John and I often have discussions about ego. In the spiritual life, ego seems like such a “bad” thing. It’s tempting to think we have to somehow kill it completely. Is that possible?
Not entirely. We couldn’t exist or function in our day-to-day lives without an ego. The ego is what makes us who we are. However, the problems come from allowing our ego to become overbearing, arrogant and/or fearful. Then, we find ourselves doing everything we can to protect and promote ourselves at the expense of other people.
The solution is to think of others first, to ask ourselves what is in the best interest of other people. Whenever we begin to feel overpowered by feelings of “me and mine,” we should shift the focus to other people. This doesn’t mean we stop taking care of our own body, mind, spirit – but we open our hearts to the world around us.
Here’s a simple exercise: The next time you’re in a social situation and find yourself tempted to talk about yourself and your accomplishments, deliberately put the focus of conversation on the people around you. Take an interest in people in the group; ask them questions about their lives, work, etc. However, beware of phoniness in this. Be genuinely interested!
Also: meditate on the interconnection of all people, all beings, all of creation. This reminds us that we are not the center of the universe. Offer a prayer: May all beings know peace, love and joy!