Liberation does not come when you conquer your ego, silence it, or through repression and denial get it to behave “properly.” Liberation comes when we release our attachment to the habitual conditioned nature and structure of our temporary egos. We can nod and smile when our ego, like a slightly demented relative who means well, offers its endless array of opinions, judgments, and knee-jerk reactions, but know that our ego is merely doing what it does best: Valuate. More of that. Less of this. I don’t give a shit. Good for the ego. And thank goodness we’re more than just our egos! Awakening can awaken, and we can change. Compassion is part of that awakening, and when insight is deep enough, compassion is suddenly louder than passion, aggression, or ignorance. And then our angst becomes our liberation.

For now, remember: we are only temporarily someone; seeing clearly through the myth of our being allows us to reincarnate at will. Do you get that? We don’t need to imagine reincarnation in some far-off bardo realm. You sit there, right now, with a poison arrow sticking out of your chest, and you want to know about heaven and hell. Tsk, tsk. We have more important things to talk about! The antidote to poison is right here.

From The Heart of Zen: Enlightenment, Emotional Maturity, and What It Really Takes for Spiritual Liberation by Jun Po Denis Kelly Roshi and Keith Martin-Smith ©2014. Reprinted with permission of North Atlantic Books. 

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