In their 1974 song “Already Gone,” The Eagles sang, “So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains, and we never even know we have the key.”
I don’t know whether or not The Eagles meant it, but it perfectly fits to interpret the “chains” to be the identification with our ego. The ego is based in separation and individuation. Think of the ego as our body/mind self, which contains all of our programming from early on in life. Limiting thoughts, feelings, beliefs and fears are based in the ego.
Our lives can become imprisoned and unconsciously governed by limiting ego beliefs such as “not good enough” or “fear of failure” or “it’s too scary and painful to open up and fully receive love.” The ego works overtime to protect us from possible emotional pain, yet it is also striving hard to find love, joy, peace and security, mostly outside of ourselves.
When we incarnate here, the dance of the ego begins with the trauma of separation. We are dependent on our caregivers for love, security and a sense of well-being. We become conditioned to search for unconditional love outside ourselves, and if we don’t find it, limiting beliefs about our self can form and we can develop a tendency to guard our hearts.
Yet, we are multidimensional beings. There’s another part of us — the soul. The soul comes from Source. Like drops of water which form the wave that belongs to the ocean, we are a human, a soul and we also belong to the one creator Source. In other words, we are not separate from Source energy — and we are not separate from the love, security, peace and joy that we are searching for outside of ourselves.
Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is within you.” Not only does love lie within us, but we are unconditional love. As Paramahansa Yogananda, author of Autobiography of a Yogi, once said, “We come from love, we go back to love, and we are love.”
Going back to The Eagles’ song, telling us that we live our life in chains, never even knowing we have the key, “the key” is a mere perception shift. Adyashanti, another spiritual teacher, equates human life to “the greatest slight-of-hand card trick.” He says, “Enlightenment is really just a radical shift in identity.” He means that spiritual awakening is about identifying primarily with the pure light, energy and consciousness that animates all of life, the part of us that can never be harmed or die.” Another name for this level of consciousness is Christ consciousness or Oneness consciousness.
When you operate from Oneness consciousness, you see yourself in others. You see through other people’s ego state of consciousness, which is unconsciously striving for love and connection or else protecting itself from love and connection, and instead view all beings with love and compassion. It is automatic. “Oneness” needs nothing from another, and instead is motivated and fueled by giving and being love.
Experiencing this level of love is a subtraction process. As we quiet our thinking minds and go within through meditation or an inner journey, or by simply becoming fully present, we can experience peace and love within ourselves. When we let go of the mind’s filters and programs and are truly present, we can feel a reservoir of deep peace beneath our fears.
Another way of experiencing ourselves as love is to practice what Neale Donald Walsch, author of the Conversation With God series, suggests: “If you want more joy in your life, be the source of joy for another. If you want more love in your life, cause another to feel loved.” Experiment with it. Relationships go much smoother, he says, when we view them not as a cookie tray to grab something from, but rather as a container to pour something into.
Here’s another experiment: Adyashanti writes, “When the divine part of you silently acknowledges the divine part of another, their divine self knows that it’s being acknowledged and it will feel good being in your presence. They may not even know why.” To be the unconditional love that we already are requires a perception shift out of our ego consciousness. Practice identifying as the love that you are, and then begin to view others as that same love behind their human form and their ego consciousness. It’s like a muscle that you exercise. Over time, it becomes your natural state, mainly because it is your natural state!