After reading great words of wisdom in books, I always come back to the how. As I write this, I am reminded of the old proverb: Give me a fish and I eat for a day; teach me to fish and I eat for a lifetime. Spiritual writing affects me that way. The reading part is like being fed a fish. When I close the book, I am still hungry, still feeling the truth of becoming spiritually self-sufficient has eluded me. In the weeks leading up to my first experience of Kundalini, I was frustrated about not being able to find the tools for achieving the promised altered state of consciousness — whether it be awakening or enlightenment — in any of the writings I had come across.
In order to give something up it is necessary to understand how it is constructed in the first place. The ego is a construct, but just knowing that is not enough to enable one to give it up. Actually, it isn't giving it up as much as it is dismantling it and then realizing it is unreal. The process demands rigorous and authentic self-observation, which is impossible to do on one's own. This is why the importance of the guru or the adept has been emphasised through the ages. The ego is always more cunning and clever than the soul. The ego is what Gurdjieff called the false self and it is constructed from life experiences. Not so much the experiences themselves, but the stories we manufacture around them and what we make these stories mean.
There are three ego development stages in life. The first comes around the age of 4-5 when the unconscious thought "there's something wrong here" appears and a way of being (pattern of behavior) is created to survive. This is the first construct of the false or ego self.
The next stage happens during the teenage years when thoughts like "I don't belong" arise and a second survival strategy is put in place, based largely on "fitting in." This ego layer is difficult to dislodge because it is a deeply ingrained protective mechanism.
The final stage happens sometime in the 20s when the thought "I'm on my own" surfaces and another survival mechanism is put in place. The sum total of the decisions and strategies adopted in consequence to these three events are what constitutes the ego. And the fact that they become so deeply buried in the persona is why the ego stays so well hidden, even after one finally goes looking for it.
It took an intense weekend of self-development training to enable me to see the who I thought I was wasn't the who I really am. Seeing those three events with perfect clarity allowed me to realize that what I had made them mean shaped the who I was. As a result of those insights and realizations something fell away and I experienced an unbounded peace and bliss. This happened in 2005.
I'm not saying that I am now ego-less; I'm not, but who I am for myself is now much more flexible and I am able to see the play of the manifested with that of the un-manifested. Dismantling the false or ego self is an absolutely essential step in the spiritual awakening process.