THE ECLIPSE OF PRISTINE MIND - Pristine Mind: Our Fundamental Nature - Our Pristine Mind: A Practical Guide to Unconditional Happiness (2016)

Our Pristine Mind: A Practical Guide to Unconditional Happiness (2016)


Pristine Mind: Our Fundamental Nature


IF OUR MIND is innately pristine, why don’t we experience that in every moment? There are three reasons for this. First, we are unaware of our Pristine Mind—we don’t know of its existence. Second, we are lost in our mental events, which therefore obscure the presence of Pristine Mind. And third, we identify with our mental events as our normal state of mind. Thus we are unable to reconnect to Pristine Mind by ourselves, without the proper instructions on how to do that.

At this point you probably have several more questions. Why are we disconnected from Pristine Mind? Why can’t we find happiness by using our ordinary mind? Why does it seem so hard to reconnect to Pristine Mind, if it is really already inside us? How did we lose contact with our Pristine Mind in the first place?

To answer these questions, we must understand three related forces that obstruct our experience of Pristine Mind: mental events, primordial fear, and the ego. Together they disrupt our connection with Pristine Mind and dominate our lives. They block our way back to Pristine Mind.


We have said that it is our mental events—the thoughts, emotions, feelings, and other experiences that occur in the mind—that disconnect us from our Pristine Mind. Mental events create a complex web of perception and experience that obscures our connection to our Pristine Mind and makes it difficult to reestablish our connection to it. We enter into a dynamic pattern that takes us further and further away from our Pristine Mind and causes much of our fear, anxiety, and discontent. It is this pattern that the Pristine Mind teachings enable us to reverse.

This requires some explanation.

As most of us will quickly recognize, ordinarily our mind processes a tremendous number of thoughts, ideas, emotions, feelings, beliefs, and other experiences—all the things that are our “mental events.” If you will take a minute to watch your mind, you will see that there is a constant parade of mental experiences and perceptions that march, dart, lumber, or float across your mind like clouds passing across the sky.

Many of these mental events grab our attention. While we fixate on all these mental experiences, in fact they are often just recollections of a past that is dead and gone, or speculations about a future that may not turn out the way we imagined. Even if they seem like impressions about what is happening right now, on examination we see that they are conceptualizations based on the past or the future. As they swarm over us, they obscure the enduring, stable, and empowering Pristine Mind, which would otherwise give us a beautiful experience of the present moment, unpolluted by conceptual thinking. This is like the way storm clouds obscure a sunny blue sky above them.

When we are born into the world, our minds are uncluttered by many mental events. There are few mental events because the mind of an infant has simply not had many experiences yet. We are born with relatively few habits, views, feelings, emotions, or experiences. We do not yet have many thoughts at all. Our experiences are very limited.

As we grow and develop, however, our mind is soon bombarded by experiences that come both from without (all that we see, hear, touch, taste, and smell) and from within (our thoughts, feelings, concepts, and ideas). The specific content of many of these mental events depends in part on our family, the friends we make, the schools we attend, and the belief system in which we are raised. Regardless of the specific forms they take, however, the mental events all distract us and disconnect us from our Pristine Mind.

They create mental energy waves. The more our attention follows after those waves of mental energy, the more the mental events are reinforced and gain momentum. As they gain momentum and magnetize our attention, we drift further away from Pristine Mind.

Early in this process we are like a small child who is playing at a picnic with her family, enjoying the sun, games, and ice cream. While she is perfectly content at the park, she spots some butterflies a few feet away from the blanket and starts to follow them. She chases them here and there. They are not moving very quickly, and their wings are ever so delightful, so she follows them along a few more steps. Eventually she looks up and finds herself in completely unfamiliar territory, with tall trees and dense forest, and has no idea how she got there.

Just like the child, we get lost in mental events. We get increasingly fascinated by our mental events. Soon, it is no longer just small waves of mental energy that we are following. Now we are completely entangled in an increasingly complex web of thoughts, emotions, beliefs, feelings, and experiences, all those mental events that are now far beyond our control. The more we fixate on and pay attention to these complex mental events, the more intricate the web of complexity that we generate. We become trapped in chewing over our past, pondering our future, and always thinking, thinking, thinking, creating concepts and developing mental patterns about what’s going on.

We become unaware, distracted, and separated from the experience of Pristine Mind. Instead of experiencing our Pristine Mind, we are consumed with mental events. This is how the distortion of our mind develops. The accumulation of various mental events becomes so extensive that it completely hides our original Pristine Mind. They cover over our permanently joyous, untainted state of being, which now becomes engulfed by the sea of emotional and cognitive events that we think of as who we are.

