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Breaking Down, Breaking Open




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The following article was written by Gwen Randall-Young. Gwen is an author and psychotherapist in private practice. For more articles and information on her books and CDs go to www.gwen.ca.

Breaking Down, Breaking Open

Within sorrow, there is grace. When we come close to those things that break us down, we touch those things that also break us open. And in that breaking open, we uncover our true nature.

Wayne Muller

Our ego often has great plans for us. Like a child playing with a doll or an action figure, ego creates our identity, then sends us forth into the world to live out the vision it has created. Not unlike a movie producer and director, ego would like to set the stage, write the script, and have all the actors speak their lines as written.

Unfortunately, in life we do not have the same control as the child over his game, or the director over his movie. The other actors in our lives are simultaneously playing roles in many other movies, perhaps even trying to direct a few themselves. There may even be a master director, overseeing all of the productions. All the worlds a stage, Shakespeare wisely noted. Like a hall of reflecting mirrors, our lives may consist of stages, within stages, within stages, and at each level, our stages overlap and interconnect with the stages of others.

It is easy to see how infinitely complex the whole thing becomes. Imagine a circus performer trying to keep multiple tops spinning. Ego tries to keep its spin on every stage on which it plays a part. Is it any wonder that by the time humans reach mid-adulthood, stress, anxiety, and depression reach near epidemic proportions? Increasingly there is a growing awareness that we do not have the control we thought we had. That awareness may come as a result of the emotional exhaustion created by trying to stay on top of everything. More often, it comes in the form of a crisis, a loss or major disappointment. One of the productions on one of our stages takes a devastating turn. We may lose one of our lead actors, through death or dissolution of a relationship. A role we have played for many years may suddenly be denied usa job layoff, children leaving home, even retirement.

One of egos roles has been irreversibly altered: one of the tops stopped spinning.

This may constitute the beginning of the deconstruction of the entire ego complex. For if one aspect comes crashing down, what is to stop the others? The pain that is felt is both for the current loss in the life situation, but also for the loss of any sense of security tied to any of egos roles.

This is the beginning of the breaking down process. There is sorrow, there is grief. The intensity of the loss can seem overwhelming. Our lives may seem to have lost meaning, and we may even begin to question the meaning of life itself. We are no longer who we thought we were. Worse yet, we may have no idea who we are. Having identified with ego for so long, there is no awareness of the level of consciousness beyond ego.

As ego begins to break down, at first it seems we are entering a void, a place of nothingness. This can be excruciatingly painful. This is not a peaceful letting go, it is more like something essential to our person is being wrenched from our grasp. It feels as though we are losing our very selves. We are, but fortunately, it is our false self that is beginning to die. Ego is like the cocoon surrounding our true essence, our spirit.

As we lose identification with ego, we feel humble. We may feel a loss of importance, a loss of identity. For so long ego had a sense of being somebody, and now that is slipping away. This is natural and it is good. We cannot remain attached to the cocoon anymore than the butterfly can. We must release it to experience our true nature. Our true nature is our spirit or soul. It is that aspect that is connected to the spirit of the cosmos, it is about connection and oneness, whereas ego was about separateness and disconnection. Our entire journey on this earth has been leading us in this direction.

When we leave the physical body, all that is left is soul. If we are firmly encased in the cocoon of ego, the shift can be abrupt and startling. If we have spent the previous decades slowly letting go of all ego attachments, the final letting go is effortless and joyful. The sooner we begin the process, the more of our years will be lived in a state of grace.

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