I was having a frank discussion with TL recently and we were talking of how at every turn in our daily experiences the ego is there to egg us on. I was describing to him my understanding of the progress and process in gaining understanding from situations we encounter.
I described that at the beginning when I did not have much wisdom cultivate, I would react based on a default program/idea that is unconscious to me. In fact I would not have any thoughts of questioning the program but point to the outside world as the cause of any unhappiness.
When the practice of remembering to be mindful becomes more constant and consistent, I would start to observe what happens as an observer, observing the thoughts and feeling. I could still be embroiled in the drama around the situation but the stickiness to the drama will be shorter.
When mindfulness becomes a default program, the mind not only sees the thoughts and feelings but also can start to ask questions and find out the ideas that is powering the thoughts and feeling. At this point in our discussion, I told TL that when the defilement is perceived to be bigger than whatever wisdom I have at the moment.... I would normally go into a distraction strategy where I'll do other things while occasionally give attention to the thoughts and feelings until the mind has some clarity to identify the idea behind.
TL then brought up a new and interesting dimension to our discussion by asking Why is there a need to see a defilement as big or small ? He asked, "What if, when something happens and we are feeling dis-ease from it, we accept that it is happening now, we immediately face it and identify the idea behind it. Wouldn't that clear the whole situation quickly?" I agree with this idea and it seem to be what people like Byron Katie and Eckhart Tolle does. This means a person can do it when they are constantly present and mindful moment to moment.