The hard lessons are the best teachers. They’re the ones I hate while they’re happening–the ones that showcase my imperfections, my smallness and separation. These are things I learn despite my best efforts to stay stuck in my flawed, separated, tiny-person space.
After relegating it to my inspirational book pile for two years, I recently dug out Eckhart Tolle’s “A New Earth.” It sat unread for two reasons, one, I want to resist anything that Oprah recommends because I get so mad when she discovers something wonderful before I do, and two, I think Eckhart Tolle looks like a gnome, and how could a gnome be a best-selling spiritual teacher? Oh, and while we’re at it, if you’re REALLY a spiritual teacher, would you CALL yourself one? (See “smallness,” above.)
All of which makes this book the perfect choice for the owner of an unchecked ego, like ME. I am apparently ruled by ego. Who knew?
I always thought of an outsized ego as something that belonged to the guy with the red Porsche that drives through town with his “My P” vanity plates. It’s Schwartzenegger and Weiner. Spitzer. Trump. Palin.
But ego is not just about writing checks your body (or in Palin’s case, brain) can’t cash. It’s the part of everyone’s psyche that fears being nobody. It shacks up with our Inner Comparinators, and it takes absolutely everything personally. It’s what makes people absolutely sure they’re in sole possession of the truth. It makes me right and you wrong. It creates separation from others at the same time it identifies with things or roles (see “victim” below) or even other people. And it takes us further from the present moment, and our true selves.
The morning after reading Tolle’s descriptions of the ego, I was driving to a meeting when I hit a massive pile of debris at 65 mph, blowing a tire and trashing the rim. I managed to get off the road safely AND stay in the moment, unruffled, not reacting to the circumstances. My essential self was in charge.
It wasn’t until I got the repair estimate that my ego (aided and abetted by my Lizard Brain) tripped me into the role of victim. I fumed, calculating how many hours of marketing contract work it would take to pay for the damage. 25 hours. 25 freakin’ hours of work to pay for the privilege of driving to work that day! Not fair! I didn’t even WANT to do marketing anymore! I wanted to coach, full-time!
I felt the anger escalate, but despite full recognition that my ego was leading me, not my essential self, I just couldn’t shake it. My ego was so loving the role of victim that I could not wrestle it into submission. It took me several days (and some good coaching) to realize that it wasn’t about cost, but rather fear overwhelming my essential self, that made it feel so rotten. I am beginning to understand how intractable ego can be, and it’s a little easier to feel compassion for the red-Porsche-driving Schwartzenegger-Weiners of the world.
But only a little.