Most of us have been schooled in a traditional western approach to learning and problem solving, i.e. the mind is king and as such we can just think our
way out of situations or problems through logic and deduction. Sure the mind has some handy essential attributes, but throw in some conflict and stir
with fear or frustration and “voila” we have a mind that emulates something like an angry rhino charging around the jungle impaling anyone who happens
to get in its way.
Whilst you may think “I’m not like that”, have a look at the way you react to simple things like traffic jams when you’re running late for an important
appointment, or when a love one upsets you like embarrassing you at a dinner party in front of your friends, or a work colleague humiliates you in
front of your peers? Yes at times we all can get sucked into the vortex of the egoic mind and the outcomes are usually unpleasant to downright destructive
and painful. Like an enraged rhino we can make some pretty dumb decisions and say some hurtful words in the heat of the moment, reacting instead of
responding, regretting our actions later with shame and perhaps self-loathing.
What are the solutions to managing such difficult situations and how can we stay calm and make good decisions without losing our cool?
The first step is to understand the mind or ego or, in esoteric terms the “I ness“, it’s limitations, pitfalls and ultimately how to free ourselves from
the mind’s/ego’s addiction of self – gratification.
The ego can be defined as: ”Being identified with one’s own self, seeking power to defend or glorify with a sense of self – importance.” Common characteristics
of ego are to judge either ourselves or others, creating separation, making someone right or wrong through blame, justifying an emotional reaction.
In Buddhism, the unconscious mind is described as the “eternal suffering” and in Christianity the “original sin”. In Hinduism, when the pure sense of self
is covered with impurities of delusion and ignorance, it creates a false separation known as “Ahamkara”.Some attributes of the ego are separation,
desire, pride, arrogance, selfishness,self – centredness, judgements, opinions, criticisms, fear, anger etc.Left to our most unconscious version of
ourselves, i.e. without a sense of awareness of our thinking, we automatically embrace these egoic attributes to our peril.
If you look at a basic timeline a human life you get a sense of the egoic evolution (or not) of a soul’s journey and what (in my opinion) we are all basically
here to develop and transcend, that is our original connection with the Divine beyond the ego.
At birth babies are completely focused on themselves needing food, comfort and love from parents, completely focused on survival. Toddlers egos are fragile,
tender and mostly averse to being told “no” by parents as the toddler’s tantrums begins to expose their free will and sense of self.
As young children we begin to identify our sense of self by name, what we look like etc., realising other children exist and themes such as sharing begin
to challenge the developing ego.
Throughout the awkward teenage years, we become obsessed with being accepted by friends and the opposite sex as hormones begin to drive our motivations.The
ego’s self – judgement is defined by the attention or lack thereof by the opposite sex, often seeding the “not good enough” belief that may become
a default later in times of rejection.
Our 20’s and 30’s can be consumed by self – gratification, by way of vanity, sex, parties and the obsession to be liked, adored and accepted.In our 40’s
and 50’s as parents we naturally turn our selfishness to selflessness to love and nurture our children (hopefully).
This development of heart begins a crucial stage away from the ego with its obsession of self towards a sense of “Us ness “ or a wider giving connection
outside of our own desires towards serving others through loving actions and gestures. As we become grandparents the hard edges and unforgiving nature
of our younger self is replaced by a sense of service to family and community changing the way we seek joy and satisfaction by helping others. In our
twilight years we move towards a deeper connection with our spiritual self, connecting more with God (or your version) in whatever form it takes. Often
the closer we get to our final days, the more the doorways to the spiritual world open and we are drawn to spending time in quiet contemplation with
all that is.
The development and opening of the heart connects and allows our mind to become insightful and wise. Through meditation practice, the opening of the heart
manages the ego. Simply, the heart’s wisdom transforms the ego to a non – judgemental reality replacing its prejudices and limitations with openness
and acceptance. The compassionate mind follows a flowering heart. The ego has its place in survival, but it’s our heart that determines the quality
and richness of our life. In the end, what makes a good life is not the material accomplishments, fame or fortune, but how much love we shared, experienced
and gave to ourselves and people in our life. As Rumi aptly wrote;
“Love is the bridge between you and everything.”