The ego is a Big Trouble maker!! It’s always criticizing and blaming us or others for our perceived imperfections, mistakes, or differences. It’s a bully inside of us, comparing us, telling us we aren’t good enough. The ego is so afraid of being perceived as weak, so afraid that others will see our imperfections. It fears that someone else will be better, make more money, get more stuff, get more love…in other words, have more of whatever the ego perceives as being lacking or scarce in that moment. (Advertising does a great job of planting/playing on these perceptions.) Anytime there is change, especially a Big One like the major illness or death of a loved one, I notice my ego pop up to make trouble.
Reality check, ego! EVERYTHING is impermanent. It’s the clinging of the ego that causes so much suffering, before and beyond any suffering that might occur in the actual moment. Someone else will be better, and other people will have more money, stuff, and attention. I don’t wish to be cold-hearted, but your loved ones will die and so will YOU. This scares the shit out of our egos! We mourn losses of our beloveds, but we are also scared of our own death. The grips of the ego can grow very strong here, around the idea of death, as an act to protect the self. This is very human. But left unchecked, the grip of the ego can become overprotection, pushing others away, creating more isolation. It’s important to seek sources of support to keep your head clear, and to not allow the fear and the negative voices of the ego to take over. This is a tall order!! It’s really hard stuff, and requires major, ongoing work.
Start on the mat!
You can begin on on the mat by just observing when/where your ego pops up. Ego loves comparisons and judgments in yoga class! See if you can learn to note what’s happening, with no judgment, and keep observing.
Does your ego cringe when you’re corrected/adjusted? Mine does sometimes. My ego says: How could you miss that? You’re a teacher!
How do you feel when you rock a pose? When you fall?
Do your best to observe this without judgment, and keep practicing. The more we observe, the more aware we can become. When we start to dissolve the ego through noticing and awareness, our response stops being an automatic judgment call of good or bad and instead becomes a celebration of acceptance and growing…because we are simply practicing. Just for the record, my ego is still alive and kicking, on and off the mat. It’s a practice.
Yoga has helped me learn to face my ego. The ego pops up on the mat for most beginners. At first, the practice is more challenging than expected. The ego says stuff like, “How could this be so hard? I can’t believe I’m shaking like that! I’m a wimp. I can’t do this. I’m just not strong enough.” If this happens, simply become aware then you will eventually be able change your thoughts to something more nurturing: “Shaking is making me stronger! Yay!”
As you become more aware of your physical body in practice, your muscles get stronger and the form and feeling of the body becomes the focus. Of course, the ego loves to attach to the body and what it looks like, including how strong it can be AND feel! But yoga should truly move us beyond the physical form. In yoga, the body is a tool for transformation, but the body is also impermanent. The goal is not to have a “good body,” but perhaps a fit/healthy body, without letting the ego set expectations for what your body (or a “yoga body”) should look like. Tune in to how YOUR yoga body feels when you are practicing. Or after you practice. Or when you don’t practice. Observing and note, with no attachment to the outcome. Practice. Recognize and acknowledge fatigue, sadness, fear, mistakes, imperfections, and anger as part of the practice. Use the body and the practice as tools of transformation, not only in a physical sense but also to change the ego mind.
I challenge you to get more clear and notice where your ego pops up on the mat. How about in the rest of your life? Can you learn to be patient and compassionate with yourself, not allowing the ego to punish you? Can you start to recognize that YOU can create new patterns by practicing, repeating, observing, and shifting thought patterns? It’s a ton of work, but so worthwhile in creating happiness NOW…not what the ego perceives as happiness some other time or place. Having gratitude in the NOW— that I can breath, that I have water, food, shelter and so much more—really helps me shift perspective quickly.
If you’re in a happy moment, pause, breath and ENJOY IT!!! It’s impermanent.
If you’re in a sad time in your life, continue to stop, breath and acknowledge your feelings. It’s also impermanent. “This too shall pass.”
Here are some books/resources that have helped me become more aware of my ego:http://brenebrown.com/books/
Remember yoga is a practice for the body, mind (including the ego) and spirit (the breath). Keep practicing!!! Keep Evolving! Keep breathing deeply!
Peace, Love and Gratitude,