“Enlightenment is ego’s ultimate disappointment.” ~ Chogyam Trungpa.
The other day my older son had been arrogantly talking about his Magic the Gathering card game, so I walked over to his spot on the couch, and said, “Open your hand.”
I pretended to put something in his hand (as I did when he was a toddler, and we’d sing the Sticky Sticky Bubblegum song). He looked at me with laughing eyes, wondering about the trick that I was up to, knowing that I’m a lover of all things April Foolish (even in August!).
“What is it, mom?” he asked.
“It’s your ego,” I said, “Now put it in your back pocket.”
My son put the imaginary thing in his back pocket, and sat back down, laughing at me.
“I sat on it,” he giggled.
“Exactly. Sometimes you have to put your ego in your back pocket, and sit on it,” I joked with him. A few months ago, I saw this quote flicker through one of my social media sites, and it resonated with me, so I remembered the words (but not the author) for a moment such as this one.
His younger brother joined in our laughter. A little while later, I noticed my older son mulling over this idea for a little bit. My son tends to come off as bit arrogant at times due to his unique learning curve of social cues, which comes with having Asperger’s (an Autism Spectrum Disorder), but he is continually working on improving ways to see the cues, and becoming more aware of others.
Certainly, the ego is a hard thing to sit on (even if it is imaginary), and sometimes it’s a hard emotion to sit with as we move through our world, connecting with others. Our ego is important in many ways, as it wakes us up to our perception of our world.
I believe we need to honor our ego—make friends with it—but learn to let the ego be a guest.
Invite her into our space; be gentle, listen, and find some inspiration in her words, but don’t wear the ego on our sleeve. That’s the place designed only for our hearts, right?
I do believe it is necessary to put her in our back pocket and take a seat: slow down, and learn to see our world from a perspective in which we may approach our actions with loving-kindness. We may still be brave and courageous from this space; in fact, we become even more fearless when our ego isn’t whispering in our ear.
In many ways, the ego creates more chaos than we need, so we lose track of our true nature, as well as our connection with those around us.
We act out because we feel vulnerable and uncomfortable, so the ego steps up and acts like a shield, trying to protect us from pain.
Yet we need the pain—those uncomfortable moments—to become wiser and more open-hearted.
So, how do we put down the shield of our ego?
Pema Chodron explains that meeting our uncomfortableness with loving-kindness, or what is called Maitri, may be the way to do so:
“The qualities that are the toughest to be kind to are the painful parts, where we feel ashamed, as if we don’t belong, as if we’ve just blown it, when things are falling apart for us. Maitri, or loving-kindness, means sticking with ourselves when we don’t have anything, when we feel like a loser.” ~ Pema Chodron.
Chodron shows us that Maitri is a way of compassion, the feeling of being at home in ourselves, which involves some level of discomfort, and pain.
Our ego tries to fight the uncomfortableness by acting cool, presenting a polished facade that we have our stuff all figured out, but we don’t: kissing our ego good-bye may take a thousand kisses before we are finally free.
In the meantime, try the imaginary game of putting our ego in our back pocket and sitting on it the next time we feel the ego blocking the way to loving-kindness.
And if that doesn’t work, then go for the Sticky Sticky Bubblegum song, as we all know that playing is a wonderful way to lighten our spirits, and share loving-kindness.
In my version of the song, I’d sing: Where did it go? after the bubble popped, and I pretended to find it on one of my son’s ears, toes, or their floppy hair, and pull it off slowly, as if the gum could barely come off, but it did.
And, maybe one day, we’ll be able to do the same for our egos, pop the bubble, and ask: Where did it go?
Until then, let’s play!
Here’s the Sticky Sticky Bubblegum song:
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Emily Bartran