What Do I Mean by ‘Ego?’
“My ego is a psychological construct that helps distinguish ‘me’ from ‘them.’”
The word ego means “I” in Latin. Let’s quickly break it down:
- My brain, combined with support from other bodily systems, gives rise to my consciousness, which Dictionary.com defines as the “awareness of one’s own existence, sensations, thoughts, surroundings, etc.”
- As I age, my consciousness collects experiences and fuses them into a single vantage point—an identity or a sense of self, also known as my ego.
In other words, my ego is a psychological construct that helps distinguish ‘me’ from ‘them.’ It’s such a powerful influence that it creates the illusion ‘I’ am a distinct entity from my body, like a ghost inside the machine.
What is Perspective?
My ego is tenacious, and takes every opportunity to thrust itself upon my perspective—the lens through which I view the world.”
Perspective: “the state of one’s ideas, the facts known to one, etc., in having a meaningful interrelationship.”
Let’s use a pair of eyeglasses as a metaphor: my perspective—how I view the world around me—is the lenses. My ego is the frame, which surrounds my perspective and holds it firmly in place.
Like real lenses, my ego-glasses filter what I ‘see’ from the inside-out, and the outside-in. And my ego would love for me to believe its lenses are perfect.
However, studies indicate that my ego-lenses filter out most incoming information that’s doesn’t align with my existing worldview—a condition known as confirmation bias. In other words, I’m not always impartial about the details that enter my consciousness.
My ego takes every opportunity to thrust itself upon my perspective. If left unchecked, I’d live in a dream state, forever detached from reality.
How Does Mindfulness Relate?
“In short, mindfulness is the tool by which I awaken from my ego-induced dream.”
Mindfulness: “a technique in which one focuses one’s full attention only on the present, experiencing thoughts, feelings, and sensations but not judging them.”
My ego hates being identified. It will do whatever it takes to avoid detection.
Related: What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a tool that allows me to briefly pause, breathe, sit with my thoughts, and recognize when I’m approaching a moment from a place of wholeness, or egocentrism.
In short, mindfulness is the tool by which I awaken from my ego-induced dream.
Related: What is Mindful Cycling?
Why is Compassion Important?
Self-compassion leads to compassion for everyone, and further broadens my perspective.”
Given my ego’s relentlessness, it’s only a matter of time before I fail in some regard. And when I do, it’s easy to scold myself or even give up altogether.
And it’s not always better when I win, either!
Even after shining a light on my ego, it’s easy to mentally lash out. Here’s where compassion enters the picture.
Dictionary.com defines compassion as “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.” UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Magazine makes it even simpler, stating that it “literally means ‘to suffer together.’”
Related: What is Compassion and Why is it Important?
By recognizing that my ego and I are both “suffering,” I understand that scolding myself, or my ego, only makes me feel like shit doesn’t get any real work done.
Instead, by acknowledging that my ego and I require compassion, I’m better able to recognize—and respond to—this same need in others.
Bottom line: Self-compassion leads to compassion for everyone. It further broadens my perspective; the palette from which I paint my world.
What the Fuck-uh is Dukkha?
“Lasting happiness comes from recognizing reality, and learning to mindfully sit in the “middle” as the chaos of life flows through our river of consciousness.”
Dukkha: “the first of the Four Noble Truths, that all human experience is transient and that suffering results from excessive desire and attachment.”
Yep, dukkha has a funny-sounding name. However, it references some pretty heavy shit. Specifically, that our suffering (aka “anxiety”, “stress”, or “unsatisfactoriness”) is self-inflicted. Why? Because our ego wants to cling to temporary things, and constantly judge our mental and physical states.
In Buddhism, suffering is the end result of the “three poisons:”
- Ignorance – The false belief that we are separate from everything else, creating an “I” versus “They,” or “Me” versus “Them” mentality.
- Attachment – The desire to obtain things, and the greed to amass them.
- Aversion – Hostility toward reality; anger, aggression, and hatred.
Related: What is Suffering in Buddhism?
Nothing is permanent. The universe is fluid and constantly in motion. We are born, grow old, get sick, and die. During our lifetime, we will all feel and experience beautiful—and terrible—things.
Lasting happiness comes from recognizing these realities, and learning to mindfully sit in the “middle” as the chaos of life flows through our river of consciousness.