All aspects of life are subject to these attention-grabbing eruptions in our mind that are constantly arising and falling away. These experiences, these mental events, constantly clamor for our attention. The rapid pace of change in our world, and the increasing demands made on the mind to be more and more preoccupied with external stimulations and the mental events to which they give rise, only further isolate us from the experience of Pristine Mind.

Once we are disconnected from Pristine Mind, the resulting void in our consciousness is quickly flooded by the vast and ever-changing sea of mental events, and this becomes for us the entire universe of our ordinary experience, our familiar life as we know it. These events are disparate: sometimes fleeting, sometimes capricious, sometimes habitual, sometimes obsessive. Certainly there is no way to corral these runaway horses of the mind, or force the flood of mental activity into a mold of happiness that would be anything like the joy of Pristine Mind that is already present in its perfection. All this confusion may leave us feeling beaten down by life. But our thrashing about in frustration and our efforts at controlling our life with our ordinary mind become increasingly futile.

With all that has been said about our disconnection from Pristine Mind, it may sound as if Pristine Mind is a distant, unreachable experience on some other planet. But Pristine Mind is not an alien or otherworldly reality. Both ordinary mind and Pristine Mind are our own mind; the difference is that Pristine Mind is our mind in its pure, pristine state. It’s like the difference between a cup when it’s clean and when it’s dirty. It’s the same cup, in two different conditions. One is the perfect vessel in its original condition; the other has its original purity obscured by stains. Drinking tea from a dirty cup is the same as living in the world with our ordinary mind, which has become distorted and polluted. Drinking tea from a clean cup is the same as living in the world with our unpolluted Pristine Mind.


I vividly remember an incident from my young boyhood. My father took me to visit someone at a gathering away from our hometown. There were lots of people around. I somehow got separated from my father. Suddenly I realized he was not there. I began crying. I still remember very clearly the unfamiliar place and the unfamiliar faces all around me. I was torn from my secure world and felt lost.

Whenever we become unwillingly separated from the familiar, we become fearful. Without the awareness of our Pristine Mind, we experience an even more fundamental insecurity than that of a child gone astray.

When we are unknowingly disconnected from Pristine Mind, we are not even aware that we have lost our stability of mind, in which we can remain unaffected by life’s unavoidable conditions. The very nature of existence is marked by constant flux. Nothing lasts, everything eventually dies or decays, and fluctuating mental events that continually rise and pass away make life unpredictable. But in Pristine Mind, this fact of life does not upset or imbalance us. In losing access to this stability of our Pristine Mind, we lose our capacity for true happiness and well-being.

When we are in touch with our natural pristine state of mind, then we are comfortable, relaxed, connected, and complete. We are intimate with the universe. But when we fall out of touch with it, we are stuck in our ordinary mind and in a constant battle with an underlying fear, which we can call “primordial fear.”

The fear that results when we are disconnected from Pristine Mind is the cause of much of our mental and emotional suffering. It is called “primordial” fear because it has been with us since we originally lost our connection with Pristine Mind. We do not know that there is another experience of the world—Pristine Mind—in which an undercurrent of such fear does not even exist.

In our ordinary mind, mental events arise. The more mental events we have, the stronger our underlying anxiety becomes; the greater the gap between our ordinary mind and our Pristine Mind, the more powerful the anxiety. When we rediscover our Pristine Mind, we realize that this anxiety, our primordial fear, is not inherent to life but actually originates from our disconnection from Pristine Mind and manifests itself in our mental events.

Complicating our predicament even more is the fact that our disconnection from this fundamental aspect of our being can make us feel very exposed and self-conscious. Self-consciousness can be so unpleasant that it creates still more mental events as we search for some escape from it. This in turn only feeds our primordial fear.

Primordial fear manifests in many ways. If you have anxious feelings without an apparent cause, or if you feel uneasy and restless unless you are constantly engaging with other people in person or online, then you are experiencing primordial fear. This fear is why we all try so hard to connect with external things. If we find something that feels pleasant, whether it is a musical sound, an exciting image, something we enjoy touching or tasting, or an object we can purchase and possess, we chase after it because it feels good and gives us temporary comfort at that moment.

The degree of primordial fear that is felt may vary greatly from one person to another. Some, because of their personal history and native temperament, may be only vaguely aware of the underlying fear that feeds unhappiness. Others, who have different past experiences and temperaments, may go through life carrying a great deal of mental and emotional suffering.

