January 23, 2017

The One Thing that will Block your Happiness & the Buddhist Wisdom to Clear it.

“Your ego is your soul’s worst enemy.” ~ Rusty Eric

The funny thing is that I always thought I had no ego, because I hated myself.

I didn’t realize that it was exactly this, my ego, that was helping perpetuate my low self-worth and insecurity. I thought I had to be loud, brash, arrogant, and think I was all that and a bag of chips to have an ego problem. How wrong I was.

I learned later that insecurity and negativity are very self-centered behaviors. And self-centeredness is very egotistical. When one of my teachers told me that self-centeredness wasn’t how highly I thought of myself but rather how often, I was stunned. At that moment I was baffled to learn that someone as filled with self-loathing as I was back then could also be self-centered. I do love a good irony.

So let’s chat about my dear friend ego for a moment. The human mind is the only mind that develops ego, and left unchecked it can be a domineering jailer.

When we are energetically blocked and imbalanced in mind, body and soul, ego becomes the jailer. My ego was where my warped sense of esteem, worth, importance and identity came from. In a sense, it’s what gives each of us our personal individuality—our identities which we so desperately cling to. We attach so much importance to these identities because we are entrenched in our existence as physical beings. That’s ego too. It can’t identify with anything beyond the tangible physical reality. 

Here is one definition of ego:

 “The feeling of a separate ‘I’ which we call ego-consciousness, is directly related to the strength of ignorance, greed, and hatred. The deepest meaning of ignorance is the believing in, identifying with and clinging to the ego, which as we have seen, is nothing but an illusive mental phenomenon. But because of this strong clinging to ego-consciousness, attachment/desire, anger/hatred arise and repeatedly gain strength.”Maithri

Animals see themselves as one of a pack or community. They don’t have the human sense of personal identity like we do. Ego is what tells us we are unique, separate and different from one another. And yes, while we all do have our own unique traits, don’t be fooled by the ego—we are all one and we are all connected in a greater consciousness. Admit it or deny it, the connection is there. If you’re still in denial on this, no worries, it’s just your ego speaking and you have some work to do.

If you’re doubtful but open, this is good—it’s progress! 

We are currently living in a society that is fueled by egocentric people in powerful roles. We see it at every turn. I see it so clearly because it’s simply a larger version of how I lived most of my life. It stands out to me because I am well aware of my full potential to reverse backwards to being an egotistical a**hole in no time.

People are angry, combative and downright hateful if you challenge their identities. Ego feeds the incessant need to dominate others with our thoughts and opinions. It must separate and divide; it labels and judges. It is the voice that says, “Oh no, we don’t like them because they don’t act the way we think they should.” It’s the voice that says, “If you don’t agree with me, then you must be stupid.” It is the judge, the jury, and the executioner. It is the voice that clings to those beliefs someone else put into our minds long ago, and we are subconsciously choosing to keep living our lives according to those beliefs. 

It’s the belief that says, “I suck,” or, “If they really knew me, they wouldn’t love me. I’m a failure. I’ll never succeed.” The ego whispers these beliefs and then grows into a monstrous train of thought, and to make up for those beliefs, it starts screaming louder about how much better than everyone else we are, and how we don’t need anyone anyway.

It’s quite paradoxical, isn’t it? A bit of a mess?

In a balanced system of body, mind and soul, ego merely acts as a quiet voice that has some preferences, identities, beliefs, and opinions. It doesn’t run the show anymore. It may step in and try to separate us from our collective consciousness and the oneness we have found by living in a balanced system, but when we are balanced we are prepared and we see it. We learn to observe the ego’s tricks and we get to say, “Not today ego, but I appreciate your efforts in trying to separate me from my beautiful harmony with the world.” In balance, it becomes a choice which way we go. We no longer identify with our ego-self as our true identity; we see beyond the illusion. We can either be present or we can view everything through a filtered lens from our subconscious and ego.

So, the question is, how do we get balanced? How do we master the ego and take back control of our own lives?

We meditate, do breathwork and yoga, and practice mindfulness. These are the tools that will lift the chains of bondage from our egocentric fear and insecurity.

In Buddhism, we practice and take refuge in the dharma by resting the mind and consciousness more and more in the present moment instead of in the past and the future. We start noticing how often our mind is everywhere else but here and now. When we begin to focus on the present, ego and desire begin to dissolve. And when we can no longer desire something and worry about not getting it, suffering begins to dissolve as well.

These things simply cannot exist in the present moment. We either have something or we don’t in the present. We can’t desire (the cause of suffering according to the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths) when we are present. Desiring is living in the future and suffering arises out of fear of not getting what we desire. It’s very simple, but the ego will complicate it.

We can begin to ask ourselves, “What do I desire and why? What am I clinging to and why? What am I so attached to?” This will begin to shine the light on what fuels our ego. Then when we sit in meditation or practice breathing, we will begin to create more and more space in our conscious mind, where we can begin to see more clearly when the ego is speaking and when our true essence is speaking. It’s a practice and it takes time, but I can assure you that breaking the chains of illusion created by ego is a process that is very worthwhile.

When all else fails, I take comfort in these words:

“The samsaric kleshas, or conflicting emotions—passion, aggression, and ignorance—are what prevent us from being fully awake. They are the product of the fearfulness of ego, which constantly tries to maintain itself and to run away from any threats that might reveal its non-existence.” ~ Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

“Though one should conquer a thousand times a thousand men in battle, he who conquers his own self, is the greatest of all conquerers. Self-conquest is, indeed, far greater than the conquest of all other folks.” ~ Dhammapada v. 103, 104

“If you cling to the disciplines of generosity, morality, or patience, you are merely going from one extreme of samsara to the other. You simply create a new form of bondage. In order to free ourselves from this trap, we have to release all our ego-clinging and break through the net of dualistic conceptions.” ~ Khenpo Palden Sherab Rinpoche, Door to Inconceivable Wisdom and Compassion

“All the violence, fear and suffering that exists in this world comes from grasping at ‘self.’ What use is this great monster to you? If you do not let go of the ‘self,’ there will never be an end to your suffering.” ~ Shantideva

And I leave you with my favorite piece of wisdom in hopes that I may pass on a spark to be of benefit to those who suffer:

Know all things to be like this:
A mirage, a cloud castle,
A dream, an apparition,
Without essence, but with qualities that can be seen.

Know all things to be like this:
As the moon in a bright sky
In some clear lake reflected,
Though to that lake the moon has never moved.

Know all things to be like this:
As an echo that derives
From music, sounds, and weeping,
Yet in that echo is no melody.

Know all things to be like this:
As a magician makes illusions
Of horses, oxen, carts and other things,
Nothing is as it appears.
~ Samadhi Raja Sutra




Author: Lindsay Carricarte

Image: Flickr/Alma Ayon

Editor: Travis May

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