How do we confront our own ego?

I think I would chose a different word than confront. Confront convey antagonism. When you fight ego, ego always wins. Besides you can get into the whole game of who is confronting ego? Wouldn’t that be ego confronting ego?

The state of ego is tension and struggle. It is never happy with things as they are. What happens when you stop struggling?

I think more in terms of judo or aikido. If I understand aikido correctly, you stay relaxed and go with the energy of the attacker and redirect it to disable her or him.

By allowing ego to do it’s ego thing, you can relax. Relaxation loosens the grip of ego. This is why I consider relaxation a crucial part of meditation. Performing some Hatha Yoga postures or other form of stretching and relaxing before meditating is beneficial.

From this place of relaxation, you gently place your attention on your point of focus. A point of focus can be your breath, the palm of your hand or a chakra.* All of these places are places where you feel bodily sensations. Sensations are good because they exist in the present moment.

When thoughts arise you greet them like a host and gently bring your attention back to your point of focus. Feelings will arise. Host them as well and gently return your attention to your point of focus. As my teacher would say, “Be a hosting presence. Host all that is.”

I use the word gently a lot. Gentleness is a spiritual quality. It is beneficial to be gentle will all parts of yourself, even those parts you don’t like.

In meditation, you do not suppress anything. You allow things to be as they are. You are training your attention. You notice thoughts and bring your attention back. You notice feelings and bring your attention back.

Your continued practice loosens the grasp of ego even more. It becomes easier to see another point of view. Having things your way become less important. It is easier to accept the way things are.

Over time you may become aware that the part of you that is placing your attention is different from your thoughts and feelings.

Watching your thoughts makes the unconscious and semiconscious thoughts conscious. You become aware of your judgments, your desires and your fears. You may become aware of how self-involved they are, “She hurt my feelings when she said that. I am getting hungry. I wonder what they are are serving for lunch. How much longer do I have to sit here? My legs ache!” and so forth. You are observing your ego at work.I think of this incessant chatter like a child in the back seat of a car during a long trip.

That child isn’t an enemy and neither is the ego. It evolved to help us survive. We need it. Do not attempt to kill the ego. When Jung spoke of psychic death, he was really talking about transformation. When Joseph Campbell spoke of ego death, he was talking about surrender and transformation. When Timothy Leary spoke of ego loss, he was referring to a phase in the psychedelic experience.

As a freshman in college, I took ego death literally and subjected myself to humiliation and abuse in an attempt to kill my ego. I ended up in a psych ward.

As you continue meditation over months or years, gaps will naturally occur between the thoughts and the feelings. It is at this point that you will experience yourself as the space in which thoughts and feelings arise. You are no longer identifying with your thoughts or your feelings. They have become objects of mind.

This spaciousness is one of the ways that Buddhists use the word emptiness (shunyata).You have thoughts and feelings, but you are not your thoughts and feelings. At this point, you are no longer identified with ego.

When you experience a few minutes of quiet in your mind, colors are rich and vivid and sounds are detailed and crisp. This is the experience of living in the moment. I have only experienced it a couple of times in my life, but it is unforgettable.

Again, I want to emphasize the power of gentleness to release the grasp of ego. If you want to kill your ego, kill it with kindness.

*You can focus on sound. Because I am in my head a lot, this works really well for me. You can’t think in words, if you are focused on the sounds in your environment.

You can also focus on an image like a mandala. When I do this, I will add sound and or sensation as well. Otherwise I will still identify with mind chatter.

©2016 Stephen L. Martin

Sculpture: Flowing Rhythm (red) by Flensted Mobiles

2 thoughts on “How do we confront our own ego?

  1. Thanks for sharing these ideas. Wanting to get rid of my thoughts and feelings is definitely the thing I struggle with the most in meditation. But I really like that idea of “hosting” thoughts and feelings. Just because you’re being a good host doesn’t mean you need to be attached to the person (or thing) you’re hosting.

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