We all want to be happy, but for many of us, attaining the peace and joy that we desire seems like a never-ending struggle. In David Mutchler’s most recent book, Lessons for Living Beyond the Ego: Sustaining Your Journey to Love, Joy, and Peace, he argues that ego is what stands between us and the happiness we seek.
Mutchler’s book provides 52 lessons designed to help us recognize our ego, and to replace ego-consciousness with spirit-consciousness, which he defines as the consciousness of our connection to every part of the universe. Mutchler tells us that “the secret to finding peace and happiness is to loosen ourselves from ego’s painful grip by going beyond the ego and entering the world of the Spirit, the source of true joy.”
The book would have been easier to navigate and internalize had some of the more complicated concepts, aside from the basic ego and spiritual ideas, been presented and defined early on. Other than that, however, the text was successful in slipping awareness into my daily thought patterns.
In the book’s overview, Mutchler discusses ego: a state of consciousness that leads to suffering and disconnectedness. He describes how the ego “works to ensure its own survival,” manifesting in a quest for superiority that leads to suffering for both the perpetrator and the people on the receiving end. To help end this suffering, Mutchler provides a lesson for each week of the year, stating that “one has to hear the message over and over again before it sinks in.” The lessons are designed to be read in whatever order the reader desires, and address such things as feelings, materialism, relationships, God, and world peace.
Each lesson begins with a quote, drawing from most of the world’s major religions as well as new-age authors, historical figures, and scientists. Mutchler’s point is not to embrace one religion or one belief system, but to discover the “common thread” between different beliefs and ideas and find out “what it is about them that speaks so deeply to us.” The two-to-three page lessons are each followed by “An Exercise to Consider,” giving specific guidance as to how the reader can put the lesson into action.
Mutchler is somewhat repetitive in his lessons, but he states that repetition is the point of the book. He tells the reader, “if you choose to read more than one lesson at a sitting, be aware that you will begin to notice a recurring theme — fifty-two starting points on the circumference of a circle all ending at the same center point.” For the purpose of this review, I often read five or six lessons in a sitting, but wished I had the time to read at the once-a-week pace Mutchler suggests in order to really digest each lesson, to put the exercises at the end of each chapter into practice, and to reduce the sense of repetitiveness that came from reading so much at once.
As I read, I found Mutchler’s deep belief in the importance of replacing ego-consciousness with spirit-consciousness working its way into my day-to-day thinking and causing me to see certain behaviors in myself and others in a new light. Because the book covers such a wide variety of topics, there is almost certainly something that will resonate with every reader, no matter what their circumstances.
By the time I reached chapter 39, I wished that Mutchler had organized the book a bit differently. Throughout the book, Mutchler often suggests “turn[ing] squarely to face ego, embrace it, observe it, and study its destructive ways,” as a means to become “conscious of consciousness itself,” and to move into a place of greater spiritual awareness. In chapter 39, he describes specific ego patterns, such as “the obvious ego,” “the retreating ego,” and “the sporadic ego,” and provides concise examples of each. These examples give a clear understanding of the subtle workings of ego; putting them earlier, in the book’s introduction, would have made the text even more accessible and easy to understand.
Still, Mutchler has a point to make, and he makes it well: Ego causes suffering, awareness of ego causes it to dissipate, and the more it dissipates, the more room there is in our selves and in our world for serenity and for peace. Quotes from science, history, the world’s great religions, and popular spiritual writers make his book accessible, and the exercises at the end of each chapter give the reader ways to put the lessons into practice. The 52 short chapters make it easy to incorporate the book into a year-long spiritual journey.
Lessons for Living Beyond the Ego: Sustaining Your Journey to Love, Joy, and Peace
Balboa Press, January, 2012
Paperback, 244 pages