The ego is such an interesting thing in every human. Most people wish they didn’t have it, or think they don’t have it. But unconsciously our ego directs a lot of our thoughts and actions. And ultimately it decides if we feel good or bad about ourselves.
The reason why I find the ego so interesting is because it is an identity we have constructed ourselves, an identity, which is false, and not connected to the Self. We believe that our personality, talents, abilities and skills are the self, but in fact it is all artificial, it is created in the mind.
The ego is an active and very dynamic part of our personality and it just loves to create drama in our lives. It blurs our vision about who we really are and what we are really capable of. It always compares you with others and at times it will create a feeling of superiority, it will tell you that you are better, more beautiful, more successful, smarter, etc than the other person. Other times it will create feelings of insecurity, jealousy, not being enough, etc. It blames you for not giving it the attention it needs.
How I like to see the ego is like a little child. It needs constant care, if you don’t feed it, it will cry, if you don’t give it love, it will turn into a needy kid, if you don’t discipline it, it will become arrogant.
Lately I have become more and more aware of my ‘battle’ or encounters with my own ego. Teaching yoga has shown me the needs of my ego more clearly. When people are satisfied, I am happy, I feel good about myself. But when people do not return, walked off quickly or left class early, I start doubting myself, wondering if it is something I did or didn’t do.
Even though these feelings are the most normal thing to occur, it is also a habit pattern. Something that happens because you just don’t know any better. Because your whole life you have measured yourself to others, praised yourself based on that and created a feeling of self in correspondence to this.
The easy thing to say is: let it go. Don’t doubt yourself, stay close to yourself and all will fall into place. But how do you put that into practice? How do you avoid these feelings entering your mind, heart and being? One explanation that has helped me a lot comes from my beloved yoga teacher Kate Holcombe. She explained that the mind (read ego) is the blind man. He is strong, fit, healthy, but blind. The Self is lame, it can’t walk on its own, but it can see. The mind (ego) and the Self need each other and so the Self rides piggy back on the mind. Because of this, the mind now has the ability to see, and therefore forgets it is the Self who sees, not him. He beliefs he doesn’t need the Self and takes over, so he bumps into things, runs around without clear vision and creates suffering along the way.
So that blind man needs to be trained with discipline, via meditation, breathing and any other way you know to focus the mind. Because in the end, the mind (the blind man) is in a mortal body, it will lose strength, its health and consciousness. And therefore in yoga we focus on the immortal, the Self. So we try to see the two separate while learning how to use both in their own way. Don’t detach from the mind/ ego, become aware of its needs, understand how to control it and be learn to recognize when the ego takes over control. Because when you can let the one who rides piggy back (the Self) steer the body, you can let the Self decide where you go, what you do and what comes to you. That way you might be able to reduce the suffering caused by the ego and create space and freedom to connect to who you really are: the Self.