The single most asked question we have come across is "how do I tell what are the messages of my ego and those of my soul?" To be true the ego and the soul have an existence within each other and so there is a measure of blurring between their realities but for the purposes of this class, let's separate them at their poles, so that we might more easily understand their nature and where they overlap.
What is the nature of the ego?
The ego is a construction of self arising entirely from externals. What the physical senses perceive, the intellect can calculate and memory can remember about us entirely composes the ego.
It is a differentiating mechanism constantly calculating how it is different from the next person or thing, and more than this it fervently seeks to place itself at least 1cm above its surrounds.
As it defines itself by these externals, it also attaches and binds itself to them for its sense of self and fulfilment. For example, it is the ego that believes that having a shiny new car that is faster and more expensive than everyone else's in the street will contribute to it's sense of self and fulfilment, and it is the same ego that is disappointed five minutes after buying it with the realisation that somewhere else there is someone with a car that is shinier and faster and more expensive. This also applies to the way the ego interacts with other people. Social interactions become competitions because the ego needs to be at least 1cm above the next.
The ultimate goal of the ego is to be rich and famous possessing everyone and everything with all succumbing to it.
For the ego everything is conditional, everywhere a marketplace. "What I do for you is in exactly the same measure (or if I am smart(?), less!) than what you have already done for me. I will love you, if you love me etc. Nothing is given without an ulterior motive.
The ego is extremely defensive, to the death, in fact, of it's present state of mind, passionately fearing change and blaming everything but itself for any malaise.
The ego believes that it is the alpha and omega of you, a finite being with a birth and a death stuck in a fight with time and fate.
The soul is a revelation of the real self arising from within.
When someone speaks of 'finding oneself' they are usually speaking of a series of experiences of the soul. If it is that there is a force or universal soul or God that lies at the heart of every atom, then the individual soul is a portion of it. Though to speak of a portion of infinity is impossible and this is exactly the point, because this 'portion' is nothing other than, in fact, the whole. Each of us holds the kingdom of heaven within.
The sense of the soul is perceived by a suspension of the ego, an opening of the heart and an intuitive flow of love or peace or joy or wisdom will inevitably pervade.
The soul is a oneness understanding, joining not only humanity, but all things in the profound wisdom of love.
It enjoys competition as within a real family, to empower and encourage each other to higher and higher heights.
As the soul feels itself within all things it has no desire to bind or possess things to oneself. It feels that since we are all the oceans and the mountains and the skies and the flowers, how can there be ownership? We are all an infinite portion of each other.
The ultimate goal of the soul is to divinise the ego. To flood all egos with the unconditional and infinite love and empowerment of the entire universe so that it might also perceive itself as many and separate, but One and whole.
For the soul, everything is a oneness-heaven where each of us contributes to the collective and each of us is empowered by it.
It constantly challenges our present state of mind when we limit ourselves to the ego by telling us 'You are not that! You are not the body, you are not the mind or ego, you are not finite and bound by time, you are infinite and eternal'
This is why the measure of a real spiritual person is their genuine humility. The higher one journeys the more one realises that the source, the power and the destination of the journey are the one universal soul or God. All we ever do is reveal this reality. Our ownership of even our actions should never be egoic but reveal the intuitive flow of wisdom and love of the universe.
As we said in the beginning there is a definite blurring of realities of the soul and the ego. The ego is on a journey, just like every other part of our nature. from darkness to light, from ignorance to total awareness of the soul. It is meant to be an instrument of the soul, not in competition with it, and you will notice if you haven't already that gradually it will be illumined by the light of the soul and it's sense of itself will gradually enlarge until ultimately the divine ego, feels itself within all.
"We dance to a whispered voice. Overheard by the soul. Undertook by the heart.
And you may know it. If you may know it."
— Neil Diamond from Soundtrack for "Jonathan Livingston Seagull"
After all this - it is time for reflection
So now comes the time where instead of philosophising we observe what we are doing in our lives. How are our present day-to-day behaviours affected by this. Is it possible to live in the soul amidst the hurly-burly of modern life? The answer obviously, is a resounding YES!
To come back to our original question - 'How do I tell if the messages I am receiving are from my soul or my ego?' Well, especially in the beginning it is not so easy. We have spent such a long time ignoring the messages of our soul and listening entirely to our ego that the volume is very loud on our ego and perhaps just a whisper from our soul.
As everything, it requires practise.
It also requires honesty and a large measure of bravery.
Honesty to just listen, not to return to the habits of the ego in constructing a voice that we want to hear, and bravery to follow the messages of the soul, that are often challenging (as they obviously should be!) and sometimes illogical from a worldly point of view.
If you are not immediately intuitively aware that the message you are receiving is from your soul, then try and stop everything and really explore it in a meditation. Messages of your soul, should immediately be accompanied by joy as their nature is the flow of love.
If you are still not sure than you need to consciously question the source of the voice, honestly checking its credentials against all the criteria above. You must also realise that exactly the same action can be performed egoically and again completely soulfully, so it is often not the action that needs to be critically contemplated but the place from where the action is performed.
Either way, if you are still not sure, try as soulfully as you can to take a step down the path that your 'voice' is extolling you to, and immediately stop and meditate and go through the process again, having taken one step. You will see that having gone through the above, you should definitely be feeling joy, if not, stop - it is most likely not a message of your heart.