Illusion of ownership and control

From our e-book “Filling our Life with Celebration”

To own something means we have control over it. Because we believe that we control our ego, our mind-body complex, we also believe that we own it. But do we?

Do we own our bodies? Can we tell it to stop ageing? When we have a stomach ache, can we tell the pain to away? When our bodies are shaking with nervousness before a public speaking event, can we tell it to calm down? If Mr. X hits Mr.Y, does Mr. X control Mr. Y’s body because he is able to bring pain to it? Obviously, the external circumstances have more control over our body that we do! So, is it right to think that our body belongs to us?

How about our emotions? Consider the experience of Dave who wakes up joyful in the morning but while driving to work, he meets a road bully who thinks that Dave is driving a little bit too slow. The road bully then honks at him and while over-taking Dave, flashes him an unfriendly sign. Dave reacts and becomes agitated and by the time he reaches his office, he is fuming with anger. In this scenario, who has more control over Dave’s emotions; Dave or the road bully? Because Dave thinks that he controls his emotions, he starts criticising himself for being so angry and ‘out of control’. This unnecessarily adds to his suffering.

Not convinced? Let us explore our mind. The masters encourage us to meditate frequently. One of the greatest benefit of meditation is that it will reveal how little control we have over our own minds. By just sitting quietly for a few minutes, we will observe that thoughts arise spontaneously outside our control. In fact external circumstances have more influence over our minds than we do. We may hear a dog barking and we will be taken back to a past experience involving a dog. Our mind is so erratic and wild that it is hard to believe how we can think that we own our mind.

If we analyse our beliefs and perceptions, we can see that 99.9% of them are put there by others. That is what our ego is, an accumulation of all the knowledge, perceptions and conditioning placed there by others. Take the example of a doctor. A doctor is merely a concept, not a separate being. A person goes through university and accumulates knowledge relating to the field and at the end, a doctor emerges.

This is the same with our egos. When we are babies, we are pure consciousness. There is no ego. Than, we start to pick-up the behaviours of our parents and elders. We accumulate knowledge and are conditioned to believe what is right or wrong, good or bad, true or false and so on. When we think, we are merely pulling from our brains the past memories to form a thought.

Because two persons would have collected different experiences, knowledge and beliefs; they will experience the same event differently. It is like one person is wearing green glasses and everything is green while another person is wearing red glasses and everything is red. The first person may see the smile of a stranger as friendliness whilst the other person may see it as something to be cautious about.

Ego - accumulation of knowledgeSo, if we accept that the ego is merely accumulated knowledge, belief and perceptions passed on to us by others, does it have a tangible quality? Is a ‘doctor’ tangible or merely a concept?

Dr Brian Weiss,MD, who introduced past-life regression to the world through his international best –seller, ‘Many Lives, Many Masters’, wrote, “Thoughts create the illusion of separateness and difference. Ego perpetuates this illusion, and this illusion creates fear, anxiety, and tremendous grief.”[1]

What does understanding all these have to do with our happiness? When the sages say that everything is but a dream, how does that help us? It is important because knowing this, we stop trying to control our mind-body complex; our ego. Trying to control it is a failed endeavour from the start. However, although we do not have control, we can influence them. Shifting from control to influence places the responsibility for our own happiness squarely on our shoulders,  but at the same time, removes the false expectation of an immediate solution to all our problems.

We can start to analyse our beliefs and perceptions from an independent perspective. We can reject those that are not beneficial to us and increase those that can increase our happiness. Habitually, we like to read those books that are consistent with our existing beliefs and conditioning. But doing so only place us more firmly on where we are currently standing. There is no growth. But understanding that we do not own our minds, we become more flexible. We are more willing to explore contradicting beliefs because we know that although we are shaken by it, we are growing and evolving. We become like a flowing river rather than an unmovable rock.



[1] ‘Only Love is Real’ by Brian Weiss, M.D.

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