Even if you realize true happiness and fulfillment are found by looking within, it can be difficult to know exactly what to look for. And even more difficult to figure out where to begin. So we’ve come up with the following simple guide that will assist you in your journey to inner awareness.

I’ll begin by telling you of little creatures that live inside of your mind that are your main inner impediments to happiness.

You will first be introduced to the PIG, or, the ever-present drive to Pursue Instant Gratification. Following this you will meet the APE, or, the internal drive that tends to Avoid Painful Experiences. And then you will meet the master of both the PIG and the APE, the Ego, a tricky little false mind-created identity whose constant demands lead us astray.

You will learn to build awareness to these sneaky beings who exist within you and realize what really drives and influences your choices.

However, this mind-level approach has inherent limits. For lasting happiness we must move to a higher awareness, which transcends the thinking mind. And from this level we can see what we really are.

We will introduce you to the core of each person’s being that is hard to hear, but when you get past all the other noise, awareness flows through it — a higher Awareness and fundamental harmony with a world in which we feel at home.

Pigs are not animals known for their self-restraint. They notoriously scarf down almost anything in their path, eating as much of it as they can, often throwing their weight around to ensure they get what they want. It’s only natural, because for these highly intelligent animals, the grab-it-and-gobble-it strategy is one that works, one that has made them a thriving and successful species.

Our primeval ancestors had similar evolution strategies as the pig. As omnivorous scavengers, they lived in a world where they had to compete with other species for food, territory and security. For early humans, turning loose the inner pig was necessary for survival as well.

PIG is in capital letters because it’s an acronym:

PIG = the ever-present drive to Pursue Instant Gratification

But that was before we evolved and built great societies capable of fulfilling our needs much more efficiently and abundantly than ever. Yet our greedy PIG has remained intact.

Everyone’s PIG is different. Some PIGs like to buy material objects, surrounding themselves with the material objects they’ve acquired through the years that may have even led them into debt. Other PIGs prefer rooting through the aisles of life for sex and physical thrills… or for money, especially easy money! Maybe your PIG desires attention, recognition, prestige, or respect.

But no matter what your inner PIG yearns for, the common denominator is that each of us has a PIG, and unlike its four-legged namesake, it does not only go after food. It will chase any kind of pleasure, any satisfaction, as long as the reward is close at hand — lying right there in our paths — and can be gotten quickly.

Although Hollywood may have you thinking otherwise, apes are not the fierce kings of the jungle they’re portrayed to be, but rather, shy creatures that live in secluded areas and avoid contact with other troublesome species, such as humans. When apes do come into contact with threats, they flee away as the alpha male covers the retreat with his own “threat display” — beating his chest, stamping and screaming and pulling any trick he can think of to tell an intruder: keep away!

This is another case of an animal using a strategy that helps to reduce the risk in their lives. As humans we have inherited similar traits that helped us avoid pain and stress in former times, but today now that these dangers are largely not present, we must adjust our brains from the primitive state. We must learn to limit the roles we unconsciously allow our animal natures to play, which requires becoming aware of them.

APE = the ever-present drive to Avoid Painful Experiences

You may have felt your APE acting out when you ignored the phone-call from a friend trying to track you down for a big favor. Or maybe your APE took over that time you needed to schedule a trip to the dentist. Like many people you may have put off that check up until you were in dire pain, because the visit itself threatened immediate stress and pain.

The APE will only try to avoid threats that are present and immediate. A trip to the doctor’s office? Time, money, pain and bad news, all in one visit, right now? That’s a no-brainer: forget it! And the APE would never make any sensible comparison such as “well, if the doctor has bad news, better to get it sooner instead of later so there’s a better chance of fixing it”… and then decide to face the short-term pain for a chance of long-term gain. And that’s what so often gets us into deep waters in the modern world: we are wired for quick fixes but the game has changed.

Both the PIG and the APE are aspects of what scientists call the “limbic system,” a primitive part of our brain that’s believed to be very old in evolutionary terms. Therefore to live a full and happy life in today’s world, we must adjust our brains from the primitive state. We must learn to limit the roles we unconsciously allow our animal natures to play, which requires becoming aware of them.

This is not so easy, as here the plot thickens. Another inner force intervenes.

Although you may have heard various definitions of the Ego, here I speak of the Ego as “an identity constructed for you by your mind.”

Similar to how children or actors take on identities other than their own, as adults we often (knowingly and unknowingly) play roles with the help of our Ego. However, with these roles it is far trickier to be able to tell the difference between your Ego and the real you. In fact, most of us never notice the difference.

Your Ego includes all that it thinks you are, including many things that really aren’t you at all. To give a very simple example: if we have grown up believing that material possessions are important, we may be more than a little upset when the new car starts picking up dents. We are going to take it personally because we feel that we have been damaged — after all, in the mind’s eye, our stuff is part of us.

Your Ego is a delusion. In one sense it can be a delusion that feels empowering, because it expands the notion of who we are. If your mind tells you that you are not just a fan of the Super Bowl-winning Pittsburgh Steelers, but a member of “Steeler Nation,” hey, that’s a cool identity. Practically the same as being a real Steeler! The trouble is, there’s always a downside. What if the Steelers lose?

Things get more complicated when you add the Ego’s two powerful minions in the mix, the PIG and the APE. These creatures live to feed and protect your Ego — or the “us” that isn’t really us — at any cost.

And any of these behaviors, best characterized as blind animal instincts in the service of pretense, can have detrimental consequences for relationships (both professional and romantic), finances, and your level of happiness.

Who is driving our Choices?

Our inner condition is dictated by who’s in charge inside. Is it the PIG and the APE? Is it the Ego, coupled with the thinking mind? Or is it the big YOU? Let’s take a look at ourselves. We can start by looking within, and bringing our own mind-creatures — the PIG, the APE, and the Ego — into the light of awareness to see if you can observe who’s really in charge.

Level 1 or Unaware or MindLess

At this level, the PIG and APE are running our lives. There are times when they are very helpful, but mostly, they drive us to chase material pleasures and avoid discomfort, and they’re also on the lookout to feed and protect the Ego. Not only are we “a slave to our impulses,” as some would put it, we are unaware of being so.

This is a very limited way to live. The instant pleasures and comforts we get are fleeting, not deeply satisfying. Our actions are purposeful but mostly out of control. We’re prone to make rash decisions that cause trouble, and even worse, we are blind to the larger possibilities of life.

Level 2 or MindRapt or Mind-Full

At this level we use the thinking mind to try to manage our lives. This is usually more fruitful than being “unaware,” but this level, too, has its limits. Many life situations can’t be handled with pure logic. The quest to mind-manage our inner drives and outer circumstances becomes a constant struggle, if not a losing battle. And the greatest danger at Level 2 is that the mind is not yet decoupled from the Ego.

We may think we’re “in control” but the Ego is directing the show. It puts the mind to work pursuing Ego goals — which in some cases can never be met, and even if they are achieved, do not bring profound joy or harmony. Our best mental efforts can thus be hijacked into the service of an empty, mind-made identity that isn’t us at all… without our being aware of what is happening.

Level 3 or Aware or MindFul

At this level, we have full inner awareness. We realize what our inner creatures are up to. We are no longer under their sway, and we don’t need to fight them or manage them, either. Just by being aware of them, we’re able to know who we really are.

Now we are living as our core or natural self or, as I call it, the “big YOU”. Along with our inner awareness, we become exquisitely and joyfully aware of the world around us. We are able to access a larger intelligence in all that we think or do, and rather than trying to control our world, we act in harmony with it.