Learn to be at peace in the moment and the ego-mind will quiet
To the ego, stillness is death. The ego is constantly doing. It has to be doing, getting, thinking, consuming. It’s what Ego does. Ego needs a reason to pursue, to conquer, to continually prove its worth through action. Ego wants you to believe that you are nothing without the things that surround you.
We’ve all experienced some sort of loss. When we do we question who we are without this thing, this job, this person that you have entangled your life’s identity around. There is a tendency here for the ego to start creating stories about the loss. The ego needs the story so it can play the victim and not take the responsibility of dealing with the pain associated with loss.
The ego-mind has to be right all the time. Ego pushes you into a corner of being who Ego says you must be.
The egos of those around you keep you in check by reminding you of what you did or said to validate your story to them and yourself.
Stillness, nothingness, and emptiness are uncomfortable for us because we’ve been living in an ego-dominated world. One that has us believing that these feelings and emotions are bad. We have bought into this lie so much so that most of us can’t stand to be uncomfortable for more than a couple of seconds. A three-degree change in temperature has us running to the thermostat for an adjustment.
We have become so disconnected from our bodies and our minds that we freak out whenever anything remotely uncomfortable springs up.
I come from a family where every moment of my day was planned out ahead of time. I knew on each day what I would be doing from the time I woke up until the time I went to bed. This was such a huge part of my life that I assumed this is how everyone functioned.
Consumed with Doing
I clearly remember in college going to hang out with a friend and he just wanted to listen to music.
He wanted to hang around his apartment and listen to music.
I froze! I suggested things to do while we listened to music, like play a board game, or make cookies. I could see he was visibly annoyed with my suggestions. I remember he asked if I had ever laid with an album and just took in the feel of it? I hadn’t done this, nor would something like this ever cross my mind. It was ludicrous!
So he guided me. Handing me a pair of headphones he smiled and told me to enjoy the next hour. He hit play and the latest William Orbit CD began to fill my head.
I knew who William Orbit was from MaDonna’s Ray of Light album, and looking back, the music was stellar! But at the time it was a long painful hour. I couldn’t get comfortable as I moved from space to space. I kept trying to make eye contact with my friend who seemed peacefully engaged in the music. I got frustrated thinking about all the things I could be doing instead of wasting my afternoon doing nothing. I was a wreck!
I was so consumed with doing at this point in my life that instead of allowing myself to be present for that hour and enjoy the creative mind of William Orbit, I sat stir crazy in my own private hell waiting for it to end.
Luckily, since this first listening, I’ve been able to let go of the need to control every moment. I have learned to enjoy the moment I’m in.
Sitting in Discomfort
Yin yoga was a huge part of this journey for me. Breath, meditation, and long deep holds gave me a focus while I turn and twist my body. Sinking heavy into the ever-present now and living one breath at a time.
The ego will always have us living in the past or in the future. Constantly we are thinking about what happened or where we’re going. But none of that is real. The past and the present are only alive in your head. But the here and now is the only place to change and grow and develop into the person you will become. Yet it is the hardest place to be. The ego doesn’t like hard and uncomfortable.
Yin teaches us to be comfortable in the uncomfortable. Helping us to breathe our way through the tight and the sticky parts.
Each hold in a yin class ranges from 3-5 minutes. These noninvasive postures allow you to sink heavy into your body. As time passes stillness becomes more noticeable and your mind begins to wander. These simple stretches begin to scream loudly through your body and mind! This discomfort paired with our deep desire to move starts shouting at us in the form of small twinges and thoughts brought to you by your ego. The ego will shout that injury from 8 years ago is the reason this is challenging. All kinds of things pop up in an effort to take you out of stillness and into movement. Thoughts that drive you out of your body and into the ego-mind.
Practice and the Ego
This afternoon I had a young man run into class at the last minute. He announced as he signed in that he was excited to try every class our studio offered. He was committed to coming every day for a month. I thought this was super cool. I told him to grab a bolster on his way in as we use them for support in yin. He informed me that he didn’t need support, and clearly thought it beneath him.
Class began with some box breathing and meditation. 10 minutes in I was guiding them into the first pose, a forward fold, caterpillar. As the class began to set themselves up from my cues I started walking a bolster over to this young man. He allowed me to help guide him into a more productive fold using the bolster. Turning toward the class I said that we would be settling in here for the next 4 minutes. I saw him lift his head, apologizing under his breath, and pack up his things and go.
The story his ego was telling him was that this was too passive and easy. That he didn’t come to yoga for this! He wanted a workout.
I would argue that this was the workout he needed. But instead, I recalled my younger self feeling the same way as William Orbit swam through my headphones and understood why he left.
We are all at a different place in our journey, and Ego will take advantage of you at any and all opportunities. Ego will work you too hard and take you out of stillness. Your job as a growing, caring individual on your own path towards enlightenment is to recognize when the ego is flaring up. Then guide it back down with stillness and inner reflection.
What that looks like for you might be different than the journey is for me, and that’s a good thing. This blog isn’t about getting you to believe and do as I do. It’s about sharing my journey so that you can be more attuned to your own inner wisdom.
Please drop a comment and let me know how you bring your mind to stillness and let the ego-mind take a break.