For many years I believed that I was my ego and that my soul was my higher self. Many people share this belief. I regularly hear people ask, “Do I have a soul?” The “I” in that question is typically what they consider to be their body, brain and associated mind including their egoic personality. This is essentially how they self-identify.

I was once teaching a class about beliefs, emotions and coping strategies, during which I suggested to the participants that they consider releasing some of their beliefs so that their coping strategies wouldn’t be triggered as often. One of the participants became very upset. She was horrified by that suggestion and at one point in the discussion, which became very emotional on her part, she literally screamed, “I am my beliefs!”

How do you self-identify? Do you claim to be a spiritual being that occupies a physical vessel? Or instead, do you believe that you are that vessel (a body and brain) and that somewhere in and/or around you there is something that is of a spiritual nature that is somehow connected to you? Very few people truly identify themselves as primarily spiritual because most of us don’t perceive their world through that lens. If we don’t experience and perceive in that way, it is exceedingly difficult to identify ourselves as primarily spiritual beings. We may think of ourselves that way, but to truly identify at our core in that manner is very difficult, as long as we experience and perceive life mainly through the lens of our ego.

What exactly is ego? Because so many of us consciously or subconsciously self-identify as our ego, we tend to think that ego is actually an entity. Why wouldn’t we? After all, we tend to identify ourselves in that way and we consider ourselves to be living, breathing beings. Regardless, the ego is not an entity. It is a construct. Our ego is a collection of beliefs and mental processes. It is part of our operating software that is resident in the brain. In fact, just like software, it can be changed and updated.

When I use software on my computer I am limited to performing only that which the software is programmed to accomplish, which is why I must use different software for different tasks. We each have programmed our brains in various ways to accomplish a variety of tasks. Once we have accomplished the programming, which we call learning, we can accomplish the task at hand more automatically and with greater efficiency. Human programming is very complex and includes thousands of beliefs and processes, which allow us to function in the world and feel as safe and secure as we can.

Are you that programming, those beliefs, thoughts and processes? Or are you that which did the programming and functions by using that programming? How often do you suspend that programming and determine how well that programming is serving you? Are you a slave to that programming so that you can operate more subconsciously or automatically in the world with as little engagement as possible? Or do you consciously evaluate and change that programming in order to better serve yourself and others?

As you ask yourself these questions and determine for yourself at which level are you functioning, ego or spirit? Hint: use your feeling nature to determine the answer.