From our addictions to our convictions, that with which we identify is difficult to understand as a problem. Try telling a heroin addict that heroin is a problem for him and you are likely to receive a lengthy, defensive diatribe. Try telling a fundamentalist that an idiosyncratic, historical document is unlikely to be inerrant and she will assert the truths of said document with great ferocity. The ego, once it has staked out its positions, will defend those positions even to its own detriment.
Ego defense is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, the ego must keep itself intact, if one is to navigate the world with a sufficient degree of success. On the other hand, the ego’s defensive posture can arrest development by rejecting information, perspectives, and experiences that could lead to a more mature understanding of itself, the world, and its place in the world. The ego is Lord of the inner world - the measure of all things.
Here’s the essential problem with allowing “my will” to discern, manage, and direct the spiritual journey: the ego is radically finite, narrowly conditioned, and therefore ignorant of matters beyond its experience and comprehension. How can such a mechanism reliably discern, manage, and direct the soul’s evolution and relationship with Spirit? It cannot. Indeed, the soul’s evolution and relationship with Spirit could very well require information, perspectives, and experiences that this Lord of the inner world would reject.
For instance, the ego typically rejects spiritual material that does not conform to its preconceived notion of what constitutes credible spiritual material. Consider that most Christians adhere to belief in the theological doctrines of Original Sin and Atonement (the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross) as evidence of the Christian life. Such Christians would reject alternative Christian theologies, such as the eastern Orthodox theology of the monks of Mount Athos. In their theology, the evidence of the Christian life is the subjective realization of the Christ consciousness within (the Athonite version of self-realization). This would be anathema to most Christians, as would any other theology (Sufism, the Vedas, etc.) that does not include the theological doctrines of Original Sin and Atonement.
The ego also struggles with life experiences it cannot reconcile with its preconceived notions of the spiritual journey. It tends to think the spiritual journey ought to be easily navigable and always rewarding. In reality, the spiritual journey may very well include difficult life experiences, which present the soul with opportunities for evolution and relationship with Spirit: the death of a loved one, terminal illness, relationship failure, etc. Such struggles are often incomprehensible to the ego, which it then uses as excuses to resist the spiritual life or deny Spirit altogether.
Another way to say all this is to say that life’s unfolding does not occur according to the ego’s expectations or demands. Rather, life unfolds in accordance with the soul’s needs for its evolution and relationship with Spirit. Once we understand this, we see every experience as grist for the spiritual mill: the birth of a baby, watching a sun set, falling in love, and yes, the death of a loved one, terminal illness, and relationship failure as well.
The real spiritual work, then, is to surrender one’s identification with ego. “My will” must become “Thy will.”