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Panache Desai, author of Discovering Your Soul Signature, is a transformation catalyst and inspirational thought leader who guides people to their authentic, essential nature. He's appeared with Oprah Winfrey on the Emmy Award-winning series Super Soul Sunday, and was a featured speaker for the United Nations Enlightenment Society. He has collaborated with many renowned spiritual teachers, including Deepak Chopra, Michael Bernard Beckwith, Elizabeth Lesser, and Ram Dass.
1440: You had an early spiritual awakening and became a teacher at a young age. How has it been to "grow up" in that position?
Panache Desai: At the age of 23 or 24, I had a direct experience of the divine in its absolute form. I've been on a 14-year path of integration since then.
What I've discovered is the less afraid I am to be myself, the more powerfully my life expresses itself. There's a direct correlation between the degree to which I'm willing to commit to being who I am and the degree to which my life works.
My own journey has been one of freeing myself of things from the past that no longer serve me, from old ideas and beliefs, constructs, hurts, and limitations that were getting in the way of my essence emerging. Surprisingly, it's not been a journey of dissolving the ego, but one of facilitating egoic transparency. We all have an ego, but it doesn't have to run the show. When you embrace its role and function, it's no longer a limitation or a liability.
1440: That sounds like the opposite of many spiritual teachings which encourage the stripping away of the ego, right?
Panache Desai: The common misconception is that enlightenment means the death or destruction of the ego. It doesn't mean that at all. Actually, what's happening is you move into greater levels of egoic transparency. The egoic structure continues to exist, but the light of the soul is fully reflected through it.
We need a certain level of ego in order to remain tethered to this reality. In the absence of that, we would just leave our bodies.
When we see our ego, meet ourselves with compassion and empathy, and embrace who we are, we start to naturally become transparent, meaning we start to live in alignment with our authentic selves.
And that process then leads to us being able to receive life in a greater and more dynamic way.
1440: So who are we if we're not our ego?
Panache Desai: The authentic self of every human being is love, is God. Who you really are is that. The only journey that anyone is on is the journey back to that love, back to being that again. That's really what's happening now: people are being returned to that love.
When you've experienced who you really are, you realize that there's a utility and a function for everything, including the ego. But transformation isn't egoic adaptation.
There are a lot of people who hide in spirituality on an egoic level. It's not about that. It's about allowing yourself to continue to evolve and having the courage to continue to connect in deeper and deeper ways with yourself.
1440: If I were to say, "I'm an extremely responsible person, I always have been," would you say that's the ego even though it feels like a truth about myself and who I am?
Panache Desai: That's right. In Western spiritual paradigms the relationship levels are "I am this," "I am not that," and "I am." All of these are limited points of experiencing. The truth of who you are is "I," which is absolute. "I am" is being. And "I am that" is identification with form.
My role has been to facilitate your return to "I," to who you are in your absolute form. Before the conditioning, before the life experiences, before the illusion was superimposed over the truth.
And that's something that most people don't have access to. Many spiritual people focus on "I am," on being. But they don't understand that there's a layer beyond being. And that's the place of truth. That's the place of authenticity. That's the place of connection.