Based on my book, Beyond the Ego: Where Happiness, Joy, and Peace of Mind Await You (2012), I developed a series of classes that soon evolved into rigorous weekend workshops (a.k.a., “intensives”) to help students take the journey from ego consciousness to Spirit consciousness, or more simply, from ego to Spirit. I initially grouped these classes and intensives under the heading “Awaken to Ego, Discover Your Spirit,” although most students now refer to its abbreviated forms, Awaken to Ego or ATE.
Some may wonder why the program is called Awaken to Ego rather than Awaken from Ego. The reason is that to discover the fullness and beauty of Spirit, one must go through ego rather than around it. To go through ego, we must be aware of its insidious presence in order to know what we must pass through to get beyond it.
The growth of the program has been exponential, due largely to ATE’s unique perspective. The vast majority of participants say that this process has changed their lives. The primary goal of this book is to offer you the opportunity to involve yourself in the ATE program so that you too, if you so choose, can change your life. In reading this book, you will be able to understand, assimilate, and apply your own spiritual practice(s) in ways that you may have found difficult before, even if you’ve participated in programs related to some of the richest spiritual traditions.
The problem with many spiritual approaches is that they tend to become top-heavy, a term I use to describe a condition in which the concepts and principles are lodged in one’s patterns of thought and never quite make it into the center of one’s being. In other words, they never get to the point where they can be applied to everyday challenges and emotional struggles in a way that will endure. Instead, they develop into cognitive whirlpools that go round and round but never reach the depths of our hearts where Spirit lives. Ego lives in our thoughts, often even in some of our most revered spiritual ideas, and can actually hide there for decades. Time and again, this theme is repeated by students in the Awaken to Ego program: “I’ve tried this and that approach to spirituality. I’ve gone to more seminars than I care to count. I’m a junkie for spiritual books; yet I can only catch an occasional glimpse of the peace I seek in my life, and then it is gone.”
Taking an intellectual approach to spirituality can be hard work. It often requires a diligence—a life of forced practices—and that is not what spirituality is meant to be. We are born of Spirit, bathed in love, peace, and joy. These are characteristics of who we really are. They do not have to be worked at or forced. Ego obstructs the awareness of our spiritual nature, and it is only ego’s involvement in our lives that causes us to work so hard in our attempts to be authentic.
Spirit lives in our hearts. According to Ruth Markus, “The distance between our judging minds and our loving hearts is about fourteen inches.”1 To access Spirit, we must travel those fourteen inches to get beyond our egos and discover our true spiritual nature, i.e., who we really are. Fourteen inches to peace—that’s as far as we have to travel to get out of our heads and into our hearts and discover and enjoy our true, authentic selves. The goal, then, is to move away from a top-heavy spirituality toward one that is centered in the core of one’s being.
Your chosen path to access spirituality must make sense to you intellectually, of course. But it can’t stop there. You must travel experientially from head to heart where spirituality can be engaged, embraced, integrated, and implemented into your daily life in a way that is simple, doable, and even fun.
Awaken to Ego is not a new spiritual practice that is likely to become yet one more piece of information that lodges itself in people’s heads. It is a new dimension of spirituality itself, a personal experience that becomes the catalyst for spiritual transformation, a methodology that unlocks the deeper reaches of your own spiritual practices, whatever they happen to be. It addresses the spiritual healing of everyone, from beginners to those who have been on spiritual journeys for ten, twenty, thirty years, or more. As one student put it, “Awaken to Ego brings Spirit to my spirituality.” Another participant said, “Just as Pinocchio turned from a wooden puppet into a real live boy, Awaken to Ego brings my spirituality to life in ways that I never dreamed possible.”
My hope is that this book will help you move forward on your own spiritual path to peace. As with all book knowledge, the risk is that this information, too, will remain fourteen inches from your heart unless you pay close attention to the importance of taking the journey inward. That is the purpose of the ATE perspective: to help you experience the inward journey from ego to Spirit.
Nothing about Awaken to Ego contradicts other spiritual traditions. Rather, as many of our students have reported, it breathes life into one’s existing spiritual practice(s). Hence, it occurred to me that it might make sense to demonstrate ATE’s compatibility with at least one other spiritual orientation.
As I was considering which tradition to select, I had the fortuitous pleasure of meeting Elizabeth Beau, who has taught A Course in Miracles (ACIM) for twenty-seven years. For those who are unfamiliar with ACIM, it is a self-study curriculum that aims to help readers in achieving spiritual transformation. More than two million copies of the book have been sold, and there are countless study groups worldwide facilitated by teachers like Elizabeth. ACIM emphasizes application rather than theory and experience rather than theology. It specifically states that “a universal theology is impossible, but a universal experience is not only possible but necessary” (Manual, p. 77). Although it is Christian in focus, “the Course deals with universal Spiritual themes. Its ideas contain the foundation for the Workbook’s lessons. Without the practical application the Workbook provides, the Text would remain largely a series of abstractions …” (Preface, pp. viii, ix).
Interestingly, in my discussions with Elizabeth, herself a graduate of the Awaken to Ego program, I learned that, by and large, people in the ACIM classes tend to overlook the lessons in the ACIM Workbook, thereby lending credence to its author’s statement, “Without the practical application the Workbook provides, the Text would remain largely a series of abstractions…” In other words, A Course in Miracles, like other spiritual traditions, can easily fall prey to ego’s enticement to keep its rich constructs in our heads rather than travel fourteen inches to our hearts—the very top-heavy syndrome that was mentioned previously.
Here, then, was an obvious choice to demonstrate that Awaken to Ego is not only compatible with ACIM, it is a catalyst that helps bring it to life. This congruence suggests the possibility that ATE may have the potential to unlock the mystery of spiritual transformation in your own spiritual practice as well. And, in fact, this is precisely what ATE students who come to it from other spiritual approaches report to be their experience.