In a new blog series called “Mindful Circle”, we examine some deeper meanings of mindfulness. The word “circle” has many representations in mindfulness and spirituality, including inclusivity, wholeness, self and infinity. You can choose your own interpretation.
This week we examine the ego.
“Leggo My Eggo!” – I still remember the classic slogan from the Eggo Waffle commercials from the ’80s and 90s. If you haven’t watched them, the videos can be found above via YouTube. These commercials were light-hearted and fun, but were also perfect examples of the ego in action – taking waffles from our parents’ plates, fighting with siblings, or building a stretchable arm to grab a waffle from a distance. Somehow, we believed the protagonist deserved a waffle over other members of the family, hence the tag line “Let go my Eggo (waffle)”.
While the ego can help give us confidence when we need to do something important, such as doing a public speech or passing a job interview, sometimes the ego can hinder our well-being.
Here’s a brief excerpt from Eckhart Tolle explaining the ego:
“Vanity and pride are what most of us tend to think of when we think of ego, but ego is much more than an overinflated sense of self. It can also turn up in feelings of inferiority or self-hatred because ego is any image you have of yourself that gives you a sense of identity.”1
I found a few questions to be helpful when my ego creeps up, such as when I’m stuck in traffic and I feel I deserve to race ahead of all the people in front of me:
1. Why am I complaining? Instead, what can I learn?
Often there is a root cause to why we complain when certain situations arise. In the example of the traffic jam, perhaps I have an important appointment and I am running late. Instead of pumping my fist and yelling at the traffic, I could turn it into a learning opportunity. Perhaps this is a test of my patience, or perhaps I need to learn to allow more time for travelling. Maybe I could simply observe the cars beside me. Who are the people driving around me? Are they also angry or do they seem calm? What can I learn in this moment?
I cannot change a traffic situation (unless I have Doctor Strange’s powers and open up portals to my destination!), but I can change my attitude. Surrender to the unchangeable situation and use the moment to open ourselves to new opportunities.
2. Aren’t they also humans just like me?
Somehow, our egos lead us to believe that we are either smarter or inferior to other people. When our status (whether high or low) is threatened, we tend to have a reaction. For example, I have experienced being cut off while lining up in the Express lane in a grocery store. Typically the individual only has one or two items and just wants to leave as quickly as possible, so he or she would meander a way into the front of the line even though there are several people waiting. I get angry when I see this. Suddenly, I feel I am treated inferior to this person because he or she got special treatment. But wait a minute – Instead of anger, I could have compassion. Maybe this person is really in a hurry. Is this person really trying to hurt me personally or just acting based on his or her own belief system? Who am I to judge? Every single human has strengths and opportunities for growth. Aren’t they just like me? Another imperfect human?
Sometimes, we get so caught up in self-righteousness that we forget about humanity. I’m not saying we should be doormats for others, but sometimes it is worth taking a step back and seeing if it is worth it to engage. It is wise to know what you stand for, but also to know when to let things go.
3. If my greatest mentor was here, what would I do?
Think of someone that you admire – someone who you would look up to as a role model. It could be someone who has greatly influenced you: a teacher at school, a coach in sports, or a colleague at work. Or it could be someone who has passed but greatly admire, such as Mother Teresa or Nelson Mandela. When you are stuck in “ego” mode and need to break out of it, think in the moment, what would my greatest mentor do? How would my reactions play out to him or her?
Sometimes, we think we don’t have the power to change, but we do. Often, our ego blinds us and makes us feel stuck. That’s where the practice of mindfulness comes in to help clear our heads. It could be engaging in meditation, practicing a sport, or bouncing ideas off a friend. We can all find a moment of space and time to look within ourselves to seek clarity beyond the ego.
If you want to engage in mindfulness but don’t have the time, you can check out our article on 5 Tips On How To Practice Mindfulness Everyday.
May you find peace on your journey!
1Newman, Leigh. (2011, Oct 10). Free Yourself from Your Ego Armor. Oprah’s Life Class. Retrieved from: http://www.oprah.com/oprahs-lifeclass/eckhart-tolle-on-how-to-free-yourself-from-your-ego-armor#ixzz5EIEp3I2r
Images from Biteable.com.