A few days ago, I overheard a young homeless man say to his friend, “I may look dirty, but I’m actually clean.”
They were talking about how they’ve both recently become sober. It made my heart hurt to hear him bring awareness to his appearance and recognize what people may see when they look at him. It also made me think how much more aware we are than we actually realize.
It was like his higher self was speaking and saying that even though his shirt was stained, his jeans were dirty, and people may have noticed how unclean he appeared, it still knew him as clean. As I drove away and watched him cross the street, I thought how it isn’t his sobriety that makes him clean. It’s who he is as a soul.
What appears on the outside is never the complete truth. Who we are is much more than our temporary circumstances. Each of us is a soul that has come here for a specific purpose. Each of us also has a higher self and an ego, both in service of our soul. In order for us to know something, though, we must first experience that which it isn’t.
More often than not, experiencing a person’s soul is much more pleasant than the experience of their ego. When we recognize someone’s soul, we’re seeing it through the lens of our own. The same is true for the ego. When we recognize a person’s ego, we’re seeing it through the lens of our own ego.
The soul is guided by the higher self—it came here to learn the lessons and have the experiences. The higher self is what helps to orchestrate and attract events that will best support the soul in fulfilling its purpose. The ego is like the shadow aspect of the higher self—and our shadow has just as much of a function in assisting our soul’s evolution as does the higher self.
I think one of the biggest misconceptions about the spiritual path is that the ego is only bad. It’s true, the ego can be found in nearly every upset or life challenge, but usually the challenges we experience are meant to propel us forward in our lives.
Part of the work we have living a conscious life is to embrace the ego’s function on our path. That’s not to say identifying with the ego will sustain us or that it even has our personality’s best interest in mind. But it’s to acknowledge its purpose as one that ultimately helps our soul to fulfill its own.
Recently, I yelled at the people who live in the apartment below me for being too loud. After I stood on my balcony, yelling, and threatening to call the police, I laid in bed and thought how much of a hypocrite I was. I thought, “What kind of spiritual person am I for handling the situation like that?” Even worse, I thought, “What is it in me that attracted this into my life?”
Classic ego functioning at its best—judgement of others, then judgement of self.
Granted, it was 1 a.m. and this wasn’t the first time I’ve had to confront my neighbors for being too loud. However, the moment I began to see the situation and my reaction as part of my soul’s purpose and recognize that my ego attack was serving a specific function, my awareness of the entire experience began to expand. I was able to see both my higher self and my ego operating in service of my soul. I was also able to see my ego’s reaction with more compassion.
If a soul came here to experience peace, it would need to know what isn’t peaceful in order to continue moving in the direction of peace. If a soul came here to learn freedom, it would first need to feel constrained as a means of knowing liberation.
For most of us, until we drop the body, the ego will remain intact. I’ve come to accept the shadow aspect of my higher self, the ego, as functioning like an alcoholic family member or friend. I can’t change the alcoholic’s behavior, nor am I responsible for the disease of addiction. What I am responsible for is how I choose to see each participant along my path.
Knowing this on an intellectual level is one thing, but welcoming it into our hearts is something else entirely. I can’t truly know why I have noisy neighbors or what some of life’s challenges are for, but embracing both my higher self’s perspective and my ego’s involvement allows me to see the entirety of my life in support of my soul.
Whether you find yourself looking through the lens of your higher self or your ego, may it serve you to remember your higher self walks with you and knows what’s true for you, always, and that the ego is ultimately a servant of your soul.
Author: Chris Tompkins
Image: Ali Morshedlou/Unsplash
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Copy Editor: Yoli Ramazzina