Letting Go of "Spiritual" Specialness
Hugh Prather


Within the eternal changeless nature of Truth, we are not our busy, fractured minds.  Yet it is crucial to acknowledge that we believe we are indeed fractured.  Every day we accept our ego thoughts and feelings as our only thoughts and feelings.

Even though our ego represents the conflicted voices and lessons we stockpiled during our formative years, we react to them as our essence, our individuality, how we "feel" about things.  If we are honest, we will admit that this part of us is our primary teacher and guide.  We are not on a spiritual path; we are on an ego path.

Obviously, we can have the concept that we are not our ego (our inner demons, shadow self, mortal self, dreaming mind, busy mind), but in a thousand ways each day, we demonstrate that we live through and for our worldly identity.

You and I do not believe we are "children of God."  We may give lip service to that concept, but we believe we are autonomous, a creation of ourselves.  We think we are pretty much whatever we decide to be and not the creation, the extension, the "image and likeness" of God.  This belief is not "nothing."  It creates almost everything we experience.  It is the source of our fear, misery, and loneliness.  It locks us in a tale that begins with hope and excitement, but ends in disillusionment and destruction.  It doesn't matter if this tale is not the truth of God, because you and I experience it as if it were.

When we are in a restaurant, we look over the menu and select a dish.  We don't think, "Oh, this preference for linguini is coming from my ego and is not my preference."  We order the linguini.  Without any real second thought, we accept almost every reaction we have to the circumstances and people we encounter each day--even though only our ego has a range of emotional responses to aspects of separation.  Surely no one would argue that God likes fried okra over lima beans.  No one would say that the governing Principle of the universe hates "call waiting."  Or suggest that the Host of Heaven "buy American."

From the array of emotions within them, individuals on a spiritual path often single out just a few feelings and call them "ego."  For instance, we can "love" getting a promotion and feel euphoric for a day or two, yet not have an instant's concern that these are ego reactions.  But if we feel jealousy about someone else getting the promotion and we are depressed for a day or two, we say, "These emotions are my ego."  Or if it dawns on us that we dislike the French, or yuppies, or our brother-in-law, we think, "That's just ego."

From thirty years of counseling individuals on a spiritual path, I know that when most people say, "That's just ego," or, "That's my inner parent," or, "That's the devil," or, "That's just the alcohol talking," what they really mean is, it is not me.  And, of course, from the standpoint of absolute Truth, it isn't.  Yet notice that it is them when it comes to the opinions they hold about politics, religion, parenting, or whether they are "good in bed."

In fact, we tend to be proud of most of our patterns of separation:  "I'm a morning person," "I run a tight ship," "I believe in speaking my mind," "I don't tolerate fools," "I'm a spontaneous kind of guy," "When I pay this much, I expect good service."

I can't emphasize too strongly that we run the risk of underestimating the power of our beliefs when we notice a destructive line of thought but say to ourselves, "Oh, that's just ego."  Our beliefs are so powerful that they color our entire world.  We literally see what we believe, but we can--and most of us do--fail to take responsibility for what we see, especially what we see within.  Provided it's not acted out, consciously blaming others for how we feel is a fairly obvious and innocuous mistake compared to the mistake of attributing our feelings to the ego or the devil. . . .

Attributing our harmful tendencies to something that is "not us" tempts us to stop taking the steps needed to render them powerless.  Once any destructive thought is made fully conscious, we still recognize it whenever it surfaces, but it no longer scares, shocks, or controls us.  As a safety precaution, I counsel people to think, "I hate women," "I disdain men," "I feel superior to my best friend," "I can't stand three-wheelers," "I resent mansions," rather than, "My ego is feeling hateful (disdainful, superior, resentful, and the like)."  We purify ourselves by acknowledging how we are now and becoming more aware of it now.

Bestselling author Hugh Prather has a knack for putting his finger on the pulse of America's emotional and spiritual angst. In The Little Book of Letting Go he gives voice to the internal chatter that prevents us from enjoying or pursuing our true desires. "Within our human heart we all feel the call to be simple, to be present, to be real," Prather writes. "Yet throughout the day, the world urges us to be at war with ourselves and each other: 'Be resentful about the past.' 'Be anxious about the future.' 'Be dissatisfied with what you do see.' 'Be guilty.' 'Be important.' 'Be bored.'" Prather compares these thoughts to the stale clutter in the back of our refrigerators. By cleaning out our minds, we allow room for fresher and more nourishing foods for thought.


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