Recently a friend asked me to help kill his ego. He’s an incredibly thoughtful, highly intelligent man and is interested in making himself a better human. He’s also aware that there are aspects of his personality that hold him back from living the life he desires, including finding his true love, that deep soul connection he yearns for. The conversation moved on before we could talk more about his request, though I’m sure we’ll find our way back to it.
What I want to say to him is that killing off parts of ourselves would leave us amputated. You see, as spiritual beings we were once whole, complete and perfect. When we arrived on this Earth, we are still perfect, yet we started to experience moments and situations that felt less than perfect, that were meant to teach us lessons. Some believe that our souls agreed to learn these lessons in this lifetime. Part of what develops when we become human, the voice that tells us we are less than perfect, is our ego. In certain circles, the ego is demonized as a limited aspect of humanity, the insatiable drive for more and more, regardless of impact to self of others. The ego is a valuable tool that helps us learn, but it’s complicated. Its primary purpose is to keep us safe. We can’t kill off the ego, or we may lose the lesson. The more rewarding, though far more challenging path then, is to learn to heal ourselves by integrating the pain, the hurt, and the fear. This includes honoring what our ego is drawing our attention to.
I experienced my ego in a surprisingly powerful way during a guided meditation workshop at my favorite yoga studio. The workshop was intended to open and clear stuck energy in each of my seven primary chakras. Chakras are swirling pools of energy located along the spine. The seven chakras are focal points in the energetic and subtle body used in a variety of meditation practices. There are a number of ways you can anoint or clear the chakras, and the process focuses on freeing any and all bound or stuck creative life energy. This is energy that is not serving us to create what we desire in life. At the time, I was just learning about this concept and had never before tried to clear my chakras. Allowing someone else to walk you through this process also requires a lot of trust. Trusting and letting go are new skills for me, as I’m a recovering control freak.
When I arrived for this workshop, which was lead by a couple of my yoga teachers in my community, I was apprehensive. The workshop was in the yoga room, a sweet space in a converted garage. Years before the traditional garage door had been replaced by a glass garage door, that was often times opened to allow the air from the outdoors to flow freely through the space. European style curtains flowing softly at the edge of the room, moving with the gentle breeze. The room was packed – each mat was edge to edge and besides the 3 teachers who were leading the class, there were 5 or 6 additional teachers. Each yoga teacher had essential oils for us to place on our bodies, intended for each chakra so that beyond the meditation and the blessing, we could anoint ourselves with oils as we move through the energy pools. It was in this sweet space that I found myself lying on my mat, eyes closed, breathing deeply. Each student, all 30 of us, were lying on our backs, the lights were dim, and a soothing song was playing. The yogi I knew and trust were guiding us through this deeply powerful meditation. We worked through the chakras, by drawing our attention to each space and saying a prayer of clearing and releasing energetic blocks in our bodies representing experiences and emotions that were holding us back from living our truest most authentic lives. As we moved through the energy centers, I could feel the releasing and movement of energy as I laid completely still. And in this space, I had a moment of complete doubt and panic. My ego kicked in and in my mind, I started to rehash all the reasons that what I was participating in was completely lunacy. Previously, I had experienced powerful changes in my life through this work before and yet, here came this voice, filled with doubt and fear, distracting me. My instinct was to get up and run out of the room, I was so overwhelmed with confusion and emotion. Yet, instead of running out of the room, I imagined that my ego was an alligator in the back of my skull. Rather than starting a mental battle, I imagined sending this beast of a monster (think an alligator that lived during the era of dinosaurs) with an infinite amount of love. I said, “Thank you for all the work you’ve done my entire life to keep me safe. I truly value you and now you can rest. I have this and I know my path”. I imagined this creature responding to this love by shrinking from a full-grown alligator-monster to a tiny little lizard. And I imagined the tiny lizard crawling down my right arm to my wrist and curling up there, at peace.
According to Eckhart Tolle (the authority on the matter, in my opinion), “The beginning of freedom is the realization that you are not “the thinker.” The moment you start watching the thinker, a higher level of consciousness becomes activated. You then begin to realize that there is a vast realm of intelligence beyond thought, that thought is only a tiny aspect of that intelligence. You also realize that all the things that truly matter – beauty, love, creativity, joy, inner peace – arise from beyond the mind. You begin to awaken.” We have a small but significant voice in our heads that is intended to keep us safe. This voice tells us not to do things like run into traffic or eat poison mushrooms. It has helped us to survive and it still serves a purpose in our world, especially for young children, who haven’t developed rational thought.
However, the ego can also keep us small and separate from others. It can keep us safe in our house, watching Netflix, insulated from real human experience that can be both enriching and developmental. It’s the voice that tells us the world is too big and scary for our dreams. That the dream career will never make us enough money to afford to live. It’s the voice that tells us that quitting our job and following our passions are incredibly stupid choices and that we’ll end up homeless on the streets. Depending on how active one’s imagination is, hundreds of other stories of woe and loss can arise.
Imagine you’re trying to decide where to eat lunch. You have the choice between two restaurants. One, you’ve been going to for years, and you know everything on the menu. You like it; it’s the safe choice. The other option is a brand new, exotic place right next to the first. It’s so new that there aren’t yet any online reviews. No one you know has been there. They serve a type of cuisine you’ve always wanted to try, but haven’t. Your ego could serve up a number of reasons why trying the new place is a bad choice: What if you get food poisoning? What if the food is terrible and you can’t eat any of it? What if, what if, what if? If you let that doubt drive your choice, you’ll probably end up eating what you’ve always eaten and possibly missing out on the best meal of your life At the least, you’ll pass up the opportunity for a new adventure.
The safe, known path versus the unknown, the road less traveled: the latter is risky, but choosing it could change your life.
We encounter our egos hundreds of times throughout the day. The more aware we are of this voice in your head, the easier it is to recognize when we’re hearing it. There are times when it’s a good choice to listen to it, but recognizing that the fear in the voice exists simply because the path ahead looks unfamiliar, and going down that path anyway, is the challenge of mankind.
There are many stories of humans overcoming great obstacles in order to achieve amazing things, so we know it’s possible. The question becomes: do we want our life to be safe and normal (and for many of us the answer is “hell yes”, and that’s ok), or do we want to experience life and to live according to our soul’s desire, our calling, and as our most authentic self?
So, what I would tell my friend is this: if we allow the fear and negative voices (our own and those of others) to stop us from living the life we love, we will always be small and live in fear. But, if we can be powerful enough to give gratitude to that voice, and be grateful for the gifts of safety we’ve received so far. We can send love to all the parts of ourselfs, and integrate the lessons learned, including this one. If we can remember to do this daily, eventually, one day we can realize that we’ve learned to become free from the influence of fear and that we’re able to live our truest, most authentic lives.