How can we escape the ego prison through meditation?

Initially most people choose to meditate out of curiosity or to relieve psychological pain, increase pleasure, or enhance power. The goal of all these motives is to strengthen the ego. For as the ego gets more comfortable, happy, and powerful, its prison walls thicken. The ego’s motives do not allow examination of the ego itself, nor allow insight that the ego is your prison. These motives paradoxically contain the seeds of freedom, because they lead you to meditate more. Meditation makes you more calm and quiet, and in this new stillness other motives, deeper motives, arise for going further into meditation. As your meditation develops beyond the level of ego payoffs, the prison walls begin to crack.

You might think of these deeper motives in many ways:

to answer the question, “Who am I?”
to awaken cosmic consciousness
to see things just as they are
to rend the veils of illusion
to know God
to tune to the harmony of the universe
to gain more compassion
to reach a higher consciousness
to become liberated
to be born again
to know the truth which lies beyond dualism
to transcend the wheel of birth and death
to abandon desire
to be free

These motives all describe the same peak from different points at its base. They all express a single desire: to escape the prison of ego.

In the process of pursuing my own deeper motives, the ego neuroses that once preoccupied me, my obsessions with sexuality, achievement, love, and dependency, haven’t all gone away. What has gone is my preoccupation and my identification with them. Now they are merely quaint and fascinating, an interesting room or passing show rather than the huge mountains and crevasses and devastating potential disasters which once seemed to surround me on every side. Though I may get angry, I let go of the anger more quickly. And more important, I let go of the guilt connected with the anger. These feelings now simply arise and pass away, without my resisting or clinging to them. More and more I am just awareness.

The explanation is involvement without clinging. Not grabbing at anything. You may be attached to your lover: you say “my woman” or “my man.” There’s the clinging. It can be part of the flow of the moment to be with a man or woman, but if he or she disappears tomorrow, that’s a new moment. No clinging. Your life just lives itself.

You’re not sitting around saying, “How am I doing? Am I a failure in life? Am I a success?” You’re not judging. Your life is just a process unfolding.

I’m a Ram Dass. I do whatever it is I do. I see people, teach, and write my books, I eat, sleep, and travel, get tired and irritable, go to the bathroom, touch, and taste, and think. A continuous stream of events. A flow. I am involved with it all, yet I cling to none of it. It is what it is. No big deal.

The man in whom Tao
Acts without impediment
Does not bother with his own interests
And does not despise
Others who do.
He does not struggle to make money
And does not make a virtue of poverty.
He goes his way
Without relying on others
And does not pride himself
On walking alone
While he does not follow the crowd
He won’t complain of those who do.
Rank and reward
Make no appeal to him;
Disgrace and shame
Do not deter him.
He is not always looking
For right and wrong
Always deciding “Yes” or “No.”

– Thomas Merton

2 thoughts on “How can we escape the ego prison through meditation?”

  1. Sometimes it is hard for me to decipher which motives for meditation (and even spirituality) are my soul and which are my ego, and Ram Dass explains these clearly!

    Such a wonderful being:)

  2. I think this concept of the ego controlling most of our motivations for meditation is very interesting. I know personally that I always say that I want to just “know God”, and let him guide me through my life so that I can serve him with everything I do. But is this embedded in ego? I’m not sure.


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