The essence of the spiritual path is to awaken to our true Self. This has nothing to do with the habitual ego with which we normally identify with.
The term waking up is very apt because the illusory nature of the ego self is so very obvious once you start to look – but most people are too asleep to notice.
And that sleep state at least in part, comes from strong identification with our thinking, conditioning, and programming.
We assume that we are one with our thoughts. We believe our thoughts, just as we believe our emotions, or doubts about ourselves. And then we react and round and round it goes.
It has never occurrs to most people that they are not their thinking minds.
So long as you identify with your thinking mind, there can be no genuine spiritual progress. Sure, you can pray and engage in all kinds of apparent spiritual practices, but if you were to look carefully, you would see that this is just a kind of game being played by the ego.
Spiritual practice begins with stepping outside of your programming and that in turn begins with choosing to watch your experience very honestly. You start to notice the grip your thinking mind has on you; how it repeats the same thoughts and dynamics; how it constantly fills the space; how it dominates your mind.
And at some stage, as you watch your mind, it may occur to you that YOU – the one who is watching, is not the same thing as that being watched. This is the initial stage of discovering the Observer Self, and the gateway to freedom.