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Ego Boundaries

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

Excerpts about Ego Boundaries

Aloneness Means Having No Boundaries

To allow yourself not to have boundaries means to accept your aloneness. At the very core of our assumptions about reality, we think aloneness means separateness. But aloneness is not being separate. The aloneness means having no boundaries. How can this be? It is a paradox. The aloneness means your personality is not there, that Essence is on its own without personality. It is beingness without the label.

Attributing to the Personal Essence a Sense of Boundaries

One’s ego boundaries are so much a part of ordinary perception that one never questions them; the sense of oneself as a separate entity is taken to be an objective and absolutely necessary characteristic of being a living human being. However, the ever-expanding development of the Personal Essence gradually puts pressure, by the mere fact of its presence, on the sense of being an ego individual, exposing the ego individuality as unreal Ignorance of this fundamental difference between Essence and ego in terms of the sense of being a person creates a subtle contraction in the psychophysical apparatus that becomes increasingly obvious as one becomes more familiar with the Personal Essence, This contraction becomes a pressure, a resistance or a sense of constriction against the full presence of the Personal Essence. The lack of clarity causes a confusion in one’s mind between the Personal Essence and the ego individuality; one sometimes takes one for the other. One typically attributes to the Personal Essence characteristics that do not belong to it, but to the ego individuality. Eventually one realizes that he has been attributing to the Personal Essence a sense of boundaries, which separate him from others and from the whole environment. It gradually dawns on him that the Personal Essence has no sense of boundaries at all, no sense of separateness whatsoever; and that the separateness one attributed to it belongs to the ego individuality. One starts to see that there has always been a subtle identification with the sense of separateness with respect to being a person. As we have discussed, the sense of being a separate individual develops through the construction of ego boundaries. The ego individuality always has two characteristics: the sense of being a separate entity, and the sense of self, that is, the feeling of identity that differentiates the entity subjectively from other entities.The sense of separateness is different from the sense of identity. The separateness involves the belief in individual boundaries, while the sense of self, which is like an emotional coloring of the entity,differentiates it from other entities.

Becoming Aware and Resolution of Ego Boundaries

The process of becoming aware of ego boundaries involves perceiving the tensions and images regarding the contours of the body, which are experienced as having some property—thickness, tension, peculiar sensation—that distinguishes them from the inside of the body. The perceived boundaries do not always fit the actual contours of the body. Sometimes they extend slightly around it, as some kind of a ball, or as a distortion of the objective shape of the body. Sometimes they are experienced all around the body, when their function is to give the sense of individuality. Sometimes they are clearly experienced in some places in the body, but not in others. There are different kinds of ego boundaries, which feel different and have different functions. However, they all give the sense of being a separate individual. Each set of boundaries forms a sub-issue, which can be resolved separately. The resolution of ego boundaries in general means the letting go of all boundaries. This is a very dramatic and cataclysmic experience. The issue of ego boundaries is much more difficult to understand and resolve than that of the ego self or identity. Paradoxically, although working with this issue requires a great deal of work, it is only the complete abandonment of all effort that brings the resolution. This part of essential realization is the main step towards freedom from ego, and is considered by some spiritual teachings to be the experience of enlightenment. The issue of separating boundaries is expected to be the most difficult barrier on any spiritual path. 

Boundaries are Characteristic of Noetic Forms

It is not that physical boundaries don't exist -- if that were the case, there would be no differentiation, no color, no action. They do exist, but not as partitioning walls ... they exist as differentiating outlines, articulating many different tastes, textures, and colors, without obscuring the underlying nature of everything as One. It is as though you have dropped different colors of dye into a fluid; many colors are swirling around, but it is still the same fluid. One way of putting it is that the boundaries define a difference, but not a separateness. So I am different from you, but I am not separate from you; people are different from each other, but they are not separate from each other. The existence of boundaries, then, does not negate the underlying unity. Boundaries are characteristic of the objective concepts or noetic forms, relevant on the level of creation and existence. Boundaries and the forms they define are characteristics of the thoughts of God, as it were. This is why we call the universe a mind. To the ego, separateness means impermeable boundaries, or isolation, but real separation is something quite different. Real separation means particularization out of the unity or, for human beings, individuation. It means recognizing that your true nature is not determined by external influences. At a deep unconscious level, it involves separating from your mother -- separating in the sense that who you take yourself to be is not determined by her. This is not isolating yourself, but rather recognizing your uniqueness and individuating.