Most people are subject to some level of anxiety most of the time, whether they recognize it or not. Many of our activities are in truth efforts to distract ourselves from this underlying primordial fear that drives our ordinary mind and only creates more fear. We make phone calls, create incessant plans, and keep our schedule at a hectic pace. We need the TV on or music playing in the background—even when we’re not watching it or really listening—to feel a sense of connection. Even on our way to our activities, we play music as we drive because silence in our car would leave us alone to experience anxiety or boredom.

It is this constant activity around which we organize our lives to avoid confronting our primordial fear. We pursue connection, connection, connection. We try to connect to sounds and flavors and sights. We try to connect to our parents, children, romantic interests, books, or art. We are constantly eating, talking, watching, or listening, trying to connect our five senses to anything we can in every waking moment.

We end up connecting with unreliable objects of attention, whether they are other people, possessions, or diversions. These are unreliable sources of even ordinary happiness because we can’t force them to make us happy; and they are ultimately unreliable because of their inherent impermanence. Such is the power and impact of primordial fear.

Distracting ourselves from our primordial fear does not reduce it. Engaging constantly does not reduce primordial fear. Amusements may be a temporary band-aid but not a permanent remedy. Just because we feel hungry does not mean it is always good to eat whatever and whenever we want. If we are eating excessively or choosing the wrong foods, it will ruin our health. In the same way, just because we may currently dislike being still, silent, and by ourselves does not mean that constant distraction is healthy; it takes its toll as well.

There is another problem, however, that we must understand. By running from our fear, not only are we failing to alleviate our separation from Pristine Mind—we are actually amplifying it without realizing it. Distractions generate more and more mental events at an ever-increasing pace. These mental events remove us still further from Pristine Mind. It is another layer of barrier between our ordinary mind and our Pristine Mind. It only makes our road home much more difficult and arduous.

When we lose touch with Pristine Mind, we are ungrounded and unconnected to ourselves and our world. Favorable circumstances will often bring us some kind of temporary happiness, occasional joyousness, and other forms of contentment. But it is not a permanent solution to the problems of impermanence and our general dissatisfaction. Without Pristine Mind, we cannot know unconditional happiness. We become like the poor man who goes out every day, looking for his treasure in the surrounding area, never realizing that the wealth is right where he is. Pristine Mind and the potential for unconditional happiness it provides have been forgotten.

Social anxiety. A particularly distressing manifestation of primordial fear is what we might call social anxiety—not the phobia treated by psychologists, but the underlying anxiety most all of us have about interacting with other people. We think the way we interact with others is normal, but if there is any underlying hesitation, doubt, or discomfort, that is social anxiety. The degree of social anxiety varies among people. A few people are really comfortable; a few are extremely fearful. Most of us are somewhere in the middle.

Turning outward for a sense of security is not just a matter of seeking diversions from various impersonal sources. It also means we look to other people with both hopes and fears. When we are in ordinary mind, our contacts with other people take on an importance beyond what they can realistically deliver. Whether or not we are conscious of it, we hope they will alleviate some of our loneliness, despair, and primordial fear; and at the same time we hesitate to approach others because of fear that our efforts to connect will fail and they will reject us. Attending social events or even just talking with people may trigger our ordinary mind’s worry about being judged, our nervousness, our self-doubt, and other negative thoughts and feelings.

In social interactions, most of us seek validation of our own beliefs and judgments. We worry about what other people’s thoughts and opinions might be. What do they really think of us? Are we respected, admired, considered “cool” and “sexy”? If people think of us positively along these lines, we feel good about ourselves for a while. But many people are more afraid of others’ opinions and judgments than they are of anything else.

Social anxiety comes from being focused on “how we are doing” in this world. We are constantly judging our own performance and others’ treatment of us. For example, if we are preoccupied with what other people feel about us, we raise questions: “What are other people thinking? I hope they like me. What are they saying about me behind my back? What do they really think of me?” It’s these concerns that we project onto others that compound our social anxiety.

If we examine ourselves honestly, we will see that we are constantly making many, many judgments moment by moment. We judge both ourselves and other people. This process influences the way we treat others and, as a result, the way they treat us. Other people perceive the discomfort in us, so they feel even more uncomfortable than they already were from their own social anxiety. Cues go back and forth based on this mutual anxiety and, depending on the degree of anxiety, it can become awkward and stressful. Then we can become even more uncomfortable and more judgmental toward ourselves and others.

