At some point on my spiritual journey, I thought that maybe I was supposed to give up my ego. I mean, that’s what all of those spiritual leaders say, right? We’re supposed to break down our egos, dissolve them so that we walk around the planet as the essence of love itself. Even people who have tripped on LSD or mushrooms often report experiencing “ego death” and gaining spiritual insights from it.
I don’t remember exactly when the concept of the ego as a bad thing came into my awareness. It was probably in the summer of 2012, my first season living and working at Omega. I was practicing a lot of Buddhist meditation at the time and was influenced by friends who were practicing Buddhists. EGO=BAD, I thought. I began to discover all of these places in my life were I was navigating from my ego, like making sure to tell others I was not to blame for whatever problem they were having, comparing myself to others in yoga class, saying inauthentic things to please others, etc.
I observed others around me trying to get rid of their personalities, or so it seemed. Our personalities are really just a conglomeration of preferences, desires, and needs. Right? So, getting rid of these reinforced an already established belief in my psyche I shouldn’t have needs. I thought that to be egoless, to be self-less, I thought I was supposed to let the needs of others dictate my life. Boy, was I confused. First of all, this codependency in which I engaged created this idea in my little ego’s head that I was better than other people who had needs because I didn’t have them (remember, this is according to my well-intentioned, but misguided ego). All that this codependency did was project my needs onto others around me. I wouldn’t allow myself to address my own needs, so I did it by “helping” others to somehow try and address my needs indirectly. Furthermore, I thought I was doing this because I was a “good” person.
Are you as confused as I was?
More questions arose, particularly with the presence of Adyashanti, a spiritual teacher, on the Omega campus. He purports himself to be enlightened and teaches others how to achieve awakening, too. This was the closest I’d ever been to such a teacher. As I looked at this man, during one of his talks, I realized that even if he’s enlightened, he’s still in a human body! Doesn’t he still have to set an alarm clock in the morning and choose which cereal he wants to eat? He’s married – how did he “choose” one woman? Do they ever argue? He still has to shit on the pot, y’know!
As my journey continued, I began to see many people dismiss their anger or so-called negative feelings because that was simply their ego talking. Yes, and no. Often this seemed to me, to be an example of spiritual bypassing. Something in me cried out, “Wait a second! Don’t push this feeling away!” That negative feeling has information in it.
I began to sense that what my ego needed was and is awareness. As I began to recognize and hold all of the seemingly opposing sides of myself, the more I began to grow, psychologically and spiritually. The less I tried to dismiss or deny my attachments and aversions, the more I could deal with my faults and begin to correct unhealthy behaviors. Shadow work, anyone?
I see this as expanding the ego – possibly until it dissolves into the Divine Oneness.
The Guest House
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.