Category Archives: Ego

Breaking the shell

Think about someone you know who lives in a world of “less than” (it may even be yourself). Women are often treated as “less than” men, the poor seen as “less than” the rich, blacks treated “less than” whites, “queer” less than “straight”, “trans” less than those who live in their assigned gender, etc. Even the child who is different from her peers is called “less than”.

There’s an emotional shell that forms from the repeated judgements, the invisible cultural barriers, and the demands to “stay in your place”. It can become painful and reactive, tired of always protecting the tender person within. It’s the shell around a heart and the shell around a community.

As without, so within. “Less than” is a story we also tell ourselves.

Think about someone you know who lives in a world of “more than” (it may even be yourself). Someone who has the privilege of their race, gender, and/or affluence. Someone whose voice carries weight. There’s a shell there too, often with the fear of loss of status and possibly a discomfort over being part of the more-than/less-than system. They might seem blinkered or arrogant, but is there also a tinge of fear underneath?

We’ve all held someone else back and we’ve all held ourselves back. This binds us all. Where can we find liberation?

Love may call you to approach the mechanisms of privilege and suppression. It’s not easy. All too often, when our shells touch it brings pain and reactivity on all sides. Whenever you’re pushed back toward the invisible barriers or someone points out your role in maintaining them, let love call you back from the edge. Whether that challenge seems righteous or unfair, let love call you back from the edge. Listen to the part of yourself that is responding and see if there’s a corresponding part in the other person.

We are all human and we are all tender underneath. There is always a way to build a bridge.

If you are on this path, you know the discipline of responding to ego with love. Sometimes love needs to listen, accept, and reach out; sometimes it needs to listen, accept the person, and draw the line that says “No, that behavior harms both of us, and we both deserve better.” Sometimes it needs to witness in silence.

You know that love can be relentless. It can hold all this.

I invite you into this practice: to approach these questions in whatever way suits you; to hold yourself in love whenever this becomes a challenge; and to hold all challengers (including yourself) with fierce and tender love.

Let the shell open. Let yourself open.

Ego as Ally

The site’s Manifesto points up the dangers of ego while extolling the virtues of love. But the story isn’t all that one-sided. Forged together, love and ego can make us supple and strong.

Ego is made up of the stories we tell ourselves about the world, the reflexive conditioning of a lifetime’s experiences, and–especially–every time we’ve accepted another’s story of “this is how the world is” over our own deep knowing. It’s a whole family of sub-personalities, shifting from moment to moment in an endless dance. In most people, ego is a series of fearful constrictions, a haven of self-hate, and a well of recriminations.

And yet, we still have love. It comforts us when memories of past hurt well up in the face of present challenge. It can open us up to comfort others when they are hurting or afraid. It can transform us.

One part of my spiritual path seeks to sidestep ego entirely, living in moment to moment awareness, free of the stories and the history. It is a path of extraordinary freedom. It’s not the path I’m pointing to here. I’m pointing to a life where love is at the center and ego is an ally.

Ego’s collection of stories, when held with love, is a powerful tool. It’s an extraordinary detector of weakness, both in ourselves and others. It can guide us to our places that need healing. It can hear another struggling in the grip of their own ego and find common ground. It can lead us to empathy and compassion.

Take a breath. Notice if something in you struggles with those words, notice if something longs to be touched and held. Take another breath, slower. Soften. Gaze on that part with tenderness and understanding. Stay with it a few breaths and see if something shifts. (Did you sigh?)

This is how the healing begins, with patient awareness and flowing breath. This is how reactions soften into reminders, fear becomes a guide into growth, and ego turns to ally. This is the training ground for love’s warriors.