― Jesus Christ
According to Wikipedia...
In descriptions of psychedelic experiences, the term is used synonymously with ego-loss to refer to (temporary) loss of one's sense of self due to the use of psychedelics. The term was used as such by Timothy Leary to describe the death of the ego in the first phase of an LSD trip, in which a "complete transcendence" of the self occurs. The concept is also used in contemporary spirituality and in the modern understanding of Eastern religions to describe a permanent loss of "attachment to a separate sense of self" and self-centeredness. This conception is an influential part of Eckhart Tolle's teachings, where Ego is presented as an accumulation of thoughts and emotions, continuously identified with, which creates the idea and feeling of being a separate entity, and only by disidentifying one's consciousness from it can one truly be free from suffering (in the Buddhist meaning).
I was born and raised a 'cradle Catholic' by immigrant parents, of whom I share with an older and a younger brother. We had a middle class upbringing, plenty of food to eat, and even the opportunity to attend a state college.
When I was young, I struggled with fitting in among my peers. In junior high I became aware of the various castes and class systems that exist with the onset of adolescence. I wanted to be popular, I wanted to win the affections of the girls that I desired, I wanted to be rich, successful, and happy.
My parents enrolled me in school about a year ahead of time which means that I matured much slower than the other kids. Intellectually I was able to compete; however, physically I was smaller and less developed than the other boys which made sports difficult. For high-school my parents sent me to an all boys private school which placed me in an even more competitive academic environment. I was no longer the star student I had once been. Any illusions of being "one of the smart" kids was dissolved time and time again. Still I did the best I could to get as much out of my education as possible, but still found myself associating with the outcasts and minorities in my class. Somehow when my peers were graduating and being accepted to top tier universities, I failed to apply myself and got accepted to what some might call a second or even third tier university here at home instead of a new and exciting city like my friends. In spite of the feelings of shame, I at least received a full scholarship to attend which made me feel a little special.
When I got there, again my adolescent desires to be popular, attract desirable young women, and generally be successful in life had followed me. For a time, I achieved all of those things. My freshman year, I had found a girl friend, won a talent show, "Mr UTD", and secured a coveted job as a resident Peer Adviser. Life was a dream! The Universe had answered my prayers; however, instead of things remaining on this trajectory there would be hardship more difficult than anything I had ever contended with before...
Shortly after graduating, outside of the bubble that was my happy university experience, I took a soul eating job that promised riches if I could last the long hours and humiliation from sales calls. I struggled with an infatuation to an unfaithful girlfriend who ended up branch swinging to a "bigger better deal". And finally on a more personal note, my heart was broken by family struggling with addiction. The whole illusion of my world came crashing down. Every day I humiliated myself with a bully of a manager that pushed me to my mental breaking point in order to pursue his lust for money until I was unceremoniously "let-go". My opportunistic girlfriend lost interest in me whenever I seemed not to perform and seemed to find consolation in her own race/religion of special people (specifically her ex-boyfriend), but used the pretense that our respective religions were not compatible for raising children together. At home my family was dealing with financial struggles with their business and as I mentioned earlier, the demon of addiction. My mother said that she felt someone had placed an "evil eye" on our family, but still my parents remained faithful in prayer.
I entered into the darkest chapter of my life up to that point. I was only 25, but the illusion of a happy marriage, children, a wealthy and successful family felt as if it had been flushed down the toilet. At the time I lived with friends in a house where my room was literally in the basement devoid of light. For the first time I suffered from depression which is a serious mental and spiritual illness. Nothing mattered. Color lost its vibrancy, a beautiful day seemed gray, and my mind could not focus as if I were shell-shocked. I received traffic citations, one for driving too fast, and the other for going too slow. I was having trouble eating, sleeping, and bouncing back to normal. It was terrible and something I wouldn't wish on anyone.
In my desperation, I turned to prayer. I arrogantly asked God to show himself to me if he was there or even existed at all. I was angry and upset that life wasn't going the way that I had planned. I felt cheated out of something that was just an illusion. After all my anger, mourning, and tears, my adult tantrum was over. I had experienced the different stages of grief and in my prayer I was told "to relax and be calm"...
I believe for me that this was this moment that I experienced the death of my ego. From that moment I was not the same person. I stopped cutting my hair as I no longer wished to appear the same as I had been before. I had never gone more than a month or two without cropping my hair short, but for now I was content to trust God and let it grow as He had intended for me to look naturally. Then like the little bread crumbs that Hansel and Gretel left in the woods to find their way back home, I started to see little 'coincidences' that only God could have known and left for me. I felt a calling to 'let go' of my plans and trust in Him.
I didn't realize it at the time, but looking back now I can see that it was then that I began to climb out of the light-less hole that depression had allowed me to sink into. Of course I would still experience post traumatic stress from time to time; however, it would eventually pass. Small disturbances in my daily routine ceased to bother me as I had grown battle hardened to temporary pain. In fact I started to laugh at these tiny irritations and see the humor of people still trapped in ego. Things that seemed to upset or rattle other people were tiny and trifling matters to me. Months and months passed by and my hair grew quickly down to my shoulders. At some point I started growing a beard despite never having gone a few weeks without a haircut or shave. I stopped caring about what I looked like to others, what my life looked like on paper, or how society looked at me. I began to read leisurely for the first time in my life. I re-read Siddhartha, a story about the Buddha which we were required to read in high-school; however, somehow it was different. I related to the story as it paralleled my own life struggles. I was reminded that desire was the source of all of life's suffering. That Ego was an illusion. I read the Bible searching for answers. I read all kinds of books.
One day I awoke from a nightmare covered in sweat. I was re-experiencing a trauma in an episode of PTSD. I got up from my bed and went to the bathroom to "wake up" and when I switched on the light I saw a reflection that I simultaneously recognized and was different staring at me from the mirror. With my long dark hair, brown skin, and beard I saw the reflection of Jesus Christ looking at me with the most compassionate eyes. I stared for a minute before I started to tear up joyfully, fell to my knees, and thanked the Father for His Son and for answering my irreverent question with a tender reminder.
My ego served to help me survive when I was young; however, it was also the source of great suffering. I mourned the death of my young self despite the fact that air was still in my lungs, I remember how I used to be and now how I am. Truly this is what Jesus was talking about when He spoke of seeing the Kingdom of Heaven, a place without suffering, a place without the Ego.
In stories an alter-ego is said to be an alternative version of oneself. When I experienced ego death, through blind faith my new persona unintentionally grew both externally as well as internally into a reflection of Christ. My advice to those suffering is to understand the illusion of ego, to "let go" while praying to Our Heavenly Father for guidance, and to dawn an alter-ego that reflects Christ.