You have to have a self in order to let go of a self.
Selflessness is often touted as the highest aspiration. We should think of others first. We should martyr ourselves, sacrifice ourselves. And while the true state of our existence is one of identification with the Divine, rather than with the self, we think that the path toward selflessness involves one of shaming and denying the self.
But, as the quotation states, we can’t get rid of something that doesn’t exist! If we give and sacrifice and deny from a place of emptiness, we are simply creating complexes and other unhealthy emotional patterns that are obstacles to our spiritual and psychological growth. The problem isn’t having or not having an ego; the question is how well do we understand our ego?
There is an old Sufi saying, “Do you ride the camel or does the camel ride you?” The camel is the ego. We can’t get rid of the camel. But, how am I interacting with the camel? How am I interacting with my “self”? Do I understand my past, my family history, my habits and relationships? If I don’t understand my self, then my self is controlling me.
Gradually, as I begin to understand myself, I can let go of all the things that bind me, hook me, trigger me. I can see that I am more than my past, and that actually I am connected to something much greater than just my-self. This is a slow process, and one that is motivated by love, love for the self.
So, ask yourself, are you riding the camel or is the camel riding you?