To greater understand this, imagine that you were a photographer taking a portrait of a great Oak Tree. The Oak Tree representing the I. The photographer is that witnessing aspect of your identity, just as the intellect directs and witnesses the projections of the mind. In this portrait the most important aspect of the photo is the Oak and maybe 5 feet of area around the trunk. As the seer, the photographer, at any point, you can decide the subject of the photo. As you start to notice the river next to the Oak tree, you decide it is best to capture those elements in the photo so you move away from the Oak tree. The Oak tree is still the center of the photo, but the amount of energy being focused on the Oak tree is not as great. The Oak is not less important. The inclusion of other elements allows for the viewer to see all that has contributed to the creation, sustaining and growth of the single Oak. Repeatedly, moving away from the primary subject of the photo until the Oak tree is so far in the background, does not make the Oak tree exist less, but rather the portrait photographer transforms to a landscape photographer seeing the harmony of the vast world. It takes the pressure off of the Oak to be something. The Oak is something, but it always was something. A contributor to everything surrounding it.
The I exists in the world in which you live right now. When you entertain the desire to serve, that desire arises from the I. As you increase your mission or ideal, the concentric circles that include the vision of others arises from the I. The I becomes smaller as if you are experiencing the death of the ego, however, if you reflect on this, you will see that the I remains the center of all experiences. The wider your circles the more you receive in return, though the difficulty of giving is always that you cannot give in order to receive. Oh man, this is hard.
In order to shift our perspective, it is important to identify the source of our separation from a feeling of wholeness. The source of our separation is the ignorance that we are a part of the whole. Ignorance translates to lack of knowledge. As a culture, we are trained to think of it synonymous with stupid. Stupid holds a negative connotation and reflects our level of intelligence. A highly intelligent person can still be ignorant. Ignorant of subtle thought patterns, reactions, their own interconnectedness with nature, etc. When we courageously accept that we are ignorant, we immediately let down our “I know” guard and open the gates to true learning.
The “I” aspect of ourselves has a deep experience of separation from the whole; therefore, it is ignorant of it’s true identity. We assume a new identity, our ego. The ego is “the moment-by-moment fabrication of your self-image that defines itself by the positions and possessions of life.” (Adam Brady). The ego is based on experiencing a lack or void. In sanskrit, this void is translated to lacuna. We are ignorant of our fullness. We perceive a void. From our “voidness” we reach into the world to find something that will fulfill us. We become selfish, not because we are bad people, but because when you feel individually starving for connection and love, you can only think of “I”. We are so hungry for connection that our selfishness is more of an impulse than a decision. It is the practice and knowledge of yoga that helps us transform our impulses and urges into conscious choices. We need knowledge to know that selfishness is not the only answer.
From our selfishness, arises attachment. Attachment is a conditional relationship with an object or being. A relationship based on personal motive. We become attached to objects and beings with the thought that by having external accessories, our void will be filled. Out of attachment, arises aversion. Aversion is an avoidance of anything that challenges the ego. When the ego feels challenged, it avoids. Most of our productive relationships and spiritual relationships are not those that feed the ego, but ones that challenge it. This may sometimes result in us avoiding these relationships in our lives. You should avoid relationships with people or objects that misalign with your values. But before you make the decision to remove someone or something, participate in self-reflection. Is it you?