The Conditioned Ego

What do you think when you hear the word “ego”?

Being human and having an ego go hand in hand. Our ego is what allows us to be functional members of this race, and a very complex race at that.

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Egos are essentially set packages of habits. Each of us has our own ego package with habitualized beliefs, behaviours, personalities, preferences and interests, skills, etc.

We habitualize our ego packages so we don’t have to put effort into re-learning a skill after we have learned it, or deciding how to respond in a situation that we have already found a suitable response for.

Think of a person who has dementia. Often the person can become quite unrecognizable to those who loved them. They lose their memories until only the deepest of their habits are left. And then even those go. A person with dementia sometimes reaches such an advanced stage of deterioration comparable to infancy.

We don’t dislike egos. In fact, we want strong egos.

A strong ego does not mean that you are more opinionated than your neighbour or more cocky. It means that you have a greater variety of accustomed experiences and habits to draw on. If you have a strong ego, it probably will lead to more confidence, adaptability, and fulfillment

What we want to do when building a strong ego is utilize your free will to choose to build habits that serve you, and others, well. That is what we do when we learn a new skill, or choose a positive working environment, or break up with an abusive partner. You are what you eat, and you are what you invite into your life. So set your ego up for success as Harvey Deutschendort says in “The Other Kind of Smart”:

Many of our behaviour modes were born out of necessity and survival mode to get us through difficult situations in our past. […] It is crucial that we recognize that thoughts and behaviours that were once necessary are now obsolete and harmful to us. […] Although some of what we have learned is positive and will serve us well, some may be sabotaging our future and limiting our potential for a successful and fulfilling life. […] The first step is to identify what our strengths are and what serves us well.

In Tantra, for example, Doug and Catherine Sensei teach that practitioners “create the being we want to be and then move in.” This is what is intended in deity work.

The great thing about having a big ego is that you have more choice and flexibility. But there is another ingredient we want to add to a strong ego. We want a dash of curiosity, a sprinkle of adventure, and a few drops of question.

Your desire to explore has to be bigger than your desire for ego safety.  – Doug Sensei

Egos are always trying to feel safe. Having a strong ego usually will mean that your ego feels safer than the average ego, and that is good. But what are you safe for? You are safe to push the boundaries.

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A child, once they have learned to crawl, will naturally transition to attempt walking. And then running. Eventually a human invented bikes, airplanes, cars, roller blades, skateboards, and boats. This is an external evolution, and we want it on the inside as well.

You need to know what your limits are in order to transcend them. – Doug Sensei

Some people don’t want to know their boundaries, however. So in order to transcend your habits, another ingredient needed is aspiration to be free of our habit shackles and tunnel-vision glasses. You need to see the suffering in blind habit first, in order to transcend it.

downloadPractice 1: Asking better questions

What is the question about yourself that you are not asking and will unfold you?

This practice is not about being happy, but unfoldment. It doesn’t mean happiness isn’t a result of unfoldment, but it isn’t the main objective.

downloadPractice 2: Point of departure

Ask yourself “where is the point of departing here?”

This can also be a good question for an insight meditation sit.

Ego is always trying to get somewhere, get something, get some way of being. Non-ego is living as if always departing into the unknown.

downloadPractice 3: Noticing where someone is fixed

It is easier to pick up where someone else has a fixed position than yourself.

i) Where can you see that other people in your life are fixed?

ii) Has anyone ever told you that you are controlling in certain situations, fixed, or stubborn? Make note of those situations. Did you agree with them at the time, or disagree? What do you think now, after some space?

iii) Try to look at yourself as if you were an outside observer. For a day, take note of what an outside observer might say are situations where you are fixed.

See this article on flexibility for more information. 

 

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