Let me share with you what I have learned from my own experience.
Like most, I used to put intellectual understanding on a pedestal. For me too, books had all the answers I was looking for. And when I was being taught by people, I kept everything at an intellectual level. And while it is true that we develop our intellectual capacities in doing so (communication, absorbing information, writing, etc.) — our understanding remains limited.
How? We must understand that we are using our body and our mind. For most people, it is the other way around — they are used by their body and mind. Who is this “we”? Ultimately, another concept. Just take a few breaths, sit still and become aware of your surroundings, your body, and your presence. Do it regularly. And what happens next is up to your consistency.
This aspect of us that uses the body and the mind doesn’t need the mind to understand a thing. It just uses it to communicate its understanding here in the “3D.” The 3D is just one aspect of Creation. Because we are so involved in our daily lives, we tend to forget that we’re just a, in the words of Carl Sagan, “pale blue dot” in the cosmos.
Life is huge!
Anyhow. All I am trying to say here is that, true understanding may start with intellectual activity — but intellectual activities only cannot keep up with Life’s immensity. In order for you to “see” your ego, as well as others’ egos — you will have to rely less on what you are being told from books and experts, and more on what you experience yourself.
What does it mean, to experience it yourself? It means to become a student of life. It means paying attention to everything that is happening in your life, but also how you internally respond to those events. This “quest” will naturally push you to ask questions. And the more you do, the less the answers you get from books and “experts” will satisfy you.
That’s your tipping point.
That’s when you will really question everything, and ask yourself this fundamental question: What is true understanding? Doing so will bring your attention more, and more to what is happening within yourself. You will “see” how your past affects your present life. You will see how the feelings you have ignored shape your reactions, and how your reactions create the life you are currently living.
This past, with all its beliefs, assumptions, “unprocessed” emotions and thought patterns — this past is your persona, your ego. And it feels very comfortable because it’s the known, it’s familiar, it feels safe. Growing up as a person, maturing, means letting go of this past — which is quite demanding. It also demands that we are humble enough to look at things from a different perspective than the one we have always been accustomed to.
Most people would rather not do it.
I hope to have answered your question.
As a final note.
If you have been meditating, using affirmations and thinking positively for a while now without necessarily integrating spiritual truths at a soul level even though you understand them intellectually, I wrote a book to help you demystify the main blocks to spiritual growth, learn how to heal more effectively, and progress on your path. You can give it a look here.