Facets of Unity, pg. 105

Boundaries Define a Difference but not a Separateness

Ordinarily, we do not experience the true nature of our souls because we have defined ourselves vis-à-vis the boundaries of our bodies. We have taken these boundaries to define our identity, believing that these physical boundaries are a fundamental and intrinsic aspect of who we are when, in fact, they are the most superficial aspect of who we are. This conviction that the body boundary defines us actually solidifies the sense of separateness by creating a layer of surface tension in the skin. When we actually experience the body boundary, we feel it as tension on the periphery of the body. It is not that physical boundaries don’t exist—if that were the case, there would be no differentiation, no color, no action. They do exist, but not as partitioning walls; seen through the fact of Holy Omniscience, they exist as differentiating outlines, articulating many different tastes, textures, and colors, without obscuring the underlying nature of everything as One. It is as though you have dropped different colors of dye into a fluid; many colors are swirling around, but it is still all the same fluid. One way of putting it is that the boundaries define a difference, but not a separateness. So I am different from you, but I am not separate from you; people are different from each other, but they are not separate from each other. The existence of boundaries, then, does not negate the underlying unity. Boundaries are characteristic of the objective concepts or noetic forms, relevant on the level of creation and existence. Boundaries and the forms they define are characteristics of the thoughts of God, as it were. This is why we call the universe a mind.

Facets of Unity, pg. 105

Boundaries, Body and Balance

When the body is relaxed and balanced and has no tension, there are no boundaries. The boundaries are tensions in the body. The experience of boundaries goes along with tensions in the body. The body armor is the boundary. When the body is balanced, relaxed, there is no need for boundaries. So you could say that some self-realization can be done physically. In the end, self-realization is the completely relaxed body, nothing else. When the body is completely relaxed, it is the window to the universe. That window allows the possibility of perception, awareness and experience. When the body goes, the window is gone, which is a further development, a greater opening.

Dissolving Boundaries

We already know how modification of the self-image can change a person's experience and action in the world. This is, in fact, one way of seeing the action of any kind of psychotherapy. As some of the boundaries imposed on an individual by his self-image are dissolved, he gains greater freedom of perception and action. For instance, as the "weak" person understands his "weakness", as he sees its genesis and understands its psychodynamics, this boundary of "weakness" is challenged and gradually dissolves. As a person stops thinking of himself as "weak", his actions in the world change. In fact, he starts acting in ways that he had never thought he could, taking actions that he had thought only "strong" people could take, or even doing things that he had never thought anyone could do.

The Void, pg. 18

Ego Development is a Process of Bounding Space

Given our understanding of mind as space, we can see then that the separation-individuation process that Mahler speaks of not only builds the psychic structure and gives the individual his sense of identity, but more fundamentally, it accomplishes this by erecting boundaries and fixing them in space. In other words, the process of ego development is a process of bounding space, of building static boundaries in the openness of the mind. It is the carving of structure out of space, and the resulting psychic structure then is simply a structuralized space. This explains very clearly why when self-boundaries are dissolved, space appears. What happens is that the structuralization is dissolved, the boundaries are “melted.” When the structure is melted, the nature of the mind with no structure is revealed, and this is space.

The Void, pg. 35

Ego Individuality is a Mental Structure, Not a Beingness

Ego boundaries create not only a sense of separateness, but, in a fundamental way, a sense of isolation and lack of contact. ..... This is also a subtle perception, requiring a great deal of disidentification. As we discussed in the section on contact, the individuality of ego feels like a kind of personal contact, but only the Personal Essence can make real, direct contact. Our present discussion of boundaries makes it clear why this is so. It is not only because ego individuality is a mental structure and not a beingness, but also because its very existence is based on its boundaries. These boundaries separate it from the rest of the world much more profoundly than is usually assumed. When one experiences the quality of contact of the Personal Essence, it becomes clear how thoroughly ego is shut off within its boundaries, as if behind walls. It is painfully isolated from true human contact It is common understanding that deep contact requires that one relax, let go of one’s boundaries, and become vulnerable. The essential contact of the Personal Essence is made possible by a complete relaxation of defensive boundaries, a total vulnerability. This immediate, real contact is possible only for a personal presence that does not have the isolating boundaries of ego.This quality of the Personal Essence is mysterious, even miraculous.

