The ego works hard every second challenging any chance for inner peace, but like growth’s need for rain, the false self is a must and without it there is no truth. But is it fair to blame ourselves for our destructive habitual thinking patterns or is holding our society responsible justified? After a little bit of research and my own individual study I think its safe to hold both ourselves and our society accountable for our overactive egos.
One may suggest that we are our truest selves at birth, when we have no consciousness of self yet. The ego first ignites when our senses are exposed and we identify with others, a natural response to the eyes opening outward (1). The ego is created by contact. What we see and hear is what we begin to believe. To find comfort in the world we give one another advice based on a societal influence that derives from the acceptance of other people’s inner values But is the society in which we live a conscious living one or was it co-created with a manipulated sense of self?
Considering the thousands of recent occupations across the globe and the numerous controversial issues amongst the Republicans and Democrats, in just our country alone, I think its safe to say that a corrupted sense of ego has had a strong influence on our conscious evolution. Our planet is a serene place but at times it can be like looking into a shattered mirror completely influenced by a world of misconception that reflects a broken sense of self. But how did we get so far from the truth and will we ever return to our natural states of being?
The ego might have started out small, centuries ago, when money was absent from the system, but even without all the effects of monetary greed, power, a non tactile element, was still fought for and valued. All around the world, today, people are more aggressively, than ever before, aiming to achieve a new job, more money, a better looking girlfriend, etc. But whatever it may be that drives them on their searches is the very thing that misleads them from the truth. In a progressive world that thrives on the next best thing too many of us are living for tomorrow and more than enough of us are hung up on the past. Our ego lives primarily in the past and future and supplies us with feelings of constriction, pain, obsession, fear, and disempowerment. Our truest self provides our being with a sense of calm, clarity, peace and happiness and our truest self lives within the now (2).
The ego is run by our emotions, our aspirations, and our fears and its primary function is to identify itself with this and that. Sri Ramakrishna exhibits two kinds of ego, the ripe ego and the unripe ego. The unripe ego is that which attaches itself to the material ideas and enjoyments of the outer world. “I am wealthy,” “I am powerful,” and “I am beautiful” are all statements that an unripe ego might say, and although they may be necessary in everyday life they deprive us of our journey to our spiritual center (3). The ripe ego has the ability to understand the self as a servant to God. We are one and beneath every one of us lies the truth. The ripe ego identifies with this connectivity and surrenders its service to the power of the universe rather than worrying about how to become what society suggests.
Unfortunately our human conditioning is far from the truth and living in the now, and pursuing a ripe ego is unavailable to many of us. Our ego is the product of our surroundings and our surroundings are made up by the society in which we live. A perfect example of the dramatic effect our unconscious society has had on the ego can be demonstrated by looking at enhancement plastic surgery. Consider a young female literally starving for attention. She does not eat because she wants to be a size 2 and after reading through People magazine she decides her nose is just too big and that her breasts aren’t big enough. Her inner sense of self is absent so she dials Dr. Fix Everything and schedules an appointment with his knife. What was once of this innocent being is now actually the direct effects of societal influence on the ego. Is she happy now? – Probably not.
Controlling the ego’s corruptive tendencies is possible through an enduring practice and it’s through practice that we may influence our habitual thinking patterns. To control the ego one must first identify it as being apart from their truest selves. This process can be obtained through direct teachings, meditation, or self-inquiry. Every day our ego speaks to us; it tells us how to feel, what to wear, and what to do and it’s our job to be the observer and rise above this chatter of the mind. Separating ourselves from the chatter of the mind is the hardest part because it’s whom we thought we were and this separation can feel like lacerating a nerve.
Patanjali said in Yoga Sutra number 14, book one, that “Practice becomes firmly grounded when well attended to for along time, without break, and in all earnestness.” Each breath we take is an opportunity to work towards grounding ourselves and every second counts. Changing our thought patterns and strengthening our mental clarity is helped by practice the same way we grow more flexible and strong, over time, through a yoga practice. Like the practice of yoga, the practice of restraining the mind modifications takes dedication. If we can practice having a dedicated presence in all of our actions, in time we can begin to feel the sandstorm that is our mind settle.
Discovering the depths of human consciousness is a gift right at our fingertips and although the current state of our society can distract every opportunity for inner peace, we still hold the ultimate light as the observer. We make choices; we chose what to feed our bodies, what to do with our lives, and how to treat our peers.
We can chose to listen to the ego and hear it tell us that life isn’t fair, that we’re not good enough, that people are disrespecting us, that we are better than someone else, etc, or we can chose to notice that the ego is speaking. It’s up to us to decide whether or not we’d like to venture inward to the clarity that is the natural self.
Swami Satchidanada says in the translation of yoga sutra 36, book 2, that “ In the beginning, it is true that confidence and trust are necessary, but as you continue to practice, every step will bring more and more hope, greater and greater confidence. If we are true yogis for just one day, we will be transformed and want more of it. It’s contagious, just like any other habit. But first we must make some effort until we get a taste of the benefit.”
Be here now,