Ego is simply the “I” sense of yourself. A general theme in the worlds spiritual beliefs and mystery schools is that we must transcend the ego in order to know and understand the universe. Without getting too philosophical, I think we can all agree this simply means getting over yourself so that you can feel into the connectedness of all things and, depending on your personal beliefs, become enlightened or know god. This proves to be no small endeavor.
I have recently come back to a regular yoga practice after almost a year off due to illness. Before I became physically unable to practice I was teaching and practicing on the regular for many years. When I do yoga I get very excited. I’m incredibly happy and grateful to be there, given that it is generally the only time away from my kids, I want to work hard and I want to rest deeply. I have moved to a new city and the style of yoga here is very different. I find myself fighting with myself almost the entire time on the mat. I am admittedly critiquing the teaching. Part of me is like, “you are here to receive what is offered, quiet your mind, if you don’t like it, that is your practice.” The other part of me is thinking “what kind of sequencing is this? you’ve just gotten some momentum, why are you stopping?, utkatasana (chair) is going to be your peak pose??” Then I go back to “see the beauty, who do you think you are, you know nothing, you are this teacher, you are connected to everyone in the room, turn your mind to the breath, get some humility.”
And last night, that’s where my brain stopped. Humility.
I began listening to the woman next to me who even though we were doing the ‘simplest’ of poses, her breath was steadfast throughout the whole practice. She was graceful, elegant and when I closed my eyes I could feel her sense of peace emanating from her body. She reminded me of a beautiful woman I know named Danielle. Then I thought, “I’m going to practice like that and its going to help me get over myself.” So I turned my mind to my breath and each time I found myself coming back to my mind I made myself come back to my breath. Even though we did no complicated poses or sequencing, the practice got more challenging, more intense and more fulfilling because I chose to show up.
Ego is the part of ourselves that keeps us disconnected from the world around us. The clincher is that it is entirely necessary and we have to identify with it and understand it before we can transcend it. As the ego defines so much of who we are, it is very difficult to let it go. We are extremely attached to our sense of I self. Getting over ourselves is a daily practice. One of the true gifts of not being able to do physical asana for so long was that my practice became about meditation. This is the point of yoga, the stilling of the mind. This is where you can feel into the universe through the portal of the breath; where your I sense falls away and you are able to tap in. It is very challenging to meditate. I recommend finding 5 minutes every day and just sitting quietly watching the breath or feeling into the body. I also like guided meditations, they help you learn how to concentrate.
Imagine the level of kindness and joy that would be available to everyone if we all got over ourselves. Imagine the love that would be shared simply because there would be no judgement. Although this seems impossible, doesn’t it seem reasonable to find time to make small changes in your own life so you can walk more softly, love more deeply and live more kindly? Even taking the small step of growing your awareness, of beginning to watch your thoughts and observe what you are putting out into the world is impactful. Getting over ourselves allows us to see everyone for who they really are, including yourself. Learning to transcend the ego is like taking off a dark cloak that each of us are draped in and revealing the luminous and radiant universe that resides within each of us.