Self-Image is Simply Boundaries Frozen in Space

Not only does space correct the distortion of body-image and dissolve the psychological boundaries of the self-image, it ultimately dissolves the self-image as a rigid structure bounding experience. This provides a hint regarding the ontological truth about self-image. Since we see that space makes the body-image objective and realistic, i.e., correcting it according to objective reality, we can assume that it also corrects the self-image according to objective reality. That is, ontologically, self-image is simply boundaries frozen in space, frozen by their cathexis with libidinal energy. When the cathexis is undone, the boundaries dissolve into empty space, which is what actually exists as the nature of the mind. Therefore, we can say that pursuing psychodynamic understanding of the self-image all the way to the end will leave us with, among other things, a real and objective body-image and the experience of the mind as open space.

The Void, pg. 52

The Sense of Being an Individual is the Presence of Boundaries

One cannot free oneself from boundaries for several reasons: One is the boundaries. The sense of being an individual is the presence of boundaries. So if one does anything to try to free himself, he will be automatically asserting his presence, which is the presence of boundaries. If he even desires, wishes or wants the absence of boundaries he will be merely expressing the desires, wishes and wants of his individuality; and hence he will be asserting the presence of boundaries. Being has no desires. Being, even the Personal Essence, is completely desireless. The presence of any desire is the presence of the ego individuality, and hence of ego boundaries. Most spiritual teachings say that one cannot attain enlightenment if one desires it; only when one let's go of all desire, even desire for enlightenment, can it happen. Doing anything at all indicates the presence of ego activity, and the action of hope and desire... Using any technique or method, doing anything intentional, means also asserting the will of the ego, which is inseparable from the ego individuality.

Understanding What Ego Boundaries Truly Are

Experiencing this ego state gives the final understanding of what ego boundaries truly are. Here one knows that a boundary is not an objective and ontologically real phenomenon, but a reaction, a contraction. In this experience, typically the skin is a little hot, a little prickly, a little dry. One feels somewhat frustrated, but also empty. One feels like an empty shell, and the shell is nothing but a very thin layer of a frustrating kind of prickliness. This state of boundaries is nothing but the sense of surface tension itself, a slight contraction all over the skin. It is ego boundaries in the state of pure contraction, the presence of negative merging affect all around one’s body. The dissolution of this boundary can bring about a state of emptiness, a deep level of Space. One feels as if he is going to fall on his face, and fall forever. One feels so open, so spacious, that there is nothing between one and the world. As these boundaries dissolve one frequently feels as if he is going to lose his breath, because there is no control on the breathing function. One feels directly in touch with everything, as if one’s chest contains the whole universe. One feels as if he extends forever, for then, one is the spacious, boundless void. It is interesting that this level of ego boundaries is related to the state of negative merging. Although one feels distinctly separate, one still feels somehow connected to his mother, the primary object of ego. This indicates that the development of ego boundaries is closely related to the negative experience in the symbiotic stage.

When the Soul is Not Structured by Ego Boundaries

Although these ego boundaries form the basis of our sense of separateness, the belief that we are separate entities goes deeper than this. The soul, when it is structured by the ego, has the shape of the body in our consciousness, whether or not we are aware of it. When it is not structured by the ego, you might experience the soul as having a jelly-like, plasmatic form, yet still experience it as a separate entity which, in fact, it is not. It is more accurate to talk about the soul current or soul flow than to call it a soul, since that makes it sound like a separate entity. It is more like a wave being formed by the constant movement of the currents, inseparable from the ocean out of which it arises.

Facets of Unity, pg. 104

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