Breaking Up With My Ego
I’ve had a feeling of buoyancy and lightness for the past couple of weeks that is foreign to me and I’ve been warily observing and circling these feelings like a cat stalking a moth. It kind of pains me to admit this, but I have to credit an Oprah book club selection for this sea change in my outlook.
I read Eckhart Tolle’s “A New Earth” after some prodding from a friend. I have a bias against Oprah’s preachy, airy-fairyness, which is ironic since I am right at this minute embarking on the same thing in writing this post. The book appeared at exactly the right moment in my journey.
In a nutshell, Eckhart Tolle teaches that when we learn to let go of our ego, our need to be right, our need to be important, our need for status, our need to stand out from others, we will find peace and enlightenment. This obviously flies in the face of everything we believe in the year 2013. It’s an age of rampant ego, self-righteous arguments, expensive status symbols and constant cries for attention. That is our culture in this era of reality shows and Kardashians. I am increasingly uncomfortable with certain aspects of our culture and that’s probably why the book resonated with me.
In my opinion, religion and spirituality are very personal and internal; we can only control ourselves. That’s it. Bottom line. No matter how much you want to control the rest of humanity, you cannot. And so the constant complaining about other people’s stupidity, rudeness, ignorance, hate, godlessness, lack of common sense and everything else that they do differently from you, is a waste of time. It feeds our feelings of division and separateness from other humans.
We all know it’s wrong. I take that back. Most of us know it’s wrong, but it’s so easy to always blame someone else for the ills of society, isn’t it? It’s hard to look at ourselves and our actions and our beliefs as contributing to the ‘breakdown in society’. We are not accepting of other points of view and are so obsessed with protecting our viewpoints and beliefs that we shut out others who aren’t of the same mindset. Tolle points out that this is our ego speaking. I think that it’s our ego throwing a massive tantrum. All the time.
Our ego is like a protective shell that we develop throughout our lives. It’s comprised of the things that are comfortable, but not always valid; things that we think are ‘true’, beliefs and opinions that we’ve held so long that they are like an ingrown toenail; it would be way too painful to excise them and so, they fester. Our lives change but we hold onto our ego, our protective shell and unlike a hermit crab that sheds it’s shell once it outgrows it, we hold onto the old one. And we cease to grow.
We fuss and fight to the death to protect the ego; this collection of hard, crusty opinions and beliefs that we never question. We allow it to define us and then we play the role that our ego requires to keep it crack free and intact.
That is no way to fulfill the promise that our creator gave us as humans. We are supposed to grow and morph and evolve in our lives. Watch a tree or a storm or the ocean or the solar system. Growth, change, destruction, life, death, devastation, birth. That is our life; that is our destiny.
We live in stagnation because that’s how our protective shell works. We trudge through our days, waiting for some future event that will suddenly make life worth living and we do nothing to allow newness and growth. We play our defined roles (yes, I’m referring to me here) without question because it’s easy, it’s our routine, it’s what our ego allows inside our little shell.
Here is what has given me this lightness and buoyancy: It occurred to me that I have to stop; to crack my shell. I am not required to continue down this path. We can all choose a religious/spiritual path that is personal and internal. We can say ‘screw you’ to the ego that drives all of our boring, routine and many times, hostile reactions to the rest of the world. We can be free of the restrictions that we have imposed on ourselves.
I’d been rolling all of this around before I read the book. I had a feeling that I wasn’t living as authentically as I knew that I could and it was eating at me. I know that I tend to react too quickly and too predictably when I feel challenged or criticized or fearful. My ego wants to win every argument, vanquish my opponent and revel in my superiority. But that really doesn’t make me happy. Because there is always another argument, another opponent, another ego to grapple with. Do I feel good after these conflicts? No, I don’t. I feel empty and alone and kind of stupid. It doesn’t fulfill me to be ‘right’; in fact, it diminishes me.
So, I decided to try and stop reacting according to my established patterns. I can accept that life is random and painful and beautiful. I can accept that it’s my reactions that are key and that my reactions don’t always have to follow the rigid rules of my ego.
If this resonates, read the book. What can it hurt? You might start to see a crack in that shell and a crack lets in light and light makes everything clearer.