I have conducted hundreds of Rolling Stone interviews. In my mind. This was a favorite pastime in my early twenties. While standing in line at the grocery store, or stuck in rush hour traffic, I would enjoy extensive imaginary discussions of my grand musical powers. James, can you please tell Rolling Stone readers how you first came to realize you were so very special and how you went on to forever change the world as we know it through electric guitar solos? This was my version of Snoopy sprawled atop his doghouse, dreaming he was the Red Baron.
We spend much of our lives lost inside our ego story. We replay past events, revisit previous accomplishments and failures. We imagine future scenarios, our worst case scenarios and lifelong dreams coming true in mental Technicolor. We merge all of these imaginary events into some grand tale which casts us as the underdog hero or the irredeemable villain. Over and over, throughout the day — and even into the wee hours of the night — we internally rehearse this story. It’s such an automatic process, and one that begins so early in life, that most people don’t even realize they are addicted to it. This is the ego story, and for most people, it is the single biggest driver of their personal, social and professional lives.
The problem with ego story is just that: It’s a story. When you mistake your ego story for who you really are, you feel disconnected from life. You find yourself chasing one Next Big Thing after another, or running from one “plot point” to the next. The primary aim of the ego story is to distract you from the Here and Now. This is the only space in which your real life ever happens, and most people find it intolerable.
Who are you really? You’re someone drinking a cup of coffee, or picking up toys from the kitchen tile, or rearranging paper clips on your desk. You are someone going about a simple task, neither good nor bad, just a simple task. If you can give up your need to be “someone special,” then you can immerse yourself in the present moment, however mundane and ordinary. Inside this exact moment, there is an unwavering bare awareness. If you go looking for something dramatic or fancy you’ll miss it. This bare awareness doesn’t uniquely belong to you. It is at the core of every living creature. It is life itself. When you say hello to someone, it’s bare awareness greeting bare awareness.
Letting go of your ego story means letting go of your compulsive need to rank yourself and your actions. It means “yielding the right of way” to fellow travelers, rather than jumping to easy judgments and knee-jerk reactions. Who you are is not who you think you are. You are consciousness itself. You are the calm center that watches things happening. When you tire of the ego story, this is where you rest.