It never ceases to amaze me that the overwhelming majority of people wandering around this jewel of a planet will pay attention to their physical appearance, but give no thought to their thoughts…pun intended! We train our physical selves; provide fuel through food, water, and sunlight to nourish our bodies – it is a daily routine. How much time is given to paying attention to our wonderfully dangerous little minds? What ways do we use to turn the self-serving, petulant little fiend known as our Ego – into our very best friend?
Why “I” is a problem
Ask someone who they are and you will invariably get a name as a response. Ask someone to point to themselves and they will more often than not point to their mid-chest or heart area – but rarely if ever to their own head. This happens because that what you think you are already knows better, and that’s why what you think you are is always afraid. In response to that fear, there is very little our own Ego will not do to maintain control, fulfill its needs, and protect itself. The Ego accomplishes this by doing whatever it takes to avoid the truth in the moment of being fully “in the Now.”
If you pay attention to the goings-on within your own mind, you will see that the Ego uses the past and the future as methods of preventing you from focusing on the present moment. The problem is that there isn’t all that much material for the Ego to draw on, so it soon begins to repeat itself – over and over. The places, events and thoughts the Ego likes to constantly remind you of are always ones where the concept of it (the Ego) is overly dominant. Past events where ‘you’ where deeply hurt, moments of loss, and strong negative emotions are common. To the future, the Ego will focus on those things again which reinforce itself – “what if” situations that have a snowballs chance in Hades of materializing, money concerns, upcoming events that will cause stress – this list goes on.
Avoid the Present
All of these tricks and constant chatter are designed by your own mind to do one thing and one thing only: Avoid the Present Moment. It is in the present moment that our false concept of what we are melts away, revealing our true nature. In these moments, our mind is silent, or at least subdued to the point where we cease to hear ourselves thinking. In these precious moments of connectedness and harmony, where time ceases to exist and there is nothing wrong – we know we are so much more than our name, or what we thought we were.
The “reality” of our human existence is nothing more than a dream we participate in for the bulk of our waking day. If we are not in the present moment, we are not authentic, and nor are we truly awake or aware of our surroundings. Our own bodies, Nature, and everything around us give us signs both subtle and overt that we are not paying attention; and yet we often ignore these signs until a ‘life-changing event’ is required to jolt us awake.
In order to best understand how the body works, an illustration is in order: Let’s assume that you are having a discussion with a friend and something you have said has inadvertently caused this person to become angry. That person then lashes out at you – perhaps defaming a personal characteristic of yours – and this is the moment when most of us ‘lose consciousness.’ This is the moment when your Ego takes full charge and by the time the once discussion now argument has concluded, you don’t even know why you said half the things you did.
I’m going to backtrack a moment, and add another illustration to provide an easy way to understand what is happening from the ‘forest vs. the tree’ point of view. Your existence from day to day can be illustrated as a set of balance scales. On one side of the scale, you have Ego (that which you think you are), and on the other side of the scale, you have Spirit (that which you truly are). The goal is to balance the scales in your day to day affairs, as this represents a state of harmony where Ego gladly works with Spirit, becoming the ‘thought-channel’ from which Spirit and boundless creativity flow.
Okay, so we are reeling in shock from what had started as a pleasant conversation between friends…In the moments before we lose conscious control over what spills from our mouths, we have an opportunity to catch ourselves and balance the scales of our reaction. The body gives us many signals that the scales are tipping in Ego’s favour:
- Increased heart rate
- Tightness in the upper body girdle (shoulders, upper back, traps, neck)
- Clamping your teeth
- Changes in respiration
- A feeling of heat or hot flash, especially in the face
If we catch these signs from our body in time, we can take active steps to calm ourselves such as deepening and relaxing our breathing, and reminding ourselves that it isn’t personal – this is crucial, as the Ego takes everything personally. Another trick I often use is to look through the person and see the glowing core of Spirit within them, to realize consciously that I am observing and interacting with the Creative Essence of the universe.
The Ego is afraid of its own death more than anything. It knows that it is not really you, and it knows that even if it can stay in full control for your entire life, it still will have to face death. Despite the lengths our own Ego will go through to have its way, it can be tamed with a bit of repetitive effort. You can’t kill the Ego – that doesn’t work, and trying can have consequences in unstable individuals. The Ego is a tool, and needs to be actively reminded of that fact if it is to cooperate.
- As previously said, de-personalize yourself in the situation
- Give the Ego something to think about and answer for you, something totally off-topic from the situation you are in. You will be surprised how quickly the Ego forgets how offended it just was becoming.
- Take a deep breath or two, and gently let the Ego know you will handle it in a peaceful manner and will listen to it later. Then do exactly that.
- Later on in the day, take time to revisit the situation with yourself and observe how you and the individual you had a disagreement with both behaved. Try to rethink the situation, and in your mind’s eye re-live the event with your new outlook – this trains the mind to alter its behaviour in such situations.
Ultimately, meditation and daily practice of remaining in the present moment will quiet the mind somewhat; but the goal is to turn the Ego into a usable tool again as opposed to running your life for you. The Ego can be your best friend, once you have convinced it that you are not out to destroy it. Denying your desires or attempting to push out or bury your wants and needs only leads to an eruption of pent-up feelings and emotions, as the Ego forgets nothing when it comes to situations or those it perceives as a threat. Examine yourself regularly – the journey towards enlightenment and living in the present moment is exactly that – a journey. Do not be too hard on yourself when Ego wins and you are tempted to beat yourself up…after all, we are only human.
The heart of Thought Yoga is to bring the practitioner fully into the present moment; where all possibilities exist, harmony with the Creative Essence of the universe can be realized, and most importantly – where nothing is amiss. True Yoga is only brought into focus during practice; it pervades every aspect of our existence and therefore its lessons should be kept in mind in our day to day routines. In doing this, we can more easily recognize the signs that we are not fully present and do combat with the Ego in a peaceful manner.
Namaste, my friends…