Coach’s Challenge for 10/12/09
This past week Cloud Four (my website gurus) transformed my website yet again and enabled the blog feature. We did this in response to a number of requests from subscribers who wanted to connect and converse with the community of people who read these weekly challenges. So I finally acquiesced and decided to begin blogging. I have resisted blogging for quite awhile for a few reasons. One, because I don’t like it when people start a blog and and then don’t keep it up. Two, I don’t like being criticized (invariably, someone writes in and says, “you’re an idiot and what you write about is dumb”), and three, my ego got in the way.
So, let’s talk about number three, because I can see in writing this that number two and number three are part of the same resistance. When I say my ego got in the way, I am referring to a voice in me that always has a comment about my writing. It says all kinds of things like, “who’s really interested in what you have to say?” and “gee, that’s pretty good for someone who’s not really a writer” and so on. It’s the kind of ego that grows out of self-pity and self-judgment. It took me awhile to understand this. I always thought that ego was like vanity, i.e., the part of us that thinks we’re special or better than someone else (I’m afraid I have some of those thoughts as well!). But I soon came to understand that ego and vanity are exactly the same. When you tell yourself you’re not special and that you’re not as good as someone else, it still singles you out and makes you the center of the universe. It’s still all about ‘me’. It’s just reflects a negative rather than a positive self image. When I’m in that negative space I’m not thinking about anyone else. I notice that even when I do think about others, it’s often in the context of what they might think about me, or what they’ve done to me, or how they’ve affected me. So, there it is again, me, me, me.
As a coach, most of my days are involved with listening and speaking with others about themselves. There’s no end to the difficulties we all encounter. A big part of why I love coaching is that I never seem to tire of the stories people tell me. I’m fascinated by what motivates people and how they work to enrich their lives. But, I also see that our minds construct a set of ideas and an image of who we think we are. And when events don’t align with those images and ideas, we feel anxiety and struggle to find meaning.
In a way, I’ve grown to see that it’s my ego that often tries to define me. If I’m not careful, I take that definition to be all that I am. In truth, I know that I am actually not anything that my ego defines. My true nature isn’t an actual thing, thank goodness, but rather …. well, if I could define it, it would be a thing, right?
Your challenge this week is to see what’s not your ego. See when you act from that ego personality and when you don’t. Perhaps you experience something of such beauty that it takes your breath away and, in that moment, there is no definition or thought, just an experience of beauty. Maybe you say a prayer and, afterwards, you have that warm, spacious feeling in your heart – no need for dramatization or definition. Often when I’m walking, I find that my mind isn’t telling me anything about myself or my surroundings. There’s something in the rhythm of just walking that can quiet my ego.
I have a friend who loves to snow ski because he says, “when I’m skiing I’m just skiing, nothing else. It’s such a joy to do something that doesn’t require any thought or commentary. Of course, the minute I fall down I look around to make sure no one has seen me. My ego takes over and comments on my skiing ability. Right then, that moment of peace is gone.”
When we give to others in unconditional ways, we are likely to find that the mind and heart are at peace. Find what works for you this week. Find something that allows you to experience a moment when the ego is not in charge. You may find that by observing your ego at work, you might just get a glimpse into what it is not, what is beneath it.
Years ago at a retreat, I heard someone ask the teacher, “How can I get rid of my ego?” The teacher replied, “Ego just is. And if you try to make it go away you’ll see that it’s your ego that is determined to be successful at making it go away and will be monitoring your progress and commenting about it.” One of my favorite phrases comes from Papaji, and Indian teacher who advised us to allow the ego to become the handmaiden to the self, rather than the other way around.
Papaji’s teacher, Ramana Maharshi also said, “Take no notice of the ego and its activities but see only the light behind it.”
Have a good week!
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