Imagine sitting alone in a quiet spot with your thoughts flowing like fish in a river and filtering them through your ego subconsciously. Suddenly, you realize your unfiltered thoughts are your true self. This insight goes beyond your prior beliefs and allows you to see the world without judgment, simply living in the present. In Zen Buddhism, it’s called ‘Satori’ or an awakening, also known as ego death/dissolution in Western culture.
This article will discuss the concept of ego and the stages, triggers, and therapeutic benefits of ego death. Master step-by-step ego death meditation techniques and explore mindfulness practices for sustainable ego reduction.
- What is Ego?
- Meditation and Ego Death
- The 3 Phases of Ego Death Meditation
- What Causes Ego Death?
- Ego Death and Psychedelic Therapy
- 3 Signs to Identify Someone Who Has Experienced Ego Death
- How to Achieve Ego Death through Meditation?
- 3 Mindfulness Techniques For Ego Reduction
- Some Other Ways To Combat With Your Ego
What is Ego?
Unlike the “ego” concept in Western psychology, Eastern philosophy views the ego as unnecessary and false. According to Eastern philosophy, there is no such thing as a “healthy ego.” The ego is a false illusion of the self that should be abandoned. It is a construct created by the mind that convinces us that we are the center of the universe. The ego is responsible for our desire for approval and recognition.
According to the teachings of Buddha, ignorance is the root cause of all our suffering. He believed that holding onto the concept of the ego only leads to greater ignorance and suffering.
The Three Key Components of Ego
People’s descriptions of the ego differ, but experts generally agree that there are three main components within every ego:
Ego and Self-Image
This is how you see yourself in your mind and your understanding of who and what you are.
Ego and Self-Esteem
Your sense of worth compared to others and your beliefs about your place in the world.
Ego and Self-Identity
It consists of the elements you believe define you. While self-image is your mental picture, identity is what makes you unique.
Interestingly, all three ego components serve as ways to distinguish ourselves from others. To have a clear self-image, we need to separate ourselves from others and assess our value by comparing ourselves to those around us.
Meditation and Ego Death
Meditation, as described by Eastern philosophy, is a way to remove all barriers and discover our true selves, connecting to everything and the divine. By practicing meditation, we can achieve enlightenment or reach higher states known as Nirvana, Samadhi, Bodhi, or Moksha. No matter what name we use for this enhanced state of being, all these ideas have one thing in common: enlightenment means letting go of our ego. This event is sometimes called “the great death,” which differs from “the small death” when our physical body dies. Buddhism thinks that giving up the ego is more important than our body’s demise.
The idea of “ego death” has its roots in the spiritual practices of Buddhists, Sufis, Christians, Taoists, and other religious followers. The term was coined by Timothy Leary, a psychonaut from the 1960s, in his book The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead. He wanted a term that expressed what he and other psychedelic users experienced while using large doses of LSD.
The easiest way to understand “the great death” is by thinking of a complete absence of thoughts. Our thoughts are what create our sense of self. We believe that we’re different from everything around us because of our thoughts, making us feel like we’re the center of everything.
Meditation helps in removing these thoughts and creating a quiet, calm state for the mind. It helps control the “monkey mind” and focus on the present moment without judgment or control. By practicing meditation correctly, our ego can take a break (even if it’s temporary), allowing us to fully step away from our sense of self and become an unbiased observer.
The 3 Phases of Ego Death Meditation
Identifying when ego death starts is challenging. It could begin during meditation or when consuming a sacred substance. Interestingly, this concept mirrors ancient religious stories from different cultures, including Egyptian, Sumerian, and Greek mythology. The most familiar example for Westerners is Christ’s death and resurrection.
Now, let’s explore each ego death stage.
Ego Death Stage 1 – Death
Before ego death occurs, a person enters a different state of mind, usually through deep meditation or using psychedelic drugs. These substances often cause hallucinations, leading to special patterns and dreamlike images. Ego dissolution can feel unsettling, as it seems like you’re losing touch with normal reality.
