The ego—man’s greatest foe! Where to begin with this tricky little divisive monster? I guess we can begin with the Veil of Maya. The Veil of Maya, in Eastern Philosophy, is essentially mankind’s delusion. The delusion of believing that we live in this singular, physical world; that we’re separate, individualized; that all we are is physical beings; that life is a one-time occurrence; that success is defined by material wealth, that we’re not eternally expansive light-beings who have chosen willfully to take up embodiment for our own personal growth and evolution. The Veil of Maya blinds us from Truth—the real reality of the cosmos—and it keeps us perpetuating in this fantasy that is dominated by the ego. The ego is uniquely human. It’s a physical attribute of the mind, and as human beings, we need this primal force to survive. But, as soul’s embodied, the ego drives us toward physicality—a mundane, earthly existence—when our spirit yearns to evolve towards a higher realm.
The entire universe is ruled by two fundamental forces: the positive and the negative—good versus evil—and on Earth, the ego is representative of the negative force that tempts humanity towards evil and drives us toward corruption. Obviously, the scale of which we’re drawn towards the negative can be anything from murder to a simple white lie. Take that with a grain of salt. The commonality, however, is that any thought, word, or action derived from any scale of greed, hatred, desire, and fear all stem from our inner workings of the ego. While spiritually, we want to evolve, the ego works on the other side of that spectrum. It works to keep us trapped in the wheel of karma—continually reincarnating—never evolving past an Earthly existence.
So, that is why it is our job to first realize the effects of the ego and learn how to mitigate its incessant demands. We need the ego to some extent. The ego is primal, and primally, we need enough “greed” to remember to eat. We need enough “hatred” to stay away from dangerous people. We need enough “desire” to achieve our goals. Intention is really important here. Back to that grain of salt: I might lie to someone to protect their feelings, but if I am lying to them for my own benefit, then that’s my ego. Intention backs everything and as long as thoughts, words, and actions are backed by a helpful and positive intention rather than a self-serving intention, then it’s okay to go ahead and think, say, or do whatever it is that you were going to think, say, or do. Clearly, it does take quite a bit of conscious awareness. That’s why we must first learn to recognize the ego before we can do anything about it.
Slow down your thoughts, and begin to question yourself—what’s the intention? When I am wrapped up in negative thoughts or reflecting on experiences, I find that I try to defend myself by negating other people’s feelings or actions. That’s ego, and as much as I can, I try to stop these thoughts in their tracks; define them as ego-thoughts, and then move on. Typically, I find that many of my thoughts are repetitive. So the next time I have a similar ego-thought, the awareness of this repetition will make it easier to catch. The more that I practice this technique of conscious observance, the easier it becomes to recognize ego-intrusive behaviors.
We can mitigate the power of these thoughts by recognizing them for what they are: thoughts created by that biological, human brain that is so caught up in primalism that it will say whatever it can to keep your aim towards survival. In caveman days, survival meant food, water, and warmth. Nowadays where our primary needs are a little more within reach, survival looks more like protecting our emotional fluctuations or defending ourselves against stressful situations like our morning commute or the PTA. Our egos will honk our horns out of frustration, or yell at that bitch, Karen, for demanding all vending machines offer only organic non-gmo snacks. (I’m actually down with Karen here). But, the point is, the ego makes us act—or more often, react—because it responds quickly and it won’t always represent our best selves.
The ego is humanity’s greatest pitfall, and there is no escaping its effects. Despite this, we can combat this energy by recognizing our ego-thoughts as an external force that yearns to create conflict and divide. Sly, elusive, sometimes sinister, this energy creeps under the surface, making it hard to catch until we’re already wrapped up in its sticky web—thinking, speaking, acting in ways that aren’t really us. This energy loves a human because we help serve as a conduit for it to enact its negative nature out in the world. This is why we must remain diligent in practicing a clever mastery over the ego. This will come through conscious awareness, knowing our intentions, and practicing an all-around sense of morality and ethics. We can learn to hone in the ego. We can train it so that we don’t allow it to defeat us. We can consciously work towards a place where we are not ruled by the ego—by our biological human mind—and in doing so, we create the space to act authentically—powerfully—within ourselves and within the world.