with the romance.
That is exactly why we don’t need to feel blissful all the time. If we would only experience bliss there would be no real joy in life. It would become a flatline eventually because you have nothing to compare it to. For us to live a beautiful life this balance needs to exist. Without it, without the confrontation, there is no better resolution. We would be stuck in the middle. Neither feeling bad, neither feeling good. Does that mean we simply have to deal with the fact that after a blissful moment we go back to so-called ‘reality’ and feel shit again?
Not at all. The answer lies in non-judgment. This experience of non-judgment is what we call a blissful moment. To find out why we should take a closer look at why we judge things to be beautiful experiences and why other moments we judge it to be shit.
Beauty and The Beast
Evolution is the origin of this all. The moment we started existing on this planet we had to fight for our survival. Which meant we had to judge each moment. Is there any danger here? Or can we cross the grassland safely? The potential danger of… well everything really, made us judgemental. But in a good way. If we wouldn’t judge a situation, if we wouldn’t observe it and make a solid decision we would die. We had to be careful. Although we have long passed this life-threatening situation our brains haven’t changed much during evolution. At least not in this deep level of consciousness. We still go through our days observing, constantly judging something to be harmful or not. If something is harmful, we decide to label it bad. If something isn’t harmful we label it beautiful. It’s simple as that.
We judge love to be a beautiful thing, but when someone hurts us this quickly changes. It suddenly becomes awful. We hate it. Why? Because our brain says “oh no, I’m out. This feels dangerous. I am all alone now.” Not knowing that you are absolutely fine to be alone in this day and age.
If we are learning for a test we have next week we can suddenly be hit with a feeling of panic or anxiety. “What if we fail?” Which is quickly followed by images of our parents getting mad at us. Us having to redo an entire year or being the only one who failed the test. Why? Because we observed that there could be a potential threat. So to protect ourselves we get a hit of anxiety. Making us more vigilant and aware of our current surroundings, just to be able to run away when a lion jumps out. The only thing is, there are no lions in school or at work, or anywhere outside the bush. You’re behind your desk, and you just decided to feel anxious. Getting you out of the moment, deciding to see life as horrifying instead of beautiful.
I deliberately chose to say that we decide this. Because if we become aware of this we can decide to do it differently. The only thing is we aren’t aware of this yet. We aren’t aware that we automatically deprive ourselves of this joyous experience of life.
“Are we creating more struggle with life than necessary?” Is that what I am trying to say? I actually think we are. I did at least.
In the story I shared at the beginning of this article I shared with you how I decided, suddenly, to feel different about the situation. I doubted the feeling of blissfulness and quickly let it slip away. There was no need to do that. The moment was perfect as it was, only I felt an inner threat. That I wasn’t supposed to feel like that, because if I would feel that way all the time I wouldn’t be able to quickly run away from potential danger.
I know it sounds weird to constantly compare this to danger when all of us know these moments don’t have anything to do with fear. Which is another argument that we create more struggle than necessary. We know failing a math test isn’t gonna kill us. We know that our first kiss isn’t gonna kill us. We know that doing something we love even though we make less money doing it won’t kill us.
I now knew why I allowed this beautiful moment to quickly change into doubt, uncertainty, and anxiety. So how do we take charge of this? Can we even take charge of this or is it something that just happens?
The filter of the ego
To make the decision. To decide that we want to live a beautiful life we have to see who makes the judgments. Who decides whether something is good or bad? Who decides that a flower is beautiful and a dead flower is ugly? This is the ego. Or so they call it. It’s the voice inside your head, that is used to judge things. It judges the world to make sense of it, to control it. The ego is the part of you that doesn’t want to get hurt, it avoids potential danger at all costs.
You can see the ego like a camera filter. If you take a photo without a filter you see the world as it is. If you put on the filter, the image that the camera produces is different from reality. And thus the ego has control over the world’s beauty.
You can see the ego like a camera filter. If you take a photo without a filter you see the world as it is. If you put on the filter, the image that the camera produces is different from reality. There are different colors, a different depth to the image, maybe it even changes the perspective and makes the image wider or narrower. It can change the focus from a single object to the entire scene. The ego is the one that puts on all of these filters. It observes the situation and then quickly places a filter in front of your perspective to protect you. These filters decide whether we see the world as beautiful or ugly. Whether a situation is stressful or joyous. Only if we recognize that we have this judger inside our minds can we change things.
The moment we recognize that we have an ego, that we judge the world, put on filters, and change its reality. We can see that we are not it. That we are different from the one who both decides something is good and something is bad. The ego changed my reality as I laid on the ground. At first, there was no filter, there were no thoughts, no ego. Which made it feel blissful. There was no judgment over whether the situation was good or bad. Right or wrong. That quickly changed when I questioned it. If I asked myself if this was reality. That question implies that I wasn’t sure, that I hadn’t formed a judgment over it yet. This is the perfect moment for the ego to step back in and place a filter over it. That’s what it does. It judges the situation and decides how we view it.
