Why Do We Suffer?
"The most common ego identifications have to do with possessions, the work you do, social status and recognition, knowledge and education, physical appearance, special abilities, relationships, personal and family history, belief systems, and other collective identifications. None of these is you."
- The Power of Now
Just as a fish lives his entire life in the water, most of humanity lives their entire life in the ego personality.
The fish doesn't know anything about the water, unless a fisherman captures him and pulls him onto dry land. The fish flops and wiggles and seeks desperately to return to the water.
A human being doesn't know that he or she is immersed in an ocean of ego (their own and every one else's), unless some rare and unusual experience pulls them out of it into a higher or deeper dimension of experience. Usually, this experience is welcomed, but after a little while, we start to squirm and flail about in discomfort. We long to return to the safe confines of the ego mind.
We secretly love our ego because it gives us our identity. Without the ego and its rich and varied content, we feel as though we are nothing at all. We may even feel that we don't exist.
The ego provides us our sense of identity through objects we own that make a statement about who we are: a nice car, a beautiful home, pretty clothes, the newest electronic gadgets, the best music collection. We surround ourselves with objects that make us feel good about ourselves and make us look good to others. Many of the things that we buy and own are simply "identity enhancers". How many purchases have you made based on the reason that the item will improve your status or popularity?
The ego also provides us our sense of identity through its attachments to particular qualities we may have. You can find out what these are by completing the sentence "I am intelligent, I am a star athlete, I am a talented painter, I speak four languages, I am the tallest boy in my school, I am the prettiest girl in my family, I am an engineer for a top secret space project, I am an award-winning journalist."
Ego is our identification with form, ideas, status, talents and even events. We live, trapped, in the surface level of these identifications. This is a cause of great suffering because so much of we identify with can and will change. The beautiful girl will eventually grown older and lose her looks. The athlete will eventually surpass his prime and lose his edge.
It's very important that we recognize what we are attached to and that it will change. We must bring a deeper dimension of meaning into our lives so that we're not doomed to suffer the trappings of the shallow surface level of living, which will someday let you down.