If all your attention is on these agitated thoughts, then even if everybody around you appreciates you and says how much they like you, you may not believe it. But when you are in a pristine state of mind, as we will explain in the parts that follow, you have fewer thoughts, and thus less anxiety and fear, because all those uncomfortable experiences come from your thoughts; and without thoughts they can’t survive. Then it doesn’t matter what people think of you; even if everybody around you hates you, it doesn’t affect you. You are comfortable with yourself. Even if everyone glares at you angrily and criticizes you, if you pay no attention to your own thoughts, you remain comfortable and as stable as a mountain. You are completely at ease with yourself.

When we reconnect with our Pristine Mind, we stop the destructive process of projecting blame for our own feelings, either on ourselves or others, so that our family, friendships, work relationships, and social contacts become more stable. At the same time, we are flexible and adaptable. Our primordial fear has calmed down, so rather than having to make judgments about ourselves or other people, or worry about whether we are being treated fairly, we experience the joy of giving to others and relating to them without expectation or apprehension.

Addictive activities. For some people, the powerful cravings of our ordinary mind, and its underlying anxiety, discontent, and lack of fulfillment, can turn into addictive behaviors. It might lead to an alcohol, drug, or gambling addiction in which we compulsively search for temporary and very self-defeating respite from the ongoing agitation. For others, it can manifest in behavior that is considered socially acceptable or even desirable, like the eighty-hour work week of the workaholic. It can also manifest itself less dramatically, like constantly checking e-mail or social media. This behavior turns into a habit, since these distractions can never put the underlying anxiety to rest permanently. These are all forms of addiction—an unfulfilled longing for connection. Like the elusive carrot always out of reach of the donkey, we chase and chase the object of our desire in ordinary mind, but we never really reach it; the very nature of the fear-based and misdirected ordinary mind cannot provide it.

The need for external distractions is like having a food addiction. A person with an eating addiction cannot stop bingeing; they finish the chocolate and then reach for the ice cream, then go out for a hamburger, and then get Chinese takeout on the way home. Mentally, we binge on the stimulation of internal and external activity. It is like we are stuffing our mind constantly. Because our mind cannot stay still for one moment, we do not really see our dependency on the stimulation.

Why do people feel such a strong need for all this stimulation? That addiction to external conditions, that restless energy, is caused by our primordial fear.

It is hard to tell a compulsive eater to stop eating or to eat less, because they are used to eating continuously. Similarly, it is hard to tell ourselves, “Be silent, let go of your thoughts, meditate,” because we are addicted to distractions. Our body may eat three meals a day, but our mind eats continuously. As a result, our own internal pristine state continues to be more and more obscured.

Being an addict does not make us content; it makes us crave more. The more we crave, the more we suffer. If we can break the cycle, we will find inner freedom. When we cut through our addiction, we can rest. Enlightenment comes when the mind rests in its natural state. Real contentment is found when our mental events slow down.


As we lose our experience of Pristine Mind, our ordinary, fearful mind begins to predominate. Thoughts begin first, followed by concepts, emotions, judgments, and beliefs. Gradually we identify with each of them as if the experience they create is really who we are. That is when we develop a sense of self. When that sense of self becomes unhealthy, as we shall see, it is called “ego.”

In identifying with our mental events, we are constantly looking to our future, analyzing our past, or trying to make sense of what is happening now. We pour tremendous energy into our ordinary mind’s processing of mental events. Soon we become firmly convinced that these mental events jamming our mind actually are us. We identify with them and take their appearances and disappearances as reflections of our true identity. What we have taken as “us” or as “our normal state,” then, is really a conglomerate of mental events that are, in truth, only superficial experiences, fleeting like clouds.

But we identify with this conglomeration and come to believe it is our essence. If this collection of mental events seems good, we think, “I’m good.” If this collection seems bad, we think, “I’m bad.” Based on these false identifications, we grasp onto this complex of physical, emotional, and mental experiences in the search for security and fulfillment, hoping it can lead us to happiness.

This is why, at present, most of us believe that our ordinary mind, especially the thinking faculty, perfectly reflects our being. We have no doubt that we are identical with the thoughts and experiences that flutter through our mind, all the mental events that occupy our attention. We also believe that this flow of mental events accurately mirrors the true nature of the outside world, and that our strategies and reactions are perfectly rational, based on these perceptions.

