I always start the yoga nidra workshops I lead with a series of questions.
I get to know the individuals who are present, and I respond to what is needed. Holding my hand up and keeping it up for each question, I asked:
“How many people have a talkative mind?
How many people have difficulty sleeping because of their mind?
Does this talking cause stress?
Who wishes their mind would be quiet?
How many would like to learn how to still their mind?”
I ask these questions because this is the common ailment for people who learn yoga nidra—individuals who are seeking healing from stress and anxiety and those who are looking to self-nurture and relax at mental, emotional and spiritual depths.
For each question, the greater majority of the room hand their hands up. Until the final question:
“How many of you love your ego-mind?”
The absence of hands was stunning. Only two of us in the room had our hands up. Why does the ego get such a bad rap? Why do people hate and denigrate the ego?
When the very definitions of yoga include union, integration and oneness—then how can a person be at peace within their own self when they are denigrating an aspect of who they are?
Exactly how does putting the ego down improve the situation?
Is there a time anyone else invalidated, dismissed, neglected or insulted someone—and it created good-will and improved life? Why is a negative, self-abusive relationship style communicated in yoga and presented as healthy and normal?
As I have come to see it, this is the very wound many people seek to heal—-people come to yoga to learn how to see, understand and relate to their own soul, identity and creation.
Sadly, well-intentioned people cause a great deal of harm by wielding the word, ego, ego-mind and egoic. It’s a rampant epidemic with novice devotees who misunderstand the role of the ego in a whole human being.
Is there really a difference in these word, verses sin, sinner and sinful? When has somebody preaching and lambasting someone with labels ever helped a situation?
The ego is not an enemy. It does not need to be controlled, dominated, forced, coerced, manipulated, deviated or dismissed. The relationship style one has with their ego communicates far more about their style of communication and love. Putting the ego down only makes the situation worse. It’s an abusive relationship style, and dismissing the ego as evil or hating the mind, only furthers the inner separation.
Until a person knows who they are, there is no inner peace—and the ego is just one aspect of a whole human.
That’s right, the ego is not an object–-it’s one aspect of a whole human being. Rather than dismissing and putting the ego-mind down, its needs to be related to.
How one relates to the self will do more for quieting or upsetting the mind than any external circumstance.
This is a matter of being at peace within and knowing how to be authentic with oneself—recognizing truths and acting on them. This is more than a matter of getting what a person likes and wants or avoiding fears and stepping back from life.
The relationship style with ones ego will transform the mind into a powerful ally.
Is there an unruly child anyone was ever to really beat into submission? Insult and denigrate until they felt loved? Dismiss until they acted properly enough to receive attention? Science points to how these kind of relationship styles are destructive and uncentering.
As a teacher and mentor, my experience has proven—again and again—how being present and responsive goes further than any kind of put down. Treating a child (or ego) as an object—and talking down, raging or dismissing—only ends up causing separation and more problems.
Respecting people as people—and egos as egos—is a part of seeing and accepting the life-light within ourselves and others.
Being able to observe the mind, body sensations, breath and heart-pulse allows a person to relax with what arises in this moment—including egos.
Would it be easier to observe and set aside the tendency to put egos down? Would the mind feel less stress if it did not bears the burdens of criticism, judgment and opinion? Doesn’t recognizing and appreciating the person foster healthy relationships?
How much freer would a person feel if the ego-mind was not engaged in worry, doubt and all the talk arising from having an ego? Stopping with internal self-denigration can be a big step for some people, yet it remains accessible for those who have the conviction to be genuinely loving.
What is self-love except for accepting ones whole self—being one within the experience of inner peace?
Author: Keith Artisan
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Photo: Unsplash/Joshua Earle