We can be defined as lights of consciousness whose attention is self-directed, and can be compared to the light of a flashlight. The flashlight itself is our bodies, the objects that construct consciousness and allow it to exist within space and time.
Our thoughts, emotions, beliefs, and so forth are not us, but simply things that we observe, like we observe any other external objects. It is just that the light which is ourselves has the ability to associate and disassociate the objects and subjects it experiences with itself, and that is what leads to the formation of a false identity that is often called the “ego”.
In short, we are lights that construct and deconstruct, associate and disassociate external and internal objects with themselves. This can be compared to a group of people that build buildings and walls around them as a way to protect themselves from the outside world and to give themselves a sense of collective identity.
The false identification of external and internal objects with ourselves is often a result of losing the ability, perhaps an inborn one, to see ourselves beyond those objects. Nonetheless, these objects create the sense of the “ego,” from our jobs and achievements to our personal interests and desired emotions.
But the thing is, while these objects come and go, the self, which is the observer, stays the same, until it is parted from this world by death. Hence the importance of not associating ourselves too closely with specific objects and people, as nothing actually guarantees that they will be with us as long as we live.
While the self remains unchanged, it can only be diminished through death. Any other object of association, however, is prone to alteration and to elimination in plenty of ways. You may be fired one day from your job, lose your money, get divorced, and so forth—none of those will technically change the self that exists beyond the extra fortifications it associates itself with as an extension of it.