Would you jump to your own defence if I told you that you are largely ego driven and barely noticing of the world revolving but for the focus you have on your own ‘story’ and self-importance to dwell in the past or stare off into the future. I would have a year ago.
It’s largely human nature to want to defend that which we are consumed by and the ego does this job of consuming us exceptionally well.
You may have been hearing a lot about the ‘ego’ lately if you are spinning around in health and wellness circles.
I realise I write about it in nearly every post I create and yet I haven’t taken the time to walk with you through what this means to me and why I am so open to discussing my ego and sharing transparently the joy I’ve found and will continue to find in seeking to know this part of me better.
Allow me to walk you through the concept of ‘ego’. You may have heard ego called things like your ‘mean girl’, ‘bully’, or ‘devil on your shoulder’. These are all other terms for the ego, though mean the same thing essentially.
Ego says, “Once everything falls into place, I’ll feel peace.” Spirit says, “Find your peace, and then everything will fall into place.
– Marianne Williamson –
What is the ‘Ego’?
One way for us to review the ego it to think of it like a protective layer between us and the world around us. The ego, in protecting us, cuts us off from other people as well as the world around us. This protective layer creates a sense of ‘me’ and ‘them’ or ‘me’ and ‘you’. The ‘Ego’ uses this ability to create separateness to empower itself and disempower you, which is the ultimate aim of ego. The ego creates separateness with time and dwells only in past and future and places emphasis only on these two occurrences of time. If we were to be able to sit and dwell comfortably in the now the ego wouldn’t exist.
The ego likes to keep us small and by complaining or creating negative patterns of thoughts it can do so. If you are stuck in traffic, it is the ego’s work to agitate you into feeling that the moment you are in is not ok or not as it should be. And so creates a feeling of dissatisfaction in you. The ego is a stream of negative or limiting thoughts and I like to think of it as ‘radio static’.
When this type of ego driven behaviour or thought pattern occurs it is not you in control of our thoughts, it is your thoughts that are in control of you. The way to mindfulness, happiness and ultimately enlightenment it to be able to create pockets of stillness within the ‘static’, where you override the ego’s job of bullying you into negativity and instead become mindful of the moment you are in. An example of this is that when I was stuck in traffic last week instead of riding the horn as I would have a year ago (as the ego wanted me to do) I looked to the sky and took in amazing cloud formations that I would have missed otherwise. I revelled in having that time at the traffic lights to ‘be in the now’.
How do I start to practice control over the ego?
Become an observer of you own mind.
The first step is to be aware of your thought patterns and be able to view them as you create them. It may be worth writing these down to begin with. Be honest with yourself, write or think of your thoughts as if you will never share this with anybody. What type of thoughts do you regularly think? Are you angry in your work or relationship, are you stressed, irritated or impatient? Perhaps you feel saddened or simply melancholy.
What is interesting is that the ego would like to keep you thinking the exact same negative and useless thoughts for your entire life. If you review your own thoughts can you see a pattern? Perhaps you have the same habitual thought pattern again and again in your life about the same situation or different ones. Awareness of thought is the beginning.
Know the difference between what is ego and what is real.
Once you realise that negative thoughts are useless and even dysfunctional, such as my feeling of irritation or anger at being stuck at the traffic lights some in the past, you are able to start to practice mindfulness. In the past when I was angry and irritated stuck at traffic lights it was not the situation that made me feel that way, it was my ego which told me to be irritated and angry, that I was being held up from being anywhere but there, that the situation was wasting my time. The way around the ego is to consider the moment instead as simply that ‘it is what it is’ and enjoy it. Which is what I did this week when I noticed the clouds above. I enjoyed the world around me.
When you start to see the difference between your ego ‘voice’ and what is real about any situation, that is the beginning of mindfulness. This is often recognised as a quick afterthought as your reign control of your ego in and this comes with practised awareness. Really this is the beginning of awakening. You will lose yourself in this moment again and again as the ego takes over and years of egoic thoughts are pushing against the tide here. Gradually though you will build this practice and be more in the now, more still and ultimately, happier. I have often spoken about becoming aware of this shift and so I will sometimes find myself behaving in a way driven by ego, for example getting into a pointless argument with my husband, whilst also being aware that this is not the situation, this is the ego driving me to create negativity around it. This doesn’t mean I have failed, nor that I am evolved. It simply means this is where I am with my mindfulness practice.
Give up the fight.
The hardest or most challenging part of becoming more aware, and connecting with the ‘now’ and yourself internally is that your ego will be fighting you every step of the way. Do not go into battle with your ego like Gerard Butler in ‘300’. You do not want to make the ego your enemy as this simply makes your ego stronger (aha!). A beautiful way of looking at this comes from Eckart Tolle, author of ‘The Power of Now’.
“You wake up in the morning, and it’s raining and gray, and the mind says, “What a miserable day,” and this is not a pleasant thought. You likely feel some emotion: dread, disappointment, unhappiness. You suddenly realize that your judgment of what kind of day it will be is based on a mental habit, an unconscious default. That simple awareness creates space for a new thought to emerge. You can look again out the window without that preconception and just see the sky. It’s gray. There’s some sunlight filtering through the sky. There are, perhaps, raindrops falling. It’s not actually miserable at all. It has a certain beauty. Then suddenly, you’re free. You’re no longer imposing something on reality, and you’re free to enjoy what, previously, you had rejected.”
When your ego takes center stage you will find that you are driven ultimately by fear and dark and shade. Where you are driven by mindfulness you are coming from light, open and love.
Ego takes, Mindfulness gives.
What does the concept of ego bring up for you?