So how does the ego have a direct relation to our way of interpreting life? How does it affect our emotions? Well, the ego is thought. It’s the thing that makes us think. It’s thought like “this is amazing”, and “this is awful”. Those thoughts influence our emotions. We all know how we feel when we say “I am proud of myself”, or when we say “I hate that I have a little belly”. In the first, we feel proud. In the second we feel ashamed and insecure. If we want to experience a happy life we change our thoughts which leads to better emotions. But if we want to truly see life’s beauty we don’t change anything. We simply observe and let thoughts come and go, knowing that they are not who we truly are. This is what we know as a blissful moment. Like falling in love. We don’t have any negative thoughts, neither do we have positive thoughts. We simply feel great.
When we kiss our loved one for the first time we don’t think ‘oh wow this is wonderful’ we simply experience it. Which makes it wonderful. So if we stay unaware of this ego and the filters it places on our lives we will never perceive life’s intended beauty. These filters can change the way we see life drastically. If we go out for a walk and aren’t aware of these thoughts it will make a quick decision on the red roses that grow on the fence of a neighbor. It decides they are beautiful. Then there is one rose that’s slowly dying and it says “that one’s dying, it’s ugly”. Do you see how absurd this is? Why is a dying rose ugly and a colorful rose beautiful? Both have their part to play. Both are part of their life cycle. So both are just as they are and that makes them beautiful. Both are intended this way, it’s part of nature.
For our work lives, this means we perceive the work we do as good or bad. As meaningful or meaningless. This is something I realized recently. I have had some jobs and judged most of them to be horrible. I always found things to not like about it, because it wasn’t my ‘true’ calling. So a large portion of my life was perceived as meaningless and unhappy. Which is again absurd. It’s a waste to do a job that we don’t like, yet change isn’t just found in getting a new job. We can choose to do the job with awareness and it can become beautiful. As a side hustle, I am a grocery deliverer. It isn’t any fancy, or particularly something I would want to do with my life, yet have found meaning in it. I have stopped judging it to be either horrible or amazing. I do the job consciously. I try to be as present as possible, not allowing the ego to place any filters on it. Which makes it a wonderful job to do. I love seeing the smiles on people’s faces, just for seeing it.
The same goes for relationships. If we are present with our partner, aware of our egos we will not have many fights. If our partner and we disagree it’s just that. We have different egos and therefore different viewpoints. There’s no need to convince the other, there is no need to change the other. Just be present with them. Observe their presence. See them for who they are, without your ego placing a filter over them. Saying one moment that they are wonderful, and another that they are horrible. They are who they are, in every moment of their lives. They go to the toilet, and dress up for a night out, put on their dress or suit, and both are beautiful. It’s who they are. They are human. Beautiful in every way if we start seeing them as they are, deciding to stop judging them for anything. True beauty doesn’t have to be named. It simply happens the moment we observe something. It happens the moment when we take a good look at our partner’s eyes and see all the intricate details. The slight color differences and lines going through it.
Knowing what the ego does to our reality, and the way we view the world puts us in a position to change things. But how?
An Unwindable Battle
My natural response to the ego was fighting. I wanted to show it who’s boss. Make it yield and give up. So for every negative thought, it produced I pushed it down. In my mind, I fought it, by saying ‘no that’s not true or ‘shut up’. I was rude and unkind to it. I thought this was the way to go. This is how we win from our ego and have a beautiful life. But is it? If we are rude to our ego, won’t that mean we are still not seeing the beauty of living? Wouldn’t that mean we still didn’t feel joyful?
By blaming, fighting, and pushing our ego away we only make things worse. It’s continuing the line of emotions that won’t make our life beautiful. It means we are fighting hate with hate, or anger with anger, or insecurity with insecurity. You can see it like becoming the bully of the bully. The bully is bullying you with the way you look, act, and how people and the world are treating you. It’s quick to judge and hate. To spread negativity, and decide whether something is good or bad. My reaction was to bully it back. Put it into its rightful place. Fight it till death. (If I hadn’t at some point become aware of this I would have literally fought it to my death) I would blame it for how my life was, never to take control. Never take responsibility for it. This is not the way to go. This isn’t how I want to live my life, for just one reason. I am not making this life on earth more beautiful this way.
The only way forward is by stepping into who you truly are. This is when beauty starts to happen. Wonders start to play, and your ego, well it becomes more a friend than an enemy. After all, it’s part of you, and it too deserves some love.