Our sense of self appears when we think, “This is me.” We build a sense of “what I am.” We also develop a secondary sense of self based on possessions: “This house is mine.” “These are my children.” “You hurt my feelings.” If we identify so firmly with this sense of self and our possessions that it becomes a fixation, then we are stuck in ego. This sense of self is very different from the sense of self that we experience in Pristine Mind because it is based on mental events that feel so compelling when we are under the control of our ordinary mind.

Of course, there is nothing inherently bad or undesirable about having a sense of self; in fact, we need a sense of self in order to navigate our way through our day-to-day existence. We need a coherent center of consciousness from which to observe our surroundings, manage our time, and take care of business. However, there is a difference between a healthy sense of self and an unhealthy sense of self. When we are grounded in Pristine Mind, having realized that our sense of self is not who we really are, we can then use our sense of self properly, by thinking, speaking, and acting for the benefit of ourselves and others. When our sense of identity is healthy, even if it involves the use of wealth, fame, or power, it’s not problematic but brings happiness and fulfillment for everyone. But when our ordinary mind becomes dominated by a rigid identification with our mental events, or by a need to impose our own thoughts, feelings, and opinions on others, then our sense of self turns into an unhealthy sense of self, or ego.

Ego forms when we are so enmeshed in our mental events that we become unduly attached to them. The ego makes a desperate effort to develop a sense of security by building a fortress around our identity to shield it against the uncertainties and changes of life. This fortress is an inherently unworkable structure, because in order to feel secure under this effort, we must maintain constant focus on our separateness from everything around us.

It is difficult to overstate the problems the ego poses for us in terms of both the barrier it creates to reconnecting with our Pristine Mind and the dysfunctional way it encourages us to lead our lives.

The energy we use to create the sense of cohesion that lets us believe that our sense of self is a real entity and not just the assemblage of mental events that it really is, is powerful. In Pristine Mind we free up that energy and use it to experience anew, with fresh eyes, the present world in which we live. In some instances, this can occur suddenly, leading to a dramatic change in consciousness.

More often the change is gradual and our improvement is incremental. It is this transition that requires our time and effort through the meditation exercises that are so important to these teachings. For our purposes now, however, we need to understand that our sense of self is a formidable force holding together our ordinary mind and the experience of the world it creates.

We will discuss a few of the more dramatic illustrations of how the ego operates, but we must remember that the very nature of the sense of self is illusory because it is ultimately not our true identity. We can never be really certain about who we are so long as we pay attention to transient mental events as if they were the reality of life.

Inflated ego. Often we drift off course depending on the nature of our circumstances. When circumstances are good and support us, we are at risk of developing an exaggerated sense of self, a “big ego.” Often we do not even notice it. We don’t realize that this view of ourselves depends on external circumstances until outer conditions change or deteriorate and different mental events take over our consciousness.

There is nothing wrong with pursuing fame, power, or wealth with the right perspective and good intentions, and nothing inherently bad about enjoying good circumstances. But these conditions and circumstances are ultimately unreliable and unstable. If we become closely attached to these things as integral to our identity, then we can develop an inflated ego. If we identify too closely with a good education, good looks, wealth, or popularity, we are hurt when people do not praise us or reflect back to us their appreciation of whatever we are using at the time to prop up our inherently precarious sense of self. That is why even famous people are sometimes so susceptible to flattery and seem to need such frequent praise and validation.

With any kind of exaggerated sense of self, it is difficult to have meaningful friendships based on an appreciation of our shared humanity. The basis of compassion and love is our fundamental equality with others. We are all in the same boat of life. But when our ego dictates that we must feel superior to others, this equality becomes impossible.

When our ego dominates our sense of self, our behavior, mannerisms, and tone of voice all become expressions of our ego. We may believe that the way we are acting, speaking, and thinking is well received, but people may actually perceive us very negatively, especially when our ego needs clash with their own. They see us as arrogant, selfish, overconfident, and sometimes even dictatorial. We become difficult to connect with, even though we may not recognize it because we so want to cling to this feeling that we are special. We see everything through the lens of “my” and “me.” It is hard for others to live with someone who has this kind of ego. There is no true connection with them. It is difficult for everyone around them. This is all a result of the exaggerated ego.

In the midst of living with an exaggerated ego, if our circumstances become challenging and do not support our inflated ego, it feels as if our world is collapsing. It intensifies the threat to our sense of self when our demands are not being met, and this causes us great pain. We have defined our self purely by special circumstances. When these circumstances change and deteriorate, and we feel the world no longer views us in a positive way, we feel lost. It hurts so much because we have lost what we think defines us.

