In true awakening, there is neither a death nor a transcendence of ego. Instead, the location of self is released from its entanglement with the unconscious ego (in other words, the conglomeration of conditioned mental, emotional, and physical responses). Liberated from the prison of egoic identification, the sense of “I-ness” becomes nonlocalized and unattached. Having recognized awakeness as the inherent nature of all that is (including the self), the self becomes an “awake I,” undefined and unrestrained by relative reality.
Another way of saying this is that the self experiences itself as inseparable from the totality of existence. While certain survival-based impulses continue (protecting the body from danger, the impulse to eat when hungry, drink when thirsty, or rest when tired, and so on), these now happen without interference. They simply happen as life’s natural and intelligent movement toward what needs attention while form is alive. The “awake I” is therefore free to respond intelligently and creatively to the moment, and this gives you access to a power that is at one with life itself.
So what happens to the ego in all this? From one perspective, nothing changes. The ego continues to operate, to keep form alive. From another perspective, everything changes. In the process of liberation, the once unconscious ego transmutes to an evolved or “aware ego” and gives itself in service to the “awake I.” In other words, the ego stops being the master and bows down to awakeness.
So, yes, in awakening there is a death. There is a death of the self-identity that is wrapped around ego. But there is also a birth of a whole, integrated human being that includes both the surface sense of self as a separate entity (the self that is born and then dies) and the deeper layer of undifferentiated beingness (the self that was never born and can never die).
Awakeness embraces the paradox of self and no-self. There is no conflict in this apparent duality. While the mind finds this intolerable, the heart abides in unfathomable acceptance. When the silent mystery of spacious acceptance becomes overridingly preferable to the habitual struggle of making sense of it all, the search for a mythical state of enlightenment comes to an end. However, the ever-unfolding deepening into authentic awakening never stops.
This is an excerpt from Embodied Enlightenment: Living Your Awakening in Every Moment by Amoda Maa Jeevan, published by New Harbinger Publications. Copyright 2017.
Amoda is a contemporary spiritual teacher, author, and speaker who appeared at the Science and Nonduality Conference last October in San Jose, CA (SAND16), and is scheduled to speak at the upcoming SAND17 US: The Emergent Universe. Embodied Enlightenment is based on both her vision for humanity and the conversations on the cutting edge of spiritual inquiry in her meetings with people from all around the world.