7 Stages of Ego Death
Ego death happens in stages, and if courageously pursued, results in the experience of Nirvana, Oneness or Enlightenment.
While ego death is not formulaic or necessarily predictable, it does tend to follow a pattern:
Stage 1 — Spiritual Awakening
In the first stage of ego death, we begin to “wake up” to life. Our process of spiritual awakening might be triggered by a life crisis, a tragedy, a chronic illness, or simply the natural process of soulful maturing. When we experience a spiritual awakening, we begin to search for more depth in life. Often, we ask big questions such as “what is my purpose?” “what is the meaning of life?” and “what happens after death?” Spiritual awakenings are triggered by the sensation that something profound is missing in life and are accompanied by feelings of depression and anxiety.
Stage 2 — The Dark Night of the Soul
The Dark Night of the Soul is inseparable from the spiritual awakening process. When we experience the Dark Night, we become extremely conscious of our separation from ourselves, other people and the Divine. The Dark Night of the Soul is a period when we feel utterly lost, lonely and isolated from others. It is the accumulation or culmination of our suffering. Deep down, we know something has to drastically change in our life, but we don’t know what or where to look. Read more about the Dark Night of the Soul.
Stage 3 — The Spiritual Seeker
Eventually, after experiencing a spiritual awakening and Dark Night of the Soul, we stumble into the field of spirituality. We start experimenting with different spiritual practices and find that some alleviate our suffering. We become obsessed with reducing the suffering we have been carrying and explore many different fields such as energy healing, zen, yoga, astrology, mysticism, etc.
Stage 4 — Satori
The word “Satori” is a Zen Buddhist word that means “momentary enlightenment.” Satori is a small glimpse into your True Nature, or Consciousness itself; a moment when your ego is completely shed. For some, this experience is scary, and spiritual growth stagnates, for others, it is deeply life-changing and spiritual growth continues.
Stage 5 — The Elder Soul
After a certain period of time, we begin to develop spiritual discernment. We discover the gimmicks and spiritual bypassing practices that keep us trapped in the cycle of pain, fear, and separation, and learn practices that open us to the Divine. As we begin to experience more and more soulful maturity, we learn the virtues of self-discipline, patience, and focus.
Stage 6 — Dissolution and Deconstruction
In this stage, we begin to surrender all that we are not. This stage is not just about identifying our destructive and limiting beliefs and behavior patterns, but actually letting them go and letting the light in. Grace, discipline, trust, courage, non-attachment and love all play an important role in this process.
Stage 7 — The End of the Search
Finally, we come to a stop. We realize that all that we are, and all that we need, can be found right now. The search to become something, to lose something, to find something and to accomplish something perish. We see through the illusion of looking for truth, joy, peace, and love in any place outside of ourselves. We see the Truth That We Are mirrored in all beings and all things.
While the ego still exists, we become aware of the ego as simply a tool; not the Truth of Who We Are. Transcending duality and the grip of the ego, we develop unconditional love and acceptance for all things. This is the state of ultimate peace, freedom and what people refer to as “enlightenment,” yet those who experience this know that no possible label or mental construct can encapsulate such an experience.
Ego death is a serious, purging, profound, and shattering experience. It is so deep and so beyond anything we have experienced in this life, that it changes your perception of existence in a single moment.
I hope these “stages” have helped you to understand it better.
Finally, I’ll leave you with a beautiful quote to ponder about death itself:
Death is a stripping away of all that is not you. The secret of life is to die before you die — and find that there is no death. — Eckhart Tolle (The Power of Now)
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- 9 Ways to Check Your Ego When it’s Out of Control
- The Dark Side of Spiritual Awakening
- Shadow Work: How to Let Your Demons Guide You