Present Tense

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.

January 13, 2013 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Self-Help Me!!!

I’ve reached my saturation point with self-help books.  I had an epiphany last night while perusing some of the books that Amazon recommended for me in one of their countless emails (they know my weaknesses and exploit them nicely….bravo).  I looked them over, carefully reading the blurbs and all of a sudden, it hit me: I’m done.

DONE with self-help books, done with the ‘strategies for a better you’, done with lists, exercises, quizzes (well, maybe not quizzes…) and ‘action lists’;  all of it.  I’ve read thousands of pages hoping for that bolt of insight, that one little nugget of knowledge that will change my life and I finally realized that it doesn’t exist.  It ain’t out there like low hanging fruit, waiting for me to harvest that one  juicy, jewel of truth.  That juicy jewel already exists in me; in my actions, my reactions, my path, my decisions, my judgements.  I have the tools and the knowledge and now it’s merely a matter of DOING, instead of gathering.  Time to harvest the fruit that I’ve grown.

I’m not saying that everyone should come to the same conclusion. I have a list of books, authors, lectures, etc. that have had a profound impact on how I see the world, both personally and professionally.  In fact, I’ll post that list someday, in case any of you are interested, but what I realized is that all of these books essentially reinforce the same message, because it’s the message that expresses my values.  I’m merely consuming books that reinforce my gut instincts.

The mind blowing revelation was that I already HAVE this knowledge, these tools, these instincts and ONE MORE BOOK won’t catalyze me to act.  Take a minute to think about the many self-help books/articles that you’ve read; I’ll be willing to bet that they are all amazingly similar.  There are tons of different self-help categories and I think that most of us concentrate on a couple of them and read the same message over and over, in different packaging.  After enough books stressing the same message, it’s time to act. Don’t get me wrong; I think that constant learning and insight are as important as food and oxygen, but if you’re merely reading the same message over and over, it becomes a way to avoid making the changes in your life that you’re seeking.

January 9, 2010 Posted by | Musings | , , | 12 Comments

Dear “Future Me”……

I ran across a pretty cool website (okay, full disclosure:  I read about it in “O”) and thought I would check it out and share it.  It’s and it allows you to send an e mail to yourself, in the future.  I took the bait and wrote myself an email that will be delivered to me on Christmas of this year, but you can pick just about any date from tomorrow to 40 years from now.  Like you’re still going to have the same e mail address in 40 years! Actually, for me, looking forward 40 years is entirely too depressing; the chances of that “future me” knowing my name is doubtful, let alone being able to read an email.

However, I was thinking that writing a quick note to the “future me” in 5 or ten years, might be kind of fun, so here goes:

Dear Future Me:

I bet you were worried that this note wouldn’t arrive, weren’t you?  I know how you fret and fuss about stuff. Now you can relax; unless you’ve done something stupid in the last week or so, that has you all edgy and guilty.  If that’s the case, you haven’t changed a bit, you old bag.

Let’s assume that you have walked a little further on your journey and are now rich, happy and at peace with yourself and the world.  Fat chance, but just in case, congratulations on finally figuring things out.

I’ll bet all of the stuff that you were worrying and obsessing about a few years ago, has turned out just fine.  You may have lost some people that you love.  You probably don’t feel quite as spry as you did when you were younger and hopefully, you’ve given up and let the gray hairs take their natural course.  Older women can’t really pull off the unnaturally dark hair, Miss Thing.  I hope that you are treasuring your husband and your family every single day.  For that matter, I hope that you’re grateful for your life and have forgiven yourself for past indiscretions; you don’t have enough time left, to waste it on regrets.

Okay, just checking in.  I’ll write again in a few more years, so take care of yourself and stick around.

Your ….um….self.


January 6, 2010 Posted by | Musings | , , | 4 Comments


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