The Ego is a Friend That Will Leave
Whereas I’ve been pointing out all the wrong about the ego, it is now time to show you that it can be a friend. At first, we need to see what it does to our lives. For if we see this, we can start to decide to do it differently. Then all that is left is to get rid of the ego. Because to be honest it is the only reason why we are suffering, only the ego will not go away with a fight. It strives on that. So to get rid of it, we need to be friendly to it. Making it feel like it’s perfect as it is. Then there will be no energy for him to feed on. No hate, or anger for it to grow. Sooner or later it will get smaller and smaller. Till the point where most of your life can be lived without it. Now, this is a continuous practice. For some, it might take longer than for others. For myself particularly it is still taking place. I am only sharing with you that which I already figured out, the rest is still a tremendously beautiful work in progress.
So how do we see the ego as a friend when it does so much wrong to us? Well, see it like this. Do you judge or hate a friend? Do you gossip about a friend and blame him or her for things? I don’t. I wouldn’t see myself as a, particularly loving person if I would. At the core, we are all kind and loving, compassionate and joyous. We don’t judge others, especially not our friends. So if we start to see our ego as a friend we stop judging it. We stop blaming it and fighting it. You see, if the ego tells you that you don’t deserve to be treated like that and that you should be unkind with him to protect yourself, you step back. Thank it for its advice, just like you would with a friend, and then take the part from it that is true. Which in this case are:
- Acknowledging your self-worth;
- and that you shouldn’t be treated like that, but instead of harming the other to simply step away and leave it like that.
This way you are making friends with the ego. You no longer identify with everything it says, and simply listen to it and find the truth in what it is saying. Most of the time the ego is scared, and all it needs is to be comforted a little to be still again. Just like with a friend. You don’t go shouting at a friend who just expressed to you, that he or she is scared. You listen, you are compassionate to it.
So here are the things you don’t do to a friend, and you neither should do to your ego:
- You don’t judge or hate it
- You don’t desperately hold onto it
- You don’t let it go away with bad behavior
- You are kind, open, and attentive when it speaks
These are four things that allow us to make friends with it, and when that happens the ego and your true self don’t need to fight anymore. It will leave because it sees that you are fine without it.
How to See The Beauty
We’ve now gone past the most important steps to identify the problem and initiate its transcendence. So how can we see beauty then? If our ego creates these illusionary judgments both good and bad how can we see beauty? Wouldn’t that be a judgment as well? That is what I struggled with as well. I thought that I was seeing beauty when in truth it was just a judgment, a filter over the world. It was not until I stopped judging and started to observe these judgments that they became quiet and therefore real unexplainable beauty started to slowly show itself to me.
There are four levels to this. Which in itself sounds awful, because it makes it sound like beauty is something to be conducted by a model. Yet it is not that. In this model, these levels are just to make it easier to understand for you. Once you understand it the model has no purpose anymore, because beauty can’t be captured in a model.
Cease the fight
The largest portion of this change is found at the ground level of the pyramid which is to cease fighting your ego. The judgemental voice within your mind, also known as thoughts. See it as your friend, listen to it, and become still. Internally hug it and comfort it. It needs acknowledgment and support. So for this first level, all you need to do is be still. Listen. Observe. Like you would observe an animal or an object when painting or describing it. You hold no judgments over it, you describe what you see. If you describe an apple you don’t say it’s beautiful or it looks awful. You say it’s round, it’s either green or red, it has a small branch growing from its top, it could have some rotten spots on it, or maybe there is a worm in it. You simply describe the apple, not working in terms that depict whether it is good or bad. This description of your ego allows you to distinguish yourself from it and flows straight into the second step. Which is letting go of wanting to be happy.
Let go of happiness
One of the greatest illusions is the desire to be happy and to seek happiness. This, although seemingly harmless, thought is toxic to your actual happiness in life. For the very same reason that if you want to be happy any obstacle or obstruction that is in the way of that goal needs to be pushed away. See it like making your way to an ice cream store because you desperately crave ice cream on a hot summer’s day. You believe that if you get that ice cream you’ll feel better and thus you make your way towards the ice cream store. On your way there, a tourist stops you and asks where they can find the monument in your town. This annoys you. You simply want to go to the ice cream store and enjoy delicious white chocolate and peanut butter-flavored ice cream. You tell them the way to the monument fairly annoyed and then continue your path. The next obstacle shows itself which is a long line in front of the store. You sigh and stand in line. Anxiously wiggling your leg and looking at your watch. You want that ice cream. Eventually, you get it and devour it in seconds. Then it’s gone, and you return to your unhappy state of being. So was it worth it? Was it worth having the ice cream as your objective? Only to be annoyed by kind tourists and the sun on your face during your wait in line?
