The ego gets a very bad rap both culturally and in spiritual conversation. We often hear ‘how he or she has such a BIG ego’, as if this is a very bad thing, as if having no ego at all would be the best thing we could hope for!
The truth is we would not be human without an ego. It is an integral part of us and the part that mediates between our inner and outer world. It is not a matter of having a big, little or no ego, it is a matter of am I operating from a healthy or wounded ego?
We can define a healthy ego as one that is in balance with our mind and emotions and that is in service to the awake, aware aspect of our being. A wounded ego is very confused and driven by fear – and because of this, it tries to take over our life in its unskillful attempts to keep us safe.
Our ego begins to develop at a very young age and can be wounded or poorly formed for many different reasons. It is deeply connected to our inner child – the part of us that feels either fearful or safe to creatively express itself.
A healthy ego can express its talents and creations without fear of how it will be received. It does not need to boast or convince others of its worth, it creates for the pure joy of expression, like a child. A wounded ego will often prevent us from expressing ourselves creatively and authentically for fear of how it will be received. It often feels as if its very survival is at stake and can easily overwhelm us with confusion and anxiety.
Each time I am about to make a big leap forward – into the world, and into my heart’s desire, I feel the wounded aspect of my ego rise up. It takes over my mind with fearful projections and worst case scenarios which triggers my emotions into paralyzing anxiety. My body then reacts with what feels like unbearable and overwhelming sensations. As I often feel my thoughts and emotions respond kinesthetically – this can sometimes feel extremely intense and not my favorite experience.
My practice right now is to embrace the wounded aspect of my ego, and this very young aspect of myself who does not feel safe to express, or sometimes even to exist. I do this using some of the same methods I would for any wounded child. I am present, attentive and as aware as possible to what her needs and feelings are. I touch the sensations of fear with my loving awareness and tell myself that these thoughts, feeling and sensations are welcome here. When I feel my ego’s fears preventing me from expressing my truth and my gifts, I do my best to get still and present with this part of my being. Sometimes when it feels particularly overwhelming, I need to ask for help from a trusted friend to be with me in this process.
Whenever I facilitate a Partner Yoga training I go through my my personal process of seeing and embracing that which is asking to be seen and held. The trainings are always a rich journey through mind, body, spirit, which includes the shadowy aspects of ego. Although there is always copious amounts of bliss, love, and joy, the parts of us that need embracing are welcome at the party too. When we come together in a circle, with a mutual intent to be present with whatever arises, our wholeness (holiness) is revealed – everything is recognized to be part of our awakening, even what is beyond our comprehension.
One of the reason I love teaching Partner Yoga is I get to re-mind myself what is real and essential as I share what I know to be true with others.