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, supported by 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 singular vantage point—an identity, or a sense of self.
In other words, my ego is a psychological construct that helps distinguish ‘me’ from ‘them.’ My ego is such a powerful mental 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.”
Thinking of perspective like a pair of eyeglasses, how my consciousness views the world is the lenses. The frame is built from my ego, which surrounds my perspective and holds it in place.
Like real lenses, my ego-glasses filter what I ‘see’ looking from the inside-out, and the outside-in. Most of the time, I believe my lenses are close to perfect.
However, studies indicate that my ego-lenses filter out most incoming information that doesn’t align with my existing worldview—a condition known as confirmation bias. In other words, I’m not always impartial about which details I allow to enter my consciousness.
My ego takes every opportunity to thrust itself upon my perspective. And if left unchecked, I’d forever remain out-of-touch with the real world. Like a dream.
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.”
Related: How Does Mindfulness Work?
My ego might be relentless, but it hates being recognized.
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.
Why is Compassion Important?
“Self-compassion leads to compassion for everyone, and further broadens my perspective.”
Like learning to harness any other tool (or hunt a fox), becoming mindfully adept takes willingness, time, concerted effort, and repetition. But my ego is a tireless opponent that takes a no-holds-barred approach, using any tactics available to ensure it dominates my perspective.
When seeking my ego, it’s only a matter of time before I fail in some regard. And when this happens, it’s easy to scold myself — or worse, give up the journey altogether.
And it’s not always better when I win, either!
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: Why is Compassion Important?
By recognizing that my ego and I are both “suffering,” and that we’re just two sides of the same coin, I understand that sending it negative energy only circles back, like a boomerang.
Scolding myself, or my ego, only makes me feel like shit. And at the end of the day, it doesn’t move me any closer to completing the work that needs to be 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 as humans, 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.
Related: What is Suffering in Buddhism?
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.
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 this reality, and learning to mindfully sit in the “middle” as the chaos of life flows through our river of consciousness.