Keep Your Ego In Check

Part of me suspects that I’m a loser, and the other part of me thinks I’m God Almighty.” ~ John Lennon

I guess it’s pretty obvious to anyone following My Consciousness Project that I have been having some difficulty sticking with my weekly posting schedule. In fact, it’s gotten to the point where I’m lucky if I get a post out every year, let alone every week. And even though I think about what I want to write ALL the time, I just can’t seem to get back into the rhythm I had when I first began.

So I thought that it might help to go back and re-read my first post, Here I Go, to remind myself about why I had started this project to begin with. And I have to say, the words I wrote back then really did help me to remember that My Consciousness Project was born from a deep-rooted need in my soul to step out of my comfort zone and try some things that might help me become a better me.

I was also reminded that there was a real purpose to my project, and that I was actually trying to prove something by doing it. Back then I wrote:

“…when I came across a quote from Daisaku Ikeda, a Buddhist philosopher, I knew that I had found the basis for my would-be project. Ikeda asserts that:

‘A great inner revolution in just a single individual will help achieve a change in the destiny of an entire society and, further, will cause a change in the destiny of humankind.’

Could it be possible that I, an ordinary, everyday person, could somehow change the destiny of humankind by sparking my own inner revolution? And could I spark that revolution by trying to raise my consciousness?”

Reading those words was definitely re-inspiring, yet sadly, at the same time, reminded me that I had not been doing a very good job at sticking with the original timetable. What had started out to be a 9-month project was well into its 31st month! That’s almost 2 years behind schedule and I’m not even half-way through my Official List. Yuck.

And since I’ve developed enough self-awareness over the past couple of years to realize that I don’t always finish things that I start, I feel even worse. I mean, how can I possibly influence change in the world if I can’t even influence change in myself?

So it’s kind of ironic that the topic I’m stuck on right now is ‘Keep Your Ego In Check’, because I’m pretty sure that my ego is the culprit here. What I’m not so sure about, though, is whether I need to keep it in check because it’s too big, and thinks I can actually make a difference in the world, or because it’s too small, and thinks that I can’t.

According to most of the spiritual authorities out there, our egos are what keep us separate from everything else, creating an illusion of fear that holds us back from reaching our higher goals. A Course In Miracles teaches that the ego “seeks to divide and separate”, that it “cannot survive without judgement” and “lives by comparison”. Eckhart Tolle, author of one of my favorite books The Power of Now, describes ego this way:

“One way to think about ego is as a protective heavy shell, such as the kind some animals have, like a big beetle. This protective shell works like armor to cut you off from other people and the outside world. What I mean by shell is a sense of separation: Here’s me and there’s the rest of the universe and other people. The ego likes to emphasize the “otherness” of others.

This sense of separation is an intrinsic part of the ego. The ego loves to strengthen itself by complaining—either in thoughts or words—about other people, the situation you find yourself in, something that is happening right now but ‘shouldn’t be’, and even about yourself.”

Interestingly enough, when I looked up the definition of ego on the internet, in addition to being defined as “an exaggerated sense of self; conceit”, it was also defined as “appropriate pride in oneself; self-esteem.” Which makes me kind of wonder why, if our egos can provide us with something as positive as self-esteem, so many of our spiritual leaders feel the ego is something we need to rid ourselves of.  Sure, an inflated ego can definitely stir things up in the wrong way, but on the other hand, a strong ego, a strong sense of self, can help us achieve things we may not otherwise achieve.

So maybe instead of trying to banish our egos, we should be trying harder to find the balance between having one that’s too big and one that’s too small.

But, unfortunately, finding that balance can be a little tricky, especially if you’re anything like me and aren’t too sure which way the balance is tilting.

I decided that the best way to figure this out would be to spend some time listening to the conversations I was having with myself whenever I thought about my project. Which, I have to say, turned out to be pretty enlightening and didn’t leave me with much doubt about what direction my ego has been taking me!

And at the risk of totally embarrassing myself, here’s an example of a fairly typical exchange:

Me: So I think I’m going to spend some time on my project today.

Ego: Really? You’re pretty behind schedule on it…what’s the point?

Me: Well, it’s pretty important to me…I like writing.

Ego: Sure, but it’s not like you’re getting paid for it. You should pay some of those bills on your desk, or clean out that closet.

Me: But maybe if I just write one or two sentences I’ll get the juices flowing again.

Ego: Well, you could try that, but it’s been so long since your last post does anyone even care?

Me: People are still going to the website every day, even though it’s been so long.

Ego: Yeah, but you need thousands of visitors a day to be a successful blogger.

Me: But I don’t really care about that. I’m really only doing this for me…I just want to get through the list.

Ego: Well good luck with that. At the rate you’re going you’ll be old and gray by the time you’re ever finished.

Anyway, I could go on, but it seems pretty clear from this conversation why it’s important to ‘Keep Your Ego In Check’. If I keep listening to what this one is saying I might never write another word again!

But I definitely want to keep writing, so I tried to think about why my ego might be trying to stop me. Maybe it feels threatened by the things that I’m writing about, and is somehow trying to protect me from sharing too much of myself. Or maybe it just feels more in control when I am safe in my comfort zone, doing the things that I’ve always done.

Or maybe I’ve just been lazy and have let this negative ego get the upper hand.

Which means it’s time for some re-balancing. It’s time for me to up my game a bit and give my other ego, the one that helped me start this project in the first place, a fighting chance.

So the next time I am tempted to clean out the closet rather than write, I am going to choose to write. When I start worrying that no one is paying attention and I’m wasting my time, I am going to take a deep breath and choose to write. And when I’m old and gray and fretting because I still haven’t gotten through my Official List, I will remember how important it is to ‘Keep Your Ego In Check’ and choose to write.

Because maybe, for me, the ‘great inner revolution’ that Daisaku Ikeda is talking about is finding the strength, or maybe the courage, to keep tilting the balance back toward the part of me that believes I can make a difference, and just keep writing.

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