The Eternal Conflict of the Ego and Soul
The Eternal Conflict
Within each and every one of us is an unavoidable duality. A conflict between the ego - the cunning trickster spinning story after story, grasping to engineer your belief in its existence, and Atman - the ultimate reality at the core of all being, pure love detached from all selfish interest, the observer of all experience.
The ego is the illusion of self and other. It is the voice of ‘I’ and ‘mine’, constructing an imaginary web of desires, concepts, ideas, and all other thoughts that strengthen the falsehood that you are separate from all. The ego lives not in the present for it can only construct itself from stories of the past or dreams of the future. The ego desperately grasps from moment to moment, trying to convince us all of its existence. This futile grasping leads us down the path of frustration and insecurity. Ego beckons us down selfish paths in it’s hopeless attempt to validate its existence, all the while whispering in our ear that the decisions we are making for the best, that we are our egos and that the ego will always keep us safe.
Despite the never ending self-sabotaging and limiting beliefs of the ego that hold us back our whole lives, many of us become disillusioned to the point that we believe wholeheartedly that the entirety of our being is our ego. This grasping pushes us to value things that leave us with a bitter taste in our mouths and a sense of emptiness in our hearts. Perhaps you cannot be satisfied unless you have all the riches in the world? Yet no matter how many material things you own or how much your bank balance increases, the hole in your heart remains ever apparent. Growing deeper with every friend you turn your back on and every connection you sever in favour of financial success.
Or is yours a story of resilience? You have experienced great hardship and pulled yourself up from rock bottom multiple times. You are strong and adaptable. No matter what life throws at you, you're always prepared and you can overcome it. Yet despite your identity of strength, you are filled with fear and anticipation of the next traumatic experience. You are resilient and how can you continue to prove that to be your identity unless there is suffering to overcome? And so, you manifest a never ending parade of pain so you can validate your story of who you are.
Maybe you see yourself as a gorgeous celebrity, loved by everyone? You desperately wear the mask society designed for you, showing the world a filtered, highlight-reel version of yourself, everyone ‘loves’ you. You have thousands of loyal devotees ready to copy any trend you set and your social media is blowing up with constant attention from people who desperately want to be you. Yet you have never felt more alone, for you know deep down that you are not the person they’re screaming for to perform and put on a good show. But if you aren’t this perfectly sculpted image of an ego, then who are you? What are you?
Atman, is the ultimate reality. The core being of the universe, it is the only constant in a sea of change. Just like the sky watches the clouds pass it by, Atman observes the chatter of the ego fluttering in and out of existence. Atman is the soul, pure presence. Patiently and lovingly awaiting to awaken from the dreams of the ego. Atman is the warm sensation that runs through every fibre of your being when you sacrifice your own selfish gain to help another. It is the pleasant rush of euphoria that lifts you above the clouds when you experience deep connection, hold your child, feel the gentle ocean water caress your toes as you watch the sunset, feel the first sun of spring on your face, or lose yourself in the rhythm of music. Atman is the universe, experiencing itself through us all as it’s mouthpiece. In moments of pure presence and love, the rushing voices of the ego dissipate and the all-encompassing stillness of the soul embraces us. We’ve all seen glimpses of this. On the days when you are surrounded by a group of loving friends, laughing, listening to music and connecting on a deep level whilst you talk about anything and everything. In the blink of an eye, you have been immersed in this comradery for days. Or what about when you fall in love? I’m talking about real love. The kind of love that makes the problems of yesterday fade into nothingness and the worries of the future seem like child’s play. Perhaps you are creative? Is it not Atman that you are connected to when you find yourself in a state of flow? Maybe you’re painting and before you know it, the entire day has passed you by whilst you’ve been losing yourself with every brush stroke. Or are you a writer, getting swept up into a flurry of inspiration, endless poetry flowing out of your soul and onto the paper in front of you. Could it be that you’re a musician and everytime you pick up your instrument, you effortlessly innovate music that penetrates the soul and encapsulates all those around you, bringing them all to an awestruck silence.
Beyond inspiration and love, Amtan is also compassion. It is every time you’ve been faced with conflict and you decided to let go of the blame, and the negative, defensive thoughts in your head, and offered empathy and understanding instead. It was Atman, in all those moments when we had an opportunity to be celebrated, and yet we gave the credit to another, knowing it would nurse their pain. It is the soft warmth we feel when we overlook a breath-taking mountain range, lake, forest or jungle. That incredible sense of peace deep within when you witness the innovative, balanced beauty of nature. And Atman is the ache of empathy and sorrow we feel when we see that beauty obliterated, animals and people massacred and the peaceful balance of our home thrown into chaos. We all feel this shared sorrow. Perhaps you take ownership of these feelings, perhaps you hide away and deny it. Or maybe the ego has woven a careful web convincing you that it is out of your hands, that you are powerless, or worse yet, that nothing is happening at all.
We are all connected. As a collective, we decide which path we wish to follow. The path of the Ego, and the path of Atman. This is the eternal conflict. Our collective ego has become so strong that it has manifested the Maya, the illusion of the society that we all live within. A society that celebrates the strongest traits of ego above all else. Sex, power, status and material wealth. Meanwhile the traits of the Atman are left behind, selflessness, love, compassion, connection. These ego driven values have led us as a society to exploit the beautiful planet that created us, profit on the torment and starvation of our brothers and sisters and build a cage for ourselves that leaves us feeling ever more disconnected and alone. The further we allow ourselves slip into the clever clutch of the ego, both as individuals and as a collective, the faster the sands of time will pull us towards the point of no return. Make no mistake. One day the clock will reset and life will once again spring from nature, the ultimate innovator and creator. These descendants will be innocent, left with nothing more than a shadow of the past to guide them away from our mistakes. However, it is still not too late to change our path, to change the course of history and to reconnect with Atman, each other and with the beautiful planet we call home. It’s not too late to take a step back from the never ending parade of ‘progress’ that the ego insists is for the best. It’s not too late to redesign the cage that we have created for ourselves to glorify the traits of love, compassion, selflessness and connection over selfishness, greed and insecurity. The decisions we make in the next decade will not be easy, the sacrifices in our lifestyles will be challenging and the opposition we face will be fierce. But we are one. Together we can be the change we wish to see in this world. One raindrop raises the ocean, but as a collective, we can create a tidal wave of change.
Peace & Love to you all, Olivia Chevallier