During this stage, you realize you aren’t just your ego. You break free from believing you’re only a mind in a body, separate from everything else. Your self-image and identity shatter as you discover your perception has been an illusion. This can lead to feelings of unity and love or create resistance, making you feel like you’re disappearing into nothingness.
Ego Death Stage 2 – The Journey
Once the ego dissolves, you recognize that there’s still a true Self within you. You may have unknowingly hidden your true self behind your ego all this time. This stage can bring visions (especially with psychedelics), insights into life, or hidden truths from unexpected sources. Ego death gives fresh experiences or new perspectives on old ones. There will be a feeling of connection with the vastness of reality. This could feel like a magical moment of Nirvana or awakening. On the other hand, it might be upsetting for those who aren’t ready.
Ego Death Stage 3 – The Rebirth
After this experience, a person comes back to their normal reality but might see it from a new point of view. Ego loss or ego death remains in their memory for a very long time. This can have both good and bad effects, depending on the person.
Some experienced spiritual practitioners reshape their egos deliberately using various techniques to create a new reality more in line with their desires. The ego eventually returns, either intentionally or without your awareness. Unprepared individuals might slip back into their old habits as the ego retakes control.
To ensure a valuable ego death experience, use meditation to get high and boost discipline and self-awareness. It’s safer to try guided psychedelic therapy or practice spirituality regularly rather than experimenting with strong hallucinogenic drugs alone.
What Causes Ego Death?
People sometimes go to extreme lengths, even taking risky actions, to lose their sense of self or ego. Here are some main reasons for experiencing ego death:
When someone has a close call with death, they might feel ego death. They might say they felt connected and peaceful with the universe after such a scary event. Psychologist Stanislav Grof thinks ego death might be like going back to being born or witnessing an actual death.
Research indicates a strong connection between psychedelics and ego dissolution. Taking large amounts of drugs like ayahuasca, DMT, LSD, ketamine, magic mushrooms, and other psychedelic drugs can cause ego death. But there’s a risk of bad side effects like paranoia and psychosis that last a long time. However, research also shows that using these drugs in a controlled way and in small doses might help treat depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.
In Buddhism, ego death is known as ‘satori’; in Sufi Islam, it’s called ‘fana’; and in mystical Christianity, it’s experienced as ‘oneness with God after the dark night of the soul.’ No matter the religious tradition, ego death is seen as a key aspect of spiritual awakening. Through months of prayer, meditation, and spiritual exercises, mystics from different faiths have tried (and often claimed to achieve) ego death by their own efforts rather than using psychedelic substances.
Ego Death and Psychedelic Therapy
As awareness of mental health increases, it’s crucial for our society to improve mental health treatments. Psilocybin and other psychedelics are now widely discussed, studied, and even traded in stock markets. We often get stuck in routines, mindsets, and perspectives. Microdosing psilocybin might be a happy medium to enjoy its benefits without losing control. Mushrooms could potentially change the future of mental health for the better.
Psychedelic research plays a significant role in understanding ego dissolution. DMT, also called the Spirit Molecule, is commonly used for achieving ego death. It has been used for over 1,000 years in South America. Dr. Rick Strassman’s study on DMT revealed that volunteers experienced profound spiritual and transformative effects even in a hospital setting.
Therapeutic Benefits of Ego Death
Research on psychedelics reveals their potential for treating conditions like alcoholism, depression, and anxiety. Although these studies emerged in the 1950s, they lost traction in the 1970s and have only recently regained attention. Additionally, research has found that meditation can alter brain activity in the default mode network, resulting in reduced anxiety, stress, and depression.
While it’s difficult to objectively measure ego death, we can infer its real-world benefits based on related experiences. Ego dissolution can lead to lasting shifts in perspective, increased peacefulness and love, greater engagement with life, and an overall improved mood.
3 Signs to Identify Someone Who Has Experienced Ego Death
Here are a few subtle signs indicating that someone might be more aware of life’s workings than they let on.
They have a Light-hearted attitude
This person has the ability to laugh at themselves and find humor in life’s absurdities.
They are Non-judgmental
A conscious individual is aware of their own ego as well as others’ and understands that people operate on different levels. Instead of being condescending, they accept others without judgment despite their perceived shortcomings.
