This week I have been thinking about the ego. In many respects ego is very important to our lives as it is the part of us that looks after our daily survival, ensuring we eat and sleep enough and look after ourselves. There is nothing wrong with being self confident but the ego can get out of hand if it starts to create too much emotional drama in our lives. It can turn into an over-inflated sense of our own importance so it is all about ‘me’ and ‘my story’.
I was reminded of this last weekend when I had arranged to run a yoga morning which I realised wasn’t going to be very well attended. Prior to the workshop I caught myself wondering whether to cancel the session, worrying it would reflect badly on me if only a few people attended. Fortunately I managed to stop this internal dialogue and remember that it wasn’t all about me. Surely quality was more important than quantity. Once I had adopted a change in attitude, stopped worrying about how well attended the session would be and made up my mind to be positive and go ahead with it, everything was fine.
The ego can get in the way of all sorts of things and affect our happiness. One of my meditation teachers describes it as a big flywheel rotating under the influence of past habits of thinking, resisting change and not wanting anything to tread on its territory. So instead of meditating for example it can be all too easy to find other things to do- make a cup of tea, have a shower, anything which suddenly seems to be more important.
Yogic philosophy teaches us that the ego is an obstacle to spiritual development. Reducing egoism (asmita in Sanskrit) and valuing our true nature is an important goal.
In today’s world ego is over emphasised and physical appearance, wealth and status have huge significance. Ironically ego creeps into the yoga world too with an emphasis on the physical which can encourage people to be competitive and show off .
It is useful to remember that according to the yoga Sutras of Patanjali, yoga is not just a physical practice and postures (asana) aim to make the body calm and steady for meditation, leading to self fulfilment.
It isn’t a bad idea to refuse to take ourselves too seriously and to treat the ego lightly. So if you find it is starting to take over and adversely affect how you feel, whether in yoga or daily life, have a quiet chuckle. As the guru Osho said, ‘Nothing kills the ego like playfulness, like laughter.’