Who Are You…Really?
My whole life I have heard people talk about the word ego. I was raised knowing what the ego was and that I had one—and that mine was big. As I grew up I learned to differentiate the work of the ego from the work of my highest self. I knew which one made me feel the best. Growing up, I had a huge desire to be right. (I’ll be honest—I still do.) Not only that, if I was wrong and knew I was wrong, I was rarely nice about it. If someone bruised my ego, I would sometimes try to make them feel bad. I’d attempt to manipulate the conversation or debate so that I could come out on top. Knowing this about myself, I now try to admit right away when I am wrong, and to do so in a genuinely kind way. It ain’t always easy!
One of my less enlightened habits is replaying conversations over and over in my mind, because my ego can’t get over the fact that I was wrong. When I have a fight or argument with someone, I often still feel fired up about it hours after the fight has ended, and replay the conversation over and over. Sometimes I will be driving and wonder how in the heck I got wherever I ended up, because the whole time I’d been having a fight with someone in my head. This is all the work of the ego. The ego says I need to be right, no matter what. If that means having an imaginary fight in my head after the fact, so be it. This is a habit I’m still working to break. I want to break it because I know that my highest self wants peace, and replaying conversations in my head pulls me away from that peace—no matter how good or “right” it makes me feel. Instead, the work of the highest self would be to stop the narrative and repeat the mantra I am peace I am, or I am love I am. Maybe even go and meditate, to try to let go of the angst the ego is craving.
Just like everyone else, I need to remember that inside, underneath the ego, we are all pieces of God.
Perpetuating imaginary fights is not the only thing the ego is good at. It also tells us that we are what we wear, what we have, what our accomplishments are, and what other people think of us. Many of us, myself included, have at times believed that these things do make us who we are. The ego says, “Forget about the little spark of God that’s within you. What’s important is winning, accomplishing things, and being the best.” Our ego says we are what we do, so if we’re not “doing,” then we . . . aren’t. We don’t exist. If we believe we are what we have and then we lose what we have, we are nothing. The stress and anxiety that come with trying to be the best are a waste. Someone will always come along and do it better than you. Applying stress might get your kids to work harder or get you more money, but it won’t allow your perfect essence to come out. Your dharma will not be served. And besides, when this body goes we don’t take money and grades with us. We take the evolution of our soul, and nothing more. Being able to let things be—especially when it comes to your children or other family members—is what your highest self wants. (The Beatles had it right!)
When you let things be, you allow God—the source, the individualized expression of that which you are—to come out and do what it is meant to do.
Look at the storms of your life, the really bad times. You will likely find that, after having gone through them, you were more compassionate and kind on the other side. If you are able to look at those storms and find the meaning and purpose within them, you may ultimately give thanks for them.
I think of this quote by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross:
The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.
Maya Angelou once wrote: “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” This line comes to mind when I think of children who are being bullied, for instance. The experience of being bullied can change a person, but it doesn’t have to make them smaller. Being bullied can make someone compassionate, forgiving, and authentic—qualities that bullies themselves might like to have. But because they don’t carry these things around inside of them, they can’t give them away. I would like to tell bullied kids to hang on; one day they might be able to look back on the pain they’re in and be grateful for it.
It may seem impossible now, but one day, we really can look back at the storms we have weathered and give a silent thank you. For many of us, it is the storms of our lives that have given us compassion, kindness, and gentleness that we otherwise may not have known—and that we can now give away to others, because they are inside of us. As Mastin Kipp said, “When the universe takes something from your grasp, it is not punishing you, but merely opening your hands to receive something better.”