The ego is brilliant at playing its own games, to thrill you then ensnarl you into its own plot. The plot is always about disengaging you with who you truly are and instead engaging you in the roles and identities it creates – for example the role of the victim, the overprotective or the worrisome parent. No matter the role, the game is always aimed at distracting you from being open to life choices that are in line with your purpose and exploring your highest potential, which would in turn mark the end of the ego-consciousness. Why? because the Ego is like a life force of its own which feeds its energy off the thought patterns and emotions that arise when the mind is succumbed into its game. Its agenda is always to distract you from maturity and development and hence why true spiritual growth comes from the so-called death of the ego.
“What if we could use games to detach ourselves from the grips of the ego?”
Yet for many, spiritual practice is always marked by things like self-discipline, meditation, embracing your shadow and doing things which entail surrendering the fun and the playful. I claim that this is not the case. What if we could use games to detach ourselves from the grips of our ego? What if we could use our creative imagination in fun and exciting ways to train the mind to disengage from the ego’s role-playing.
“what does lucid dreaming has got to do with subduing the ego and its mind games?. In short, everything.”
One thing I find interesting and am currently experimenting with is doing certain unorthodox exercises to entrain the mind to detach itself from the image and identity of the self. Let me explain. I came across the idea some time ago when I was reading Sergio Magana’s ‘The Toltec Secret: Dreaming Practices of the Ancient Mexicans’. In the book he was explaining the practice of the ancient Mexicans in the art of dreaming – or to put it plainly – Lucid Dreaming. Now you might ask yourself “what does lucid dreaming has got to do with subduing the ego and its mind games?”. In short, everything. If you look at various lucid dreaming practices from the ancient Toltecs to the Tibetans you will find a common trait and it is that of stabilising the mind so it becomes less vulnerable to be swayed about by thoughts and emotions. This is crucial.
“The goal of becoming lucid in dream is to become more lucid in waking life”
The philosophy behind the art of dreaming is that life and dreams are the same. In short, when sleeping you are unaware and caught in the plot of the dream and in waking life you are still mostly unaware and entrapped by the mind through thoughts, worries, etc. The goal of becoming lucid in dream is to become more lucid in waking life – this is a spiritual goal.
Anyway, one of the many practices of the ancient Mexicans in the art of dreaming is through using masks. So basically, the person training in the art would wear a mask and sit in front of a mirror and talk about the story of his/her life for 20 to 30 minutes everyday. Just sit there, wearing a mask (and sometimes changing it) and blab out his or her life story (this is called recapitulation).
It sounds nonsense but there is actually a lot of sense behind it. When you look at a mirror and tell your story, the mind starts after some time disengaging itself from the image and identity it has of itself because you are listening to your story day after day but it’s impersonal because it is dictated by ‘someone else’ (for the subconscious mind, the person behind the mask is someone else not you). What happens then is that you are turning the game of the ego around. You are now training the mind to detach itself from the story and not take it personally. You are NOT the story any more. The ego was doing it the other way round. It was reinforcing that identity through role-playing and other games. Hence, this exercise is like using the same game the other way round. Fascinating.
“answer the question “who am I without my life story? in 10 minutes”
About a month ago, I made friends with a man who is also on the spiritual path. We spent a few evening together discussing all sorts of stuff, when one night he asked me whether I would like to try out this ‘game’ he got to know from somewhere else. The game reminded me a lot of the exercise with the masks. This time it involved two people. One person would look in the other person’s face and in 5 minutes have to answer the question “who am I?”. The person listening has to remain expressionless throughout – no matter if the speaker gets emotional or says something that is agreed by the other. No nods, no smiles or expressions of understanding. Just passive listening. After the five minutes pass, you need to then answer the question “who am I without my life story? in 10 minutes.
In any case I tried it. When it came to the second question, I thought “what have I got to say in ten minutes about myself without my history?” but unbelievable to myself, I just couldn’t stop talking!! I couldn’t believe that there were so many things I could say which were outside who my mind thinks I am. It is very hard to explain. It’s like the creative powerhouse of the subconscious had just spilled itself out. An amazing experience. But the real power behind ‘the game’ was that it ‘shocks’ the mind out of its self-identification and this is where the ego comes in.
So my idea is that we can use our creative imagination to do ‘games’ and exercises in order to entrain the mind to jump out of its loops and weaken those identifications that are the bread and butter of the ego. This of course is not some kind of discovery – we have always done it since time immemorial but perhaps the idea is not so ingrained in the collective psyche of modern Man.