Tyranny of the ego

bypassing the negative gauntlet

Our egos have great plans for us. Unfortunately, the ego's true function is as a historian: taking notes, discerning between poison and food, pleasure and pain, getting us through the day by managing the practical aspects of our lives. Our ego helps us realize that touching a hot stove might be a bad idea, that paying bills on time is good, that we need to get to work on time. All of these functions are useful.

But our ego is an entity. If it feels threatened, or knows that its sovereignty could be usurped, it overreaches. It bombards our thoughts with fearful messages, messages that tend to reinforce one idea: that we are nothing but this ego, and without it, we will cease to exist.

Creating this inner climate of fear, of inadequacy, serves the ego by making us dependent on it for validation. If that person doesn't like me, how can I go on? If I "fail" at a task, how can I continue to live, to walk the planet, to breathe the air? The ego makes it possible to consider suicide as an option, as a viable solution to whatever pain we might be going through. It will actually consider killing its host rather than cede control.

Meditation bypasses the ego. It serves to demonstrate to us that we are more than our story, more than our societal identity, more than these constantly shifting thoughts and feelings. The more we engage in a consistent meditative practice, the less dependent we are on this very small aspect of consciousness.

When we accept direction and ignore the loud demands of the ego, we have started down a path that feels more positive. It increases our capacity for happiness, our ease in performing day-to-day tasks, and makes our ego right-sized again, restoring balance.

When dealing with the ego, we need to avoid direct bullying, confrontation, and harsh tactics. Instead, we treat it with kindness, patience, and a certain bemused detachment. We keep it in the child's car seat, where it belongs, and never give it the car keys, no matter how big the tantrum it throws.

The black monkey, Parmarth Niketan Ashram, Rishikesh, India.

The black monkey, Parmarth Niketan Ashram, Rishikesh, India.