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Ego is mentioned frequently in spiritual circles and discussions, usually with snide derision, as if it should be permanently blacklisted. As if it’s inherently dirty, shameful, bad…
But if you think about it, ego’s not the problem.
What would we do without ego? How would we function as individuals? What motivation would we have to practice?
What good is ego?
Ego has its purpose. It serves as a skeleton to our psyche, or a tender skin.
Ego delineates and gives backbone to our individuality, yet it’s acutely sensitive to touch. Ego is not inherently bad, but it does have a skewed perspective, remaining convinced against all argument that we are separate and disconnected.
Ego is not entirely wrong. There are ways in which we are separate. But although we sometimes feel disconnected, that’s a feeling, not a truth.
So it’s not ego, but wrong understanding, that is the problem. Wrong understanding: identifying with ego and believing its biased broadcasts.
Making ego your ally
If we are clever, we make ever-present ego our ally. We use it to be steadier, more responsible, more committed; to strive higher, to serve more fully.
Feeling adventurous? Try accepting that ego will keep doing what ego does. That’s not an error; that’s its job, what ego exists to do.
Then harness ego’s ambition. Let ego’s desire to be the best motivate you to practice, and practice every day. Ego doesn’t take vacations.
Making space for ego
The inner spaciousness that comes with daily spiritual practice helps us stay mindful and compassionate, and keeps ego’s pain and machinations in perspective.
As long as we try to rid ourselves of ego, or pretend it’s not in play, ego sticks like flypaper. The moment we get over the shame of ego and start trusting it to do what it does oh-so-well, we come to a place of peaceful, and useful, coexistence.
It’s not possible to be human and not have ego, but it is possible–through diligent, committed, mindful daily practice over time–to loosen ourselves from the delusion that ego has our best interests at heart.
Ego has no heart.
But we do.