They exude tranquility
If you’re intuitive, you may sense that some people possess a calming presence. It feels easier to be honest with them, and they come across as genuine and attentive compared to many others.
Keep in mind that these signs are mere clues; they don’t confirm anything definitively. Someone who has experienced ego dissolution recognizes life as a game and plays consciously, which can be challenging to notice unless you possess a mystical ability to see into others’ minds.
How to Achieve Ego Death through Meditation?
Meditation is a way to look inside yourself and find stillness and presence, which can lead to higher states of awareness. But how to ego death meditation?
In scientific terms, the ego is part of your brain that dwells on negative thoughts and worries, called the Default Mode Network. Research on Tibetan monks reveals that meditation creates gamma brainwaves that produce feelings of happiness, creativity, inspiration, integration, and unity.
Isha Kriya Meditation
A powerful method for achieving ego death is Isha Kriya, a meditation technique taught by Indian yogi guru Sadhguru and Mindvalley’s A Yogi’s Guide to Joy Quest trainer. “Isha” means the origin of creation, and “Kriya” means internal action. The meditation is straightforward: mentally repeat, “I am not the body. I am not even the mind,” while focusing on your breath for 12 minutes.
Steps to practice:
- Sit cross-legged with your back straight. You can use a backrest if needed, but avoid using a headrest.
- Facing east while practicing can be more beneficial.
- Place your hands on your thighs with your palms facing up.
- Keep your face slightly tilted up and your eyes closed. Gently focus on the area between your eyebrows.
- Breathe in and out slowly and gently.
- As you inhale, think to yourself: “I am not the body.” The thought should last for the entire inhalation.
- As you exhale, think to yourself: “I am not even the mind.” The thought should last for the entire exhalation.
- Repeat this process for 7-11 minutes.
- Make an ‘Ah’ sound seven times with your mouth wide open while exhaling completely into each sound. This sound should come from deep within the abdomen.
- Spend about 5-6 minutes sitting still with a slightly upturned face and keeping focus between your eyebrows.
This whole practice takes around 12-18 minutes, but you can sit for a longer period if desired.
Tibetan Meditation for Ego-Loss
Monks don’t just meditate for an hour on Sundays; they live and breathe meditation. They constantly strive to bring more awareness into their lives every moment. Another essential step is learning how to quiet your inner voice, just like the Zen saying: “When you are silent, it speaks. When you speak, it is silent.” This ability to control your thoughts is often called mindfulness.
Steps to practice:
- Find a comfortable position without any distractions.
- Close your eyes and focus inward on your thoughts, feelings, and sensations.
- For every thought or sensation that comes up, ask yourself honestly, “Is this who I am?”
- Eventually, you’ll stop identifying with anything and realize you’re just an observer of your thoughts – silently watching everything from within.
- Congratulations! You’ve completed the meditation.
This meditation is great since it offers an active approach rather than just sitting and worrying about mistakes. However, it requires consistency and integration into your daily routine to be effective.
Struggling with your meditation progress? Read and understand why mediation doesn’t work for some and how to use it as a perfect remedy to rejuvenate your practice!
3 Mindfulness Techniques For Ego Reduction
Egocentrism often emerges from our thoughts, and mindfulness can effectively reform our self-importance. This goal can be achieved through various practices and activities aimed at breaking down harmful thought patterns and replacing them with positive ones.
Journaling is a simple and easy way to practice mindfulness. No special skills, training, or equipment are needed, just a pen and paper. Instead of letting our minds wander, journaling lets us focus on specific topics, like gratitude. Writing down things we’re grateful for helps us recognize the joys in life beyond our own achievements. Many successful people use gratitude journaling to stay grounded and remember that there’s more to life than just personal success.
Meditation for ego death/dissolution
Meditation helps clear distractions, bringing peace and grounding. It is often linked to ego dissolution because it gets us out of self-centered thoughts and into the present moment. It helps us become more connected with our feelings and rational thinking. The ego usually triggers thoughts of comparison, lack, or insecurity. Meditation offers a safe space to realize that many “threats” our ego reacts to are often not real. Loving-kindness meditation focuses on feeling compassion for others, including friends, enemies, or strangers. This practice strengthens our brain’s neural connections related to empathy and compassion, allowing us to access these emotions more easily in daily life.
