In a single word – Ego. This is the most complicated and sophisticated construct or institution within us, whatever you’d like to call it. And it’s very subtle – that’s the difficult part and that’s what makes it hard to detect, control or do anything with it for achieving our self-improvement.
It has dominated the impact on human civilization much more than anything else, and for the most part, negatively. Countries have gone to war because of it and been reduced to ashes. Mighty rulers, kings, successful people have succumbed to it, only to make things worse for themselves, people around them and sometimes their entire continent or the world.
But where does Ego stand in our lives today and how can we win the battle of controlling it?
In today’s times, the human ego has gotten subtler and even harder to realize and keep under check. There are veils of superficial behavior, delusional thinking about one’s goodness and any number of well-constructed excuses to avoid looking at oneself and one’s ego.
And guess what, meditators or those pursuing self-improvement or spirituality are no exception. If anything, they ought to be more careful because their egos are probably even subtler. You see, one of the finest tricks the ego can play is to adapt and dynamically evolve along with our evolution so it can always be with us in our human existence and faculties.
When we try to improve ourselves, such as in pursuits of higher purpose, the ego quietly adapts itself to exist and show up in very intricate ways. In essence, negativity can never be destroyed. It has to exist for positivity to be felt. As long as human beings exist, so will their inner enemies – ego, hatred, greed, fear, anger and lust. They evolve and adapt too, to suit the times.
However, what meditators are good at is paying attention to their ego through their introspection, detecting it and trying to acknowledge their problems. And then to work on it – cognitively and spiritually. The human ego is so complex that I cannot pretend to understand how it works inside another human being – only inside myself.
And so, here are the most common ego establishments in my day to day life. And my guess is that it’s true for most people, many just don’t realize it.
Entitlement – I deserve it
At some point or other, I feel it. It makes me justify the actions that cause me to take something away from others or nature in a way that it benefits me. But this is a zero-sum game. What I take away from others or nature ends up bloating my ego. It causes me to want more things.
Life is about enjoyment, but many times, my ego tells me to go ahead and overdo it because it doesn’t matter. In fact, I use that very premise, about life being about enjoyment, to indulge in things that are harmful to me and sometimes others.
Complacency – it doesn’t matter, I’m fine
No matter, how experienced or skilled or near perfect we are, there’s always some humility needed in being careful, considerate and not taking anything for granted. Yet, my ego tells the opposite – it says that it’s okay not to care, for I’m the expert. Or at least I know this stuff and have done it so many times before. And it keeps pushing me in that direction till I suddenly realize I’ve gone too far without caring and need to claw back.
Sure, all accomplishments in life are attributed to an extent to my actions, but my ego makes me think that there’s nothing else that made them happen. The world’s best tennis player can think he or she did it all by himself or herself. But what about the infrastructure, facilities, the people who created the game, the rules, the audience, the media, coaches, family support and even the opponents, without whom no game would have been possible?
The truth is that the unseen force of nature and the all-pervading energy does virtually everything. If I think that I did anything more than just have a strong desire to be a better person in this world, then it’s nothing but my ego.
I’m too busy
This comes as an offshoot of the accomplishments and the feeling that we do all the work we do. While that’s true in a physical and cognitive sense, the fact is that if this world weren’t guided, enabled and supported by the power of Nature, we’d be unable to do anything at all. So, pretending that I’m too busy to do something good or help others is another classic ingrained feeling that’s nothing more than a manifestation of the ego.
This one’s easy, I start going around judging people because my ego tells me that I’m qualified to do it. Sometimes it’s about being very experienced, and at other times, the feeling of being better than others.
I don’t need to improve
This is just nonsense, there’s no one who does not need to or cannot improve. This is just the ego making excuses for avoiding introspection or action or both.
I don’t care – it’s all about me
Lack of compassion is another manifestation of the ego. When I’m self-obsessed, it takes away the time I should be spending thinking about others, my community and the world.
I don’t like it
This one may surprise you and you may disagree with it too. But why should anyone care about what I like? After all, what’s my opinion worth and how is it really useful to anyone? Regardless, there are too many of these “I don’t like” in my life. And as indignant as I might feel about having the right to like or dislike, it stems from my ego. Acceptance of people and things without judgement is a virtue.
Tell it like it is, even if it hurts someone
I hate to say this but there’s a thin line between being honest about something and expressing it unvarnished at all times. While the former is a good thing, if the latter hurts someone and lacks diplomacy, then it’s obviously a byproduct of my ego.
The feeling of “I’m not egoistic”
I once watched a famous personality say on stage “I’m the embodiment of humility”. The other speakers on the panel at first stared at each other stunned, then smiled at each other realizing the irony of the statement. Sometimes I carry on too long believing my ego is under check till I find that I have an ego about not having an ego. Yikes.
I don’t care about Nature or God
Well, to be honest, I don’t have this problem but have seen many who do. This can be nothing more than being highly presumptuous and oblivious about how tiny or insignificant we are in this universe.
But how can I keep my ego in check?
The regular practice of meditation helps me introspect daily. And meditation has made me acutely aware and train myself on the problems my ego can create for me.
I try to increase my introspection by taking a step back when life gets too complicated or fast-paced. Any time I run into problems in life, my first check is to trace it back to my ego before trying to blame anything or anyone else.
In Sahaja meditation, things can go beyond mere self-awareness and introspection. Innately, the power of the inner energy sucks in the Ego and deflates it each time we meditate. On a practical level, what this means is that after each meditation sitting, you feel light, humbled and like you’ve been brought down to earth.
We also try to work and clear our Agnya chakra all the time. Fortunately, the ego is well defined and contained as part of this chakra. Imagine how much more difficult it would be for us if it were hard to find or kept moving around inside us, tricky enough as it already is.
Then there are more advanced techniques for dealing with the ego, but it’s a gradual process. First, we become regular meditators, try out and experience the benefits. Then we persevere and start exploring advanced techniques and benefits. That can only happen by being consistent with our individual and collective meditation routine. It takes patience and work, but the results show over time.
How our life changes
Happiness, in a single word. The shackles of ego are constantly taking us away from enjoying and living life to the fullest extent and being happy most of the time. When the ego reduces, we stop chasing unnecessary things, living to others standards and ideals. We become contented. We’re never plotting to get back at anyone, we move on swiftly by forgiving. And forgiving makes us feel light, we carry no burdens or baggage inside us. We begin to live more for others and learn to enjoy their happiness too.
The biggest benefit, however, is that continually reducing the ego, opens us to pursuing further self-improvement and increased benefits. Our ego inevitably tries to block this all the time.
Self-improvement pursuits such as keeping our ego in check are part of the higher strata of benefits of meditation. But they are certainly within your reach if you strive to stay the course and be regular at meditation and attending our sessions. We can help you.