Often in our spiritual teachings or yoga studies, we hear a lot about ‘slaying the ego’ or ‘transcending the ego’ as if the ego is a ‘bad’ thing and something that we should battle to the ground proudly brandishing its heart on our sword.
Thankfully, there is another, very liberating option!
THE EGO IS NOT A MISTAKE
The Ego is not a mistake. The ego is our sense of individual, autonomous Self. We need it. We weren’t born as individuals with a sense of Self by mistake. The ego identity provides us with healthy boundaries to help us determine who we are. This is an important level of awareness.
In human developmental psychology, we recognize this stage as ‘the terrible 2’s’ (or the terrible 3’s). From approximately 18-42 months old, we develop our sense of autonomy. We begin to pull away from simply identifying ourselves with our parents and start to venture out into the world on our own, determining what we like and don’t like (favorite mantra = “NO!) This is a crucial phase where we learn to rely on ourselves, build our center of gravity inside and make self-directed choices.
Once we develop and integrate a healthy sense of Self, we move on to an understanding that we are one. We are all connected. We are unified. But, we are unified in being human. As human beings in a physical world, we naturally have weaknesses and strengths and struggle with the intrinsic challenges of living this duality.
What we are seeking is a healthy, balanced, sattvic ego. A healthy sense of Self. The aim is knowing who you are and moving through the world owning all aspects – all our talents, goodness, gifts and magic…along with all our weaknesses, faults and growing edges.
Nothing is a mistake. We live in a world of dualities – right/left, feminine/masculine, in/out, physical/spiritual. Both are true at the same time. The goal is to sit in the middle of it all and be able to smile at ourselves and the hilarity of the game – recognizing and fully owning both sides.
TWO SIDES OF THE SAME COIN
A high ego or rajasic ego is a sense of Self that is inflated, grandiose, proud and seeking to prove that it is ‘better than’ someone (or everyone) else. “I’m the shit.”
A low ego or tamasic ego is a sense of Self that is insecure, with a low sense of Self or low self-esteem, lacking confidence and unable to recognize its inherent value and worth – seeking to prove that it is ‘not as good as’ someone (or everyone) else. “I’m a piece of shit.”
These are two sides of the same coin. The irony is that the High Ego is just a mask for the Low Ego. We try to prove that we’re ‘better than’ someone else because inside we’re afraid that we might not be ‘as good as’ them. We get caught in the crossfire between the two both trying to defend our Core Self – that precious, authentic place of truth within.
Freedom and happiness lie in acknowledging that we have both sides – we have positive qualities that we’re proud of and want to project out into the world and we have weaknesses and faults that we try to hide. Both are always true at the same time.
THE SACRED MARRIAGE
The balancing point is called a Healthy Ego or a Sattvic Ego. Sattva is a sanskrit word that comes from the root word, Sat, meaning truth. When we are in harmony or balanced, when we can see and own both sides of ourselves – we are in truth.
The true nature of the physical world and everything in it (including your self and your ego) is duality. The two coming into the one.
Our job is not to slay the ego, but to build a healthy ego – to come to rest in a place of balance, self-acceptance, lightness and humor. We are free (and happy) when we can laugh at ourselves, smile at our weaknesses – where we get caught, fearful or triggered, knowing that we are always working on refining and shapeshifting these challenging qualities – tempering the metal, turning lead into gold. Simultaneously, we completely own our gifts and positive attributes. When someone gives us a compliment, is attracted to us or good fortune comes our way – we don’t hesitate for an instant to fully own it and receive because we know we are worthy and deserving.
Enjoy the dance of the high and low ego this week – recognizing they are one and building a healthy, balanced sense of self in between. Here’s to your healthy ego – owning the full spectrum of what it means to be human – all the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly!