Ego refers to that part of us from which we derive our sense of self-worth or importance. For most, ego plays a major part in how we identify ourselves. It is that part of you that you use to separate yourself from others; for example, “I am better” or “I am worse.” It is an individual thing, yet also a collective form of identification. Entire entities, organizations, political and religious groups, even countries and nations fall into the ego mind-set; sometimes resulting in great accomplishment, sometimes disaster. Many a war and negative situation have been waged as a result of ego; while at the same time, many people have been rescued from horrid situations as a result of the ego-driven desire to prove a point or to be observed as better than others. For the student of meditation, once identified, one’s ego can become a powerful source of understanding and a tool which can be used to strengthen oneself in times of need.
Early on in their studies, the student of meditation learns to identify the characteristics of their own ego. As they see their own ego it becomes easy to recognize it in others, which allows a deepening presence of understanding, forgiveness and love when dealing with their fellow humans. That said, the benefits of ego identification for the student are powerful. Through meditation practices one learns to identify the mental mind-made motivation behind their egotistical behaviors. As with so many things, the mere act of bringing these thoughts and behaviors to conscious awareness alleviates their hold on the practitioner and greater stillness and peace are achieved.
Over time and with practice the student learns to use their ego as a tool to help motivate them in certain situations without falling into its trap of self-identification. For instance, one may use ego to help complete a task, or to motivate them to take better care of themselves. As a teacher, using an individual’s ego to motivate them towards conscious behaviors can be very useful in the early parts of meditation education. As with many aspects of our personality, ego is to be understood, brought to conscious awareness and even nurtured and loved.
A meditation, try it out, here and there, when it comes to mind, or not. While meditating (focused attention while observing thought) bring your attention to ego-driven thoughts or thinking. Be aware if you interfere with the observation with judgements or accolades and return to observing. See if you can identify ego-driven thoughts of self-identification. Be aware if you create conflict with the thinking and try to simply observe. As with the majority of meditation practices, simple non-judgmental awareness of thought and behavior brings such things to conscious awareness and meaningful lasting change comes effortlessly.
It’s a new day.