Deflated ego. The exaggerated ego is just one of the two main faces of ego. The other extreme on the spectrum is an unhealthy, deflated sense of self, which is often called low self-esteem. As we noted, our ego is dependent on circumstances and conditions. Therefore, when the circumstances are poor—for example, if we lose our job, fail in something important to us, or are treated miserably—then our sense of self is in danger of deflating. We may dwell on misfortunes in our personal history, such as painful memories of the past or challenging family dynamics. We may focus on how badly we were raised or other factors that evoked feelings of self-doubt, fear, disappointment, or insecurity. A deflated sense of self, due to obsessing over our bad circumstances or shortcomings, is just as egocentric as an exaggerated sense of self. In both cases, we are fixated on our self—either our misperceived superiority or our misperceived inferiority.

Perhaps we have a poor body image or a trait that makes us feel self-conscious. Or we are concerned about our career because we were fired or did not get the job we wanted. Maybe we were rejected by the person we wanted to love us. We may lose confidence, lack willpower, and feel unworthy. We may fixate on that problem and constantly keep it in mind. We may even isolate ourselves and disconnect from the outside world. The more our circumstances are negative, and the more we identify with those circumstances, the worse our isolation and our suffering become.

As long as we have this type of ego, it is hard to accomplish anything positive. We feel impotent and frail. We may become overdependent on others but distrust their motives if they try to help. When an opportunity arises, we do not feel capable of making it work, and this prevents us from accomplishing anything meaningful. And our negative self-perception affects those around us as well, infecting them with our energy of resentment, fear, and cynicism.

In fact, the more we fixate on any sense of self—whether at the inflated or deflated end of the spectrum—as if it were our true reality, the more we reinforce our disconnection from Pristine Mind. In stark contrast, when we are reconnected with Pristine Mind, our sense of self stays healthy because we don’t believe the misperceptions and distortions of ordinary mind. Instead, we use our sense of self to accomplish positive things for ourselves and our world.

Effects of the ego-driven mind. Even though ego is an unhealthy sense of self, we often think we need our ego to survive. Some people may even gain success through ego, but the healthiest way to succeed is through a good heart, awareness, and wisdom—characteristics that arise from Pristine Mind. These characteristics should be the driving force motivating our endeavors, not the concerns of our shaky ego. When we are in Pristine Mind, we have the best interests of ourselves and others at heart, and our actions are aligned with reality. Our actions are based on compassion and spring from intelligence and wisdom.

Whenever we pursue a major goal, it is inevitable that some obstacles or problems will arise. How we address these problems will depend on whether we approach them with a healthy or an unhealthy sense of self. A healthy sense of self does not react by serving the needs of the ego; instead, it acts by finding solutions to the problem. But if it is ego that is driving our pursuit of achievement, then as problems come up, our ego only adds to the problems. We end up sabotaging the very purpose of our efforts and alienating others. We hurt other people’s egos and then they hurt our ego back. When egos compete in this way, there is no successful outcome for anyone. Ego is a poison to true success, not its driving force.

Ordinary mind perceives the world in a distorted way because the “me” and “my” create an obsession with a false and unhealthy sense of self. That’s the reason we have so many reactions of hurt and so much resistance to our circumstances and conditions. In extreme cases, the forces of mental and emotional distorted perception are so strong that they lead to self-destructive behavior. For instance, a number of people commit suicide every year by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. They live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world; how sad it is that they are unable to appreciate its beauty or contribute to that beauty. What can explain this despair but the uncontrolled force of extremely distorted perception? Although we ourselves do not go so terribly far astray as in these sad examples, we are influenced every day by our ego.

The more negative thoughts, feelings, judgments, and belief systems we incorporate into our sense of self, the more narrow-minded we become, and the more distorted our perceptions are. When we see the world in a distorted way, we become more reactive. In this state, our Pristine Mind is completely overcast, covered in layers of obscurations. A healthy sense of self means that we have reconnected with Pristine Mind, so we realize that our sense of self is not who we really are. That is the true form of self-esteem and self-worth. When we are in Pristine Mind, our sense of self becomes relaxed and self-assured. We then may maintain a healthy sense of self for purposes of taking responsibility for ordinary necessities such as preserving good health and supporting ourselves and our family, as well as for pursuing enlightenment. We can truly enjoy the good things the world offers, without futilely relying on our ego for happiness.