Take a mindful stroll
This activity focuses on observing the people around you. The informal term “sonder” represents the awareness that each stranger passerby leads a life as rich and intricate as yours. Gaining this insight is crucial. When consumed by self-centered thoughts, stepping out of our bubble and recognizing the equally complex lives of others can be helpful in gaining perspective.
Some Other Ways To Combat With Your Ego
Join a social group or sports team
Becoming part of a group helps us connect with others and let go of self-importance. In a team, everyone is equal, and collaboration is valued, respected, and appreciated. Being in a community also exposes us to other people’s lives and experiences. Just remember not to talk about yourself too much!
Help the less fortunate through volunteering
Lending a hand to those in need nourishes the soul and teaches the value of humility more than any personal accomplishment. Volunteering is about giving time to support the community as a whole. This develops gratitude, uplifts those who need help, and reminds us of life’s fragility. Being humble and generous keeps our lives in perspective.
Limit social media usage
Social media platforms often focus on self-promotion, leading to comparison and envy of others. These platforms can be filled with unrealistic expectations and pressure to achieve more. Although useful for connecting with others, too much time spent scrolling can create tension. Manage your online presence to discover inner peace and cultivate humility.
What are the signs of ego death?
- You’ll no longer feel separate from the world.
- You may sense a connection with the universe.
- You might experience unity with all humans.
How to have an ego death through meditation?
To experience ego death through meditation, follow these simple steps:
- Find a quiet and cozy place to sit or lie down.
- Close your eyes and take slow, deep breaths, focusing on your breath.
- Observe your thoughts without judgment or attachment.
- As thoughts arise, let them pass like clouds, returning to your breath.
- Gradually let go of your sense of self by detaching from your thoughts and feelings.
- Embrace the present moment and continue to meditate in a state of oneness.
What are the different stages of ego death?
There are 7 Ego Death Stages:
- Spiritual Awakening
- Dark Night of the Soul
- Spiritual Seeking
- Spiritual Judgment
- Dissolution and Deconstruction
- End of the Journey
What happens after ego death through meditation?
Surpassing your ego during meditation or psychedelic experiences leads to a powerful urge for everyone’s success, joy, happiness, health, and wealth. This feeling compels you to serve others before yourself.
A dominating ego creates a focus on ‘me,’ ‘my,’ and ‘mine,’ leading to narcissism, greed, and miserliness. In contrast, living without ego embraces unity, love, and generosity as guiding principles in your actions and perceptions.
Surprisingly, ego death is linked with reduced fear and anxiety; it doesn’t eliminate fear completely but transforms it into excitement, wonder, and zeal. Ego death can reawaken your spirit. However, the experiences may vary from person to person.
Why does ego death from meditation feel like dying?
Meditation ego death feels like dying because it dissolves our self and identity, similar to experiencing physical death. As the ego fades away, we face deep fears and anxieties about mortality, losing control, and the unknown. The experience can be both freeing and scary as we gain a new outlook on reality and life beyond our ego.
For example, during an Ayahuasca ceremony, participants may feel like they’re dying in a deep meditative state. However, many report feeling inner peace instead of fear or worry.
During ego death, time-related boundaries disappear; there’s no past or future, just an endless present moment. Many people find the lack of self-talk – the inner voice that usually comments on everything. With no ego or self-talk, you fully experience reality without filtering through your past identity.
Do we genuinely desire a Ferrari, or is it just our ego? Perhaps we truly seek acceptance.
Ego death is neither the beginning nor the end; it’s a crucial part of life’s journey and essential for seeing reality without ego-driven distortions.
Ego death guided meditation serves as a transformative tool by revealing the true nature of our existence. Also known as ego dissolution, it provides deep insights and can lead to major life changes and realizations. It helps us identify our priorities and choose the right path to achieve our goals. This meditation breaks down false self-boundaries, enriching our soul with a broader perspective and a sense of interconnectedness.