In the first 3 parts on the Basic Principles of Meditation I have spoken about the core of Meditation and how it relates to our thoughts, breath and emotions. Today I want to talk about the ego. Once you understand the ego and how it impacts your life you’ll be able to approach your life from a whole new perspective.
What is the Ego?
The ego is the collection of all your thoughts, opinions, beliefs and emotions that you use to create and establish your identity. For example, your career and job title is an identity that you’ve established. Race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, political affiliation and religion are all identities. We identify ourselves as man or woman, a parent, brother, sister, plumber, electrician, photographer, CEO, etc… We take on roles in our lives and we act in accordance with those roles.
The ego is also the “I AM” part of you that establishes your identity. So if you say to yourself I’m good looking, I’m funny, I’m a professional, I’m depressed, I’m angry, I’m pissed off!; these are identities and part of the ego. We establish these identities and then form the belief; this is who I am. The danger of locking ourselves into a role or identity is that we become stuck and this can limit our ability to grow or make positive change in our lives.
In the last post on emotions I introduced the concept of learning to be the observer of your thoughts and emotions. We can also become the observer of our ego.
When you begin to observe your ego you start to witness the roles and identities that you create for yourself. One that comes up often is the role of political affiliation. It’s always interesting to watch a flag waving, Obama loving Democrat sit in the same room with a card carrying Republican and member of the NRA. Both are so engrained in their identity (ego) that it makes them sick to their stomach to have to sit in the same room. Usually the conversation starts as a statement that absolutely insults or irritates the other, the other person responds and before you know it you have two people lashing out taking cheap shots, trying to get the upper hand and justifying why their view is right.
No wonder nothing ever gets done in Government. Forget government we have those battles daily in our media, over the Internet and in our coffee shops. The ego within us likes to take sides.
Pick a topic, race, sexual orientation, religion, nationality and you’ll see that people cling fiercely to their identity and ego. The source of most of the worlds problems are due to our identification with our ego and as Eckhart Tolle says, “…the dysfunction that every human being carries within: the ego.”
How can this apply to your life or meditation practice?
As you go about your daily life (or meditate) start to become aware of the roles or identities that you have either inherited or create in your life. If you say you’re depressed, ask yourself the question, Am I depressed or am I just taking on the role of being depressed right now?
If you’re an American (or whatever nationality) start to observe how you have developed your identity as an American. Look at what you were taught in school, on TV or from friends and family and start to observe your own beliefs. Then ask the question, What would my life look like if I wasn’t an American, what if I was born in China or Singapore or whatever country? Take a few minutes to look outside your own national identity and ask what identity would you have taken on had you been born somewhere else.
These exercises do not make you lose your identity but do enable you to start looking at your ego and the roles and identities you have created.
I’m also going recommend that you read Eckhart Tolle’s book A New Earth to understand the workings of the ego.
Next post in this series will be on Meditation and the Law of Attraction