This is what happens if our goal is to become happy. We see it as some future goal, and that creates obstacles that seem to be in your way. When if we cease to see it as a goal and let it go it becomes effortless. This means that if you cease to fight the ego and simply observe it you see the illusions it creates and you can then let go of your desire to be happy, and simply let life flow as it wants to. You can still have the goal of getting ice cream, but the tourists and the waiting in line don’t interrupt your happiness. You start to enjoy and maybe even get to know the tourists a bit, or you stand in line and feel the warmth of the sun, hear the sounds of the city, or listen to some of your favorite songs. Every moment can then become marvelous if the goal isn’t to become happy. But to simply live and see what it brings you.
Accept life’s totality & diversity
The third level is acceptance of life’s totality, which is seeing that everything and all is connected and has a purpose. This is almost the final step and this transcends the judgment of good and bad. It lifts the veil and makes you see that everything has its purpose and we can’t decide whether that is good or bad. Only a higher power could do that.
I recently broke up with my girlfriend which broke my heart, at first I resisted it. This was not how life was meant to go, and thus I didn’t accept life’s totality. I decided that this breakup was the worst thing that could happen. When in truth it’s just something that happens. From this came a lot of good, and a lot has changed since. What does that mean?
That we can’t decide if something is good or bad. Everything that seems to be bad at first almost always has a good outcome, and everything good will almost certainly be followed by something bad. That is if we continue to judge things in this way. When we accept that life is diverse and that there are things that break and things that heal we open up to life. Once again we flow with it, ceasing the struggle with the ego, letting go of our desire to become happy, and now accepting all life’s diversity. Which clears the way for the final level.
A different perspective
We no longer are happy now. Wait, what? After all these levels you say that we aren’t happy? Why should we care about it then? Well because we transcend happiness and experience joy. What’s the difference? Let me explain that.
What We Want is Joy
Joy is much deeper than happiness, this is why I have always shared that life is about joy not about happiness. We want to enJOY things. Joy is calm and serene and can never be a goal. It’s a deep feeling that can’t be created, it simply is there. That’s the difference with happiness. Happiness can be tricked, it’s an emotion. So the ego can make you happy with different thoughts it shares. Like saying that the ice cream is delicious. That’s a thought, an inner dialogue that makes you feel happy. Joy, on the other hand, doesn’t say anything internally. It just experiences the eating of ice cream. It tastes the flavor and its texture without judgment. This creates an entirely new experience. Something that can be felt and experienced but not put into words. It’s formless, the closest example I can give you is found in children.
Have you ever observed kids building a sandcastle at the edge of the sea? They are enthused by it. They enjoy it. All they are worried about is building this sandcastle and keeping it safe from the rising water. They built ditches around it to keep the water from flushing the outer castle walls. They are completely soaked into the experience of building a sandcastle. They are joyous. That’s where we want to return. It’s that feeling of not needing to be happy that transcends us into the joy of living. This is the final level, which to me is still a work in progress. I grasp its understanding, yet I still practice it. The ego takes over at times, putting me back at level 1 and building up to level 4 again. Yet each time I go down and then up again a part of that ego breaks off. Sooner or later I have uncovered all its layers and become so aware that the moment it arises I cease to fight it, accept it, let go of it and then feel joyous. This is a continuous cycle and the ultimate state of being. Which is thoughtless and effortless living. This is the feeling of being alive, and deciding to see the beauty of living.
The World Is Beauty
All these levels lead to one thing. That is experiencing the art of living. It means that you joyfully eat your ice cream. You joyfully wait in line. You joyfully help the tourist. You joyfully look at the vibrant and dying roses. You joyfully experience love. You cease to judge things as good or bad and therefore decide to see it’s a true beauty.
It will be like a constant flow of wonder and amazement that will arise. It will become like building that sandcastle when you were young. Were you cared about every aspect and you were fully indulged in the here and now. You’ll see that enjoyment is found in the small, seemingly insignificant things because each small thing builds up to be grandiose. If you can’t yet feel joy for a grain of sand, you will never feel joy for achieving your goals. These are linked, these are the same. These attract one another. It’s this journey of being alive, ceasing to fight, letting go of the need to be happy, accepting life’s totality & diversity that will eventually lead to a joyous and beautiful experience of life.
So my final question to you, right here, right now. Do you decide to live a beautiful life right now? As you are reading these final words, do you truly read them? Without judgment, without any filter over them. Can you see every individual letter, how the lines form a shape that your brain interprets as a letter? Can you see this as it is and therefore decide that right now you are living a beautiful life?
I believe you can because Today You Live!
Attributions for the illustrations:
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Infographic vector created by starline – www.freepik.com
Frame vector created by BiZkettE1 – www.freepik.com
Infographic vector created by freepik – www.freepik.com
Infographic vector created by freepik – www.freepik.com
Lines vector created by sentavio – www.freepik.com