Perception, while it is everything, can also be terribly blinding. Our individual perspective not only separates us from seeing our world clearly, but from experiencing it fully.
In her new book, The E-word: Ego, Enlightenment & Other Essentials, Cate Montana MA tackles the question of ego in simple, clear, and poignant prose, to show that ego keeps us from the very creative, enlightened, and free existence we desire.
Montana begins by telling us that we can’t kill ego, and yet we don’t need to. What we do need to know is that ego is only an illusion. Living unconsciously, unaware of the illusion, is what imprisons us.
We often create our own realities, living out our lives in ways that define us, yet obscure the truth at the very same time.
“The ego is rooted in separation, fear, and isolation, a perspective that is quite delusional,” Montana writes.
And yet to escape the ego’s delusion, Montana contends that we first have to realize that there is another way.
Transpersonal awareness is recognizing an identity beyond the personal self. This awareness goes a level beyond self-actualization, and extends past Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs.
“You almost never see [transpersonal awareness] in diagrams, but at this level of consciousness the personal ego has integrated all the previous levels and expanded self-actualization into an awareness of global and/or universal interconnection and a sense of self that extends beyond the personal to include humanity and life itself,” Montana writes.
By stopping for thirty minutes each day to reflect within, the author suggests that we may come into touch with our inner observer; the part of our being that simply allows us to observe the world without attachments, judgements, and biases.
What we may come to realize through this practice is that we are consciousness itself. We are not what we think we are, suggests Montana. We are — quite literally — our thoughts.
When we become more aware of our thoughts, we may find a disconnect between the image we think we are projecting outward and the inner thoughts that encompass our minds. What we fail to connect with is not only ourselves, but on a much deeper level, a sense of spirituality.
“There is no such thing as separate existence. It’s a concept our body/brain has taught us,” writes Montana.
The universe itself, Montana tells us, is a unified whole – one in which energy flows freely throughout, and regeneration and reproduction happen continuously. By exposing ourselves to nature and becoming more observant, we can expand our sense of self to incorporate all around us in a way that relaxes and inspires us.
Montana recommends one exercise in particular which involves simply surrendering to our fantasies – letting go of our judgements and feeling the energy expanding throughout our bodies.
Genuinely grasping what the ego really is – an illusion – in itself, shifts our consciousness.
“Once you know that all the systemic problems in your life, the lives around you, and the lives of everyone else on the planet are the result of unrecognized personal ego running amok – an erroneous body-based point of view we call “self” that isn’t really self at all – your path to living a greater life is clear,” Montana writes.
Through an exercise Montana calls synthesis, we can learn how to dissolve any sense of separateness we feel, and learn to embrace ourselves as divine, and a part of the greater whole around us.
Through enlightenment, we also come to realize that no matter how much we insulate our egos with material wealth, possessions, and accomplishments, we will always feel vulnerable and scared, until we move into transpersonal awareness, where possessions and wealth don’t exist.
Yet, Montana suggests that if we turn only to spirituality to satisfy our innate need for connection, we miss the point. Religious teachings, like accumulation of material wealth, soon become the ego’s drive, all the while distracting us from the very inward searching that reveals our true selves.
As we think and act, so we become. Making our dreams happen then becomes an act of first recognizing that everything we desire is already a part of us. Enlightenment, unlike the ego, is free, and while it is not without desires, the importance of these desires have changed.
“There is no wrong path. If you’re on it, it’s the right path. And if you find yourself somewhere you don’t want to be, take another path,” Montana writes.
When we recognize our truth; come to a complete understanding of ourselves, lives, and our evolutionary journeys; and when confusion, fear, doubt, and conflict leave us, we are free. Free to live as we please.
What we will discover, Montana tells us, is that the real purpose of life is life itself.
With compelling stories, practical examples, and transformative exercises, Montana offers a simple and yet profound wisdom: When we lift the veil of ego, not only do we find ourselves, but life itself.
The E-word: Ego, Enlightenment & Other Essentials
Cate Montana, MA
Atria Books (2017)