Nothing is more important than uncovering your true self.
The best way to approach this is by thinking about what you likely consider what is most valuable in your life, namely, your relationships.
I argue in another post [http://dennis-bradford.com/890/difficult-relationships-their-cause-and-cure/] that relationships, interpersonal encounters, are difficult because they are misunderstood. We usually take them to be between (or among) ego/I’s. Your ego/I is not your true self.
There is no standard terminology here. Your ego/I is your “little” or “false” self that is what separates you from everything else. It is what is uniquely you. It is your identity. It is the narrative or story that you think explains your past and gets projected by imagination into your future. It is the whole set of thoughts you have about yourself.
As long as you stay attached to your ego/I, you will be separate from everything else. Since separation is what causes unhappiness (discontent, dissatisfaction, suffering) staying attached to your ego/I perpetuates your unhappiness.
This is why the fundamental mode of the ego/I is that of incessant acquisitiveness (gaining, greed). This is why nearly everyone suffers from the “someday” syndrome: if only I had X, then I would finally be happy. Happiness is always a future event.
Furthermore, since your ego/I is merely a conception that lacks substantial reality, it requires a lot of psychic energy to keep it going. It not only keeps us desiring more and more, all that constant craving is very tiring!
When it comes to other people, we usually judge them on whether or not we can gain something from them. Might he or she make me happier? Of what use could that person be to me?
The beginning of a friendship or love affair usually occurs when two people take each other to be mutually useful.
This whole conception is delusional. Why? The ego/I itself is a fiction. By way of contrast, your true self is real.
The good news is that it is possible to detach from the ego/I, which automatically uncovers your true self. This fundamentally alters all relationships for the better. This explains why difficult relationships are optional.
In a difficult relationship there is separation between two ego/I’s, whereas in a good relationship there isn’t.
Many sages have pointed this out. For example, Sengcan, the third Chan [Zen] ancestor in China, wrote about this detachment in his great “Affirming Faith in Mind”: “In this true world of Emptiness, / both self and other are no more.”
Similarly, Rumi, Islam’s greatest mystic, writes: “When you have tied yourself to detachment from yourself / Know you’ll be sprung free of your ‘I’ / And escape that prison with its thousand traps . . .Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, / there is a field. I’ll meet you there. / When the soul lies down in that grass, / the world is too full to talk about. / Ideas, language, even the phrase each other / doesn’t make any sense.” Unlike your ego/I that is all about getting, your true self is all about loving. Love is the overcoming of separation.
The ego/I specializes in absence. Its objects are always in the past, in the future, or somewhere else in the present. All such objects are both unreal and unknowable. All that is real and knowable is available in the present moment. Unless you want to miss most (or all) of your life, let go of the ego/I and embrace your true self by paying full attention to the present moment.
Here is a two-step method that works well. (I learned it from some books and CD’s by Eckhart Tolle.).
(1) An excellent way to begin is by practicing daily to access your own life energy. For how to do that, see the post at: http://dennis-bradford.com/621/life-energy/.
(2) Then practice using that to improve your relationships. Since interactions usually begin with by exchanging words, practice accessing your own life energy whenever you talk with another. For how to do that, see the post at: http://dennis-bradford.com/858/conversational-skills-an-t-easy-wayo-improve-them/
When you get good at it, the effect may be magical! Even though it is likely that the other person is still stuck in ego, if that person has a history with you, he or she will very quickly begin to notice the improvement (although without understanding why it is happening).
Test it for yourself.
Get really good at accessing your own life energy and then start using that whenever you are in an encounter with another person. I predict that you’ll soon be delighted at the improvements you’ll notice.