No, seriously, I’m asking: how do we do it?
I often find that my ego has two settings:
1. I am awesome.
2. I suck.
Okay, it’s not always quite that dramatic. I find that most of the time I am content and can accurately assess both my talents and my flaws. Still, there are those moments that put us on that see-saw: Oh, validate me! Did I do a good job? Ugh, I suck. Everyone hates me. Back and forth; up and down.
On a funny and self-deprecating note: I realized a few minutes ago that I wrote about this a little over a year ago, and yet have made seemingly little progress. I don’t take myself too seriously most of the time, yet I’d love to get off of that ego see-saw altogether. Is it possible? Can we truly take leave of our egos? Is that even the goal?
Today, I started a new class in a new studio. I went in with nervous excitement. I know if I truly want to progress in the primary series, I need a quality teacher whose opinions I trust. After some asking around, this seemed like the place to go. The unknown can be a source of uncomfortable ego awakening. I don’t know what to expect. My wanting to learn is offset slightly by that pull of wanting to be my best. I want to “get it right” the first time.
The class was a variety of students ranging from regularly practicing yogis looking to dig deeper into Ashtanga (i.e. me) all the way to students who were brand new to yoga. As the teacher began talking about yoga generally, the ego see-saw went up (yes…I already know all that. I’m awesome) but I was quickly pulled back to her explanation and out of my ego stroking reverie when she said:
“We try to leave our egos at the door. This is about you, on your mat.”
Sigh. Yes, I know. I just needed the reminder. And I needed to remind myself again when she would make a comment about form and adjustments (shoot! Is she talking about me? Am I out of alignment?). I needed to remind myself why I was there. I wasn’t there to have the teacher like me or tell me I was doing a good job. I wasn’t there to perfect myself—inside or out. I was there to deepen my practice, to learn how to create permanent changes in my life.
Regardless of any particular outcome on any given day, I do it because it bring me joy. I do it out of love.
I remembered a passage from when we did the Gita Talk book club last year and went hunting for it:
However men try to reach me.
I return their love with my love;
whatever path they may travel,
it leads to me in the end. (BG 4.11)
If we want to let go of our egos, or at least master them, maybe the first step is to fall completely in love with life.
If our actions are completely motivated by love—love and compassion for others, love and passion for our work and play, love of life—there is little room left for ego disturbance. The Gita talks a great deal about detaching from a particular outcome of our actions, and being motivated instead by love and right actions—regardless of how they turn out.
It’s a very romantic notion, but one I’m inclined to agree with, both on and off the mat. It isn’t my perfect paschimottanasana that matters. It isn’t whether I am always calm and kind to everyone I know. It isn’t whether I get everything I want or think I need as a result of all I’ve done. It’s keeping at it—out of love—that matters.
May you find yourself sitting in the middle, rather than at either end of the ego see-saw. May your failures make you laugh just as much as your triumphs.
May you fall completely in love with your life.
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