No one has ever seen the face of ego. It is like a ghost that we accept as a controlling influence in our lives. I look upon the ego as nothing more than an idea that each of us has about ourselves. The ego is only an illusion, but a very influential one. Letting the ego-illusion become your identity can prevent you from knowing your true self. Ego, the false idea of believing that you are what you have or what you do, is a backwards way of assessing and living life.
You’ve probably noticed the word AMBULANCE written backwards on the front of a vehicle so that a person seeing it in their rear-view mirror can read it. When you look into a mirror, what you see is backwards, too. Your right hand is your left, your eyes are reversed. You understand that this is a backward view that you are seeing and you make the appropriate adjustments. You do not confuse reality with the image in the mirror.
The ego-idea of yourself is very much like the mirror example, without the adjustments. Your ego wants you to look for the inside on the outside. The outer illusion is the major preoccupation of the ego.
The ego-idea has been with us ever since we began to think. It sends us false messages about our true nature. It leads us to make assumptions about what will make us happy and we end up frustrated. It pushes us to promote our self-importance while we yearn for a deeper and richer life experience. It causes us to fall into the void of self-absorption again and again, not knowing that we need only shed the false idea of who we are.
Our true self is eternal. It is the God force within us. The way of our higher self is to reflect our inner reality rather than the outer illusion. The description given by Sogyal Rinpoche in The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying is a wonderful explanation of this discovery: “Two people have been living in you all of your life. One is the ego, garrulous, demanding, hysterical, calculating; the other is the hidden spiritual being, whose still voice of wisdom you have only rarely heard or attended to.” He refers to this hidden spiritual being as our wise guide.
When we learn to transcend the illusions sponsored by the ego, we can access this wise guide. We can invite in the higher aspects of ourselves to function in their natural, loving, and integrated design.