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  Self-Acceptance or Ego Death Excerpt from an article from What Is Enlightenment magazine
(Issue 17, Spring/Summer 2000)

Question: The goal of traditional spiritual teachings has generally been understood to be ego death-the final destruction of our attachment to a separate sense of self. But in today's rapidly evolving spiritual culture, what is often taught as the means to liberation is not ego death, but self-acceptance-acceptance of every aspect of ourselves, including our egos. The message of self-acceptance has become increasingly popular and is now commonly seen by spiritual teachers from almost every tradition to be the most effective and holistic way to address the suffering of contemporary Western spiritual seekers. As someone who works closely with many seekers, guiding them on the delicate and subtle path to liberation, why do you emphasize the importance of self acceptance in the pursuit of spiritual freedom?

Cheri Huber: "Kill the ego" is a phrase that is easily misinterpreted. Who is identifying "ego"? Who is killing whom? Who is seeing whom as the problem? Who is right and who is wrong? Who is making these decisions? There are two things we can count on where egocentricity is concerned-One: It is very clever; Two: Its only job is survival. Ego will take anything-ANYTHING-and use it for its purposes, even the notion of killing/dissolving/transcending/accepting itself. You can see the danger, spiritually speaking, of misinterpreting "kill the ego."

These words are interchangeable: I ego, egocentricity, conditioning, karma, suffering. The definition they share is that they are the illusion of a self that is separate.

I offer this as a working definition of self-acceptance: The realization that there is nothing separate-from All That Is, from "God," from Essence. It is the moment-by-moment living awareness that the self who struggles is not who we are but is, instead, karmic conditioning, a learned response to life, a survival system that served us as children but has lost its efficacy for us as adults and now needs to be appreciated, embraced and relived of its job.

The desire to get rid of ego is very different from ceasing to identify with a karmically driven, egocentric, socially conditioned illusion of a separate self. The first implies a contest: Ego is charged with killing ego; ego battles with ego; ego wins! The second implies letting go of the illusion of control; it is the end of struggle, and the means to that end is awareness.

The processes that I teach for ceasing to identify with conditioning are threefold: pay attention, believe nothing, take nothing personally. I don't actually teach self-acceptance. I encourage people to see that the things they believe about themselves are not true. When you see through all that you have been taught to believe, when you realize who you are, self-acceptance becomes irrelevant.

All suffering is held in place by false beliefs. All beliefs are false. What is, is. Believing it is not helpful. Believing is what the illusory separate self does to maintain an existence outside the present moment. The process of not taking any of this personally allows us to see that we are all in the same boat. We can take responsibility for ending suffering, but we don't have to blame ourselves for being born into it.

 
Copyright 2003-2011 Cheri Huber