My Ego is Slowly Dying...
If you set the intention for growth and development within your yoga practice and go about it with honest effort over time, there are certain things that will inevitably occur. One of these is that your ego will start to experience death.
As Lisa pointed out yesterday in her post about humility, this process starts off tangibly enough. You will at some point encounter a posture you cannot yet “do,” and forcing it will not work. You will be humbled and face two options: quitting or putting in the work. This humility starts chipping away at the façade of the ego—the part of you that wants to “look good” and feel competent in class as both an expression and a measurement of your self-worth.
When your ego loses power, the true self is no longer clouded. The true self is one of peace and knowing—it doesn’t depend on outward signs of success to determine its worth. Its worth is a given, not even a question.
But the ego does not go silently. I’d like to tell you a little bit about how this tumultuous death of ego has started to occur in my personal yoga journey.
When I started practicing Ashtanga yoga about two years ago, I had a huge re-dedication to my practice. For the first time, I allowed the yoga to work deeply within to correct the delusions of my ego. In my case, I’d previously had a very active social life with many friends and many late nights spent socializing and drinking. I didn’t know it at the time, but it turns out I placed a lot of value on my “popularity” and cool girl image.
A serious yoga practice and partying do NOT mix well. It’s hard to get up early and practice if you’re hungover, or even just tired from a late night. It’s hard to meditate if your mind is foggy. It’s hard to ignore how unhealthy the party lifestyle is when you’re working deeply into the body every day. So slowly, that part of my life began to fade away.
Furthermore, time spent on an internal practice took time away from my busy social life. I had to prioritize, and I chose yoga. I began opting for early nights and early risings, like… pretty much every single day. Suddenly, I found myself missing a huge part of what had made up my identity. The cool chick about town with lots of friends was no more… so who was I now?
My ego played tricks on me. While my yoga practice was working to make me feel powerful, my ego would undermine it with insidious whispers. It would tell me I wasn’t worth as much without my image and big group of friends. It would whisper that I was lonely and a loser because people clearly did not like me as much anymore. It fought to retain its power and the things that made it feel big and important.
Almost daily for a while there, I would have to face this sinister voice. I’d have to stand up and say, “you’re wrong, those things do not determine my worth.” I’d have to make a conscious decision that I would now operate under a new paradigm, where “success” was measured by my willingness to submit to the path of yoga, or helping a student do the same… NOT by how many people showered me with attention and how much time I spent partying. When I couldn’t be strong and stand up to my ego, I would just choose to surrender to the practice of yoga. I didn’t know what was going to happen to my identity or the way I experienced the world, but I chose to trust and keep going.
That decision has paid off tremendously. Though I cannot say I am fully out of this battle of the ego, I am slowly gaining the ability to NOT depend on outside forces to determine my value—that’s huge.
Just to be clear, I definitely still go out and socialize from time to time, and I cherish any time spent with my few-but-true close friends. But I feel my motivations are different now; they come from a purer place of enjoying life, and not from a place of wanting to tend to my image.
I think that placing importance on popularity is common in our Western society. One example could be the constant checking of how many followers, likes and comments one has on social media. Some of this comes from a very GOOD place of wanting to connect with others. I think the trouble happens when one attaches self-worth to these kinds of metrics. Success and self-worth don’t have to depend upon how much money you have, how many social media followers you have, how many friends you have, etc. You’re successful if you’re happy and at peace internally--something yoga gives us if we are willing to put forth the work. And as far as worth, you’re already worthy from the time you’re born; your true self knows this if you can free it from the grip of the ego.
I know there will be a few more blows to my ego as I continue along the path of self-realization. In a way, I even look forward to it... though my ego does not :) Are you brave enough to let the ego die to experience more of your true nature? That is what a dedicated yoga practice asks of us each time we step on the mat. So go forward with courage… and if you cannot find the courage, surrender yourself to the powerful process of change.