Ego. Such a widely used term and simultaneously such a confusing phenomena. We love it, we hate it. We're suppose to let go of it, or embrace it. It's a theme that's been on my mind for a long time and now, after traveling in South America for half a year and meeting amazing and inspiring people, I'm ready to write my swirling thoughts down.
So what am I talking about when I use the word Ego? I see Ego as a web of beliefs learned through social experiences, and beliefs about your current state of being. It’s this web that makes up our illusionary Identity, the mental concept we have about ourselves. Let me explain this by some examples; I am a cook, I am an extrovert, I am confused, I am sad etc. Does it mean that when you stop cooking, you are not anymore? Or that when you feel sad, your being is a sad being? Or would you rather say ‘I am’ and I have sad feelings.
Why do we Have an Ego?
So we could say that an identity and therefore Ego actually don’t have much to do with ‘to be’. But why do we have this Ego and what are we supposed to do with it? The way I see it, is that this web of beliefs acts as a clarifying and protective layer that covers your True Self, your Essence, your Soul (not your Identity). It seems to help us feel good when we get compliments and it seems to help us clarify who we really are, by feeding the beliefs about our Identity instead of exposing our True Self. And at the same time it's also the thing that makes us feel bad when we make a mistake, or makes us feel bad when we are feeling sad.
I can imagine that is seems logic for ‘feeling bad’ to follow up on ‘being sad’. But if you take a closer look at it, is it really necessary that we feel bad, or guilty, or ashamed when we feel sad? Aren’t we just allowed to feel sad?
Ego & Meditation
And this is where meditation or mindfulnes becomes an interesting tool. When we meditate we try to take a step back from our thoughts and emotions. We observe them from a distance, from the perspective of your True Self, and treat them with compassion: we allow them to be there and we allow them to go. What you are practicing here is to see the distance between your thoughts and feelings, and yourself. Your thoughts and feelings are things that come and go, that are ever changing, in contrast to your True Self. So we could say: you are not your thoughts and you are not your feelings, but it is normal that they are there. Like clouds in the sky coming and going.
"Your thoughts and feelings are things that come and go, that are ever changing, in contrast to your True Self."
Of course this is easier said than done. Even while I’m writing this blog, I can feel myself getting nervous by the thought that I will let friends of mine (who know more about meditation than I do) read this article. Hello Ego! It is interesting to note that the Ego is often driven by Fear: fear of rejection, fear of not living up to expectations, fear of making mistakes etc. Fears that wouldn’t be there if we truly accept and Love ourselves.
Ego, Good or Bad?
So is Ego then necessarily a bad thing? Are we supposed to completely ignore or let go of our Ego? I believe it’s a matter of compassion and priorities. Compassion in terms of accepting that your Ego is there, and priorities in terms of choosing whether you want to focus on a short term satisfaction (a compliment or protection) or a long term learning experience about your True Self.In Shamanism it is said that you are supposed to let go of your little self (Ego) in order to become truly open minded. So learning to let go of your thoughts and believes in order to see the bigger story that connects us all. A bigger story that doesn’t have to do with Fear, but a story that has to do with Love.