The Ego in Balance With The Soul

I am currently using a guided meditation program produced by Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey. It is titled “Miraculous Relationships.” Of primary focus is my relationship with myself because, in this context, I am the center. How I see myself and feel about myself determines the balance and well-being of all of my relationships.

In one of the meditations, Deepak Chopra says that my self-image is the result of who my ego thinks that I am. I have been thinking a lot about this because I have come to believe that one of the keys to a good life is a healthy, balanced ego. I have heard it said many times over the years that we have to overcome or do away with ego. These teachings never resonated with my soul. I have also known yoga/meditation practitioners whose goal is to release emotion. My experience with these people is that it is difficult, if not impossible, to interact and have a relationship with them. I can only love them as their personalities dissolve; it is as though they are disappearing.

Please hear me: I do not have all the answers. However, when talking with teachers I know, love, and trust, I am guided to balance and wholeness. Balanced emotions allow me to embrace life with passion while not being ruled by emotion. For example, I can experience deep loss and allow myself to grieve until I am finished grieving and not be devastated. I can admit that I am disappointed without letting that disappointment drag me into depression, hopelessness, or judgement.

Dealing with the ego is a bit more complex. In a private session with Richard Miller years ago, we spoke of ego getting in the way. He was the first one to clearly say that it is a healthy ego we need rather than a banished ego. Have you ever known someone with a lack of self-assurance or confidence who is, at the same time, arrogant and controlling? It occurs to me that the ego of this person rises up to hide that lack. It boasts and claims to be in charge to protect the person who feels less adequate than others. There is another possibility for those who feel insecure within themselves, who don’t know who they are. The ego can make them fearful of trying something difficult because they might not succeed. This was my issue when I was young. I was taught to be confident and things came to me rather easily through high school. Because of that, I didn’t have many opportunities to learn how to carry things through to completion whether I succeeded or not.  That began to change in college. When hurdles presented themselves, I felt overwhelmed and tended to quit rather than fail. Rather than being challenged from within to figure it out and find solutions, I gave up because somehow I thought successful people got it right the first time. My ego told me time and time again that I couldn’t get it right. It felt safer not to take many risks.

As I have played with this idea of self-image being who my ego thinks I am, I smile with the realization that my ego has become more balanced as I have stayed with my yoga and meditation practice over the years. Just as my emotions are healthier and I embrace life with passionate equanimity, my ego is healthier and tends to be more attuned to my Soul, my True Self. Ego is learning that I am this loving and compassionate being who currently lives in this body-mind but who is not defined by it. Ego is learning that expanded, enlightened awareness is not a threat to its existence. This Awareness is, instead, what allows ego to attune to and be in balance with True Self. The result that is emerging is a self-image based on the truth of who I am.

I am a spiritual being currently having a human experience. As my awareness expands, my desire to manifest love and compassion while in human form is supported by an ego getting healthier every day, an ego that “gets me.” I am laughing as I type that….is it happiness or is it my ego thinking it has fooled me into thinking I am enlightened once again??!!

Someday…

Are you waiting for something to happen that will make you happy? When I was growing up, the books I read and the movies I saw all intimated that life promised a happy ending. I believed it all. I dated in high school but never had a long-term or steady boyfriend. I dated in college but was never pinned or engaged. The illusion began to wear thin. I was married during the Viet Nam War and I loved married life and becoming a mother. It was not the fairy tale ending I assumed from the movies and books. It was hard and I wasn’t happy all the time. Aren’t I supposed to be happy all the time? I was having a difficult keeping the illusion alive.

Along the way, I began to understand the difference between happiness and contentment. For me, contentment comes from within, from being at peace with myself and my life in that moment. It springs from a deep place of knowing my Oneness with Source and With All That Is. It is sweet and enduring even in the face of deep sorrows and disappointments. Happiness has more to do with outer experiences and circumstances. It is more likely to come and go. I know now that it is okay to be unhappy about something though it is best not to abide there. Like disappointment, unhappiness is an energy that can inspire me to make healthy changes in my life. Unheeded, it can drag me down.

Years ago I watched an interview with the Dalai Lama. (I apologize for not remembering who did the interview so that I can reference it more specifically.) The Dalai Lama has not had an easy life, as most of you know. In light of that, the interviewer described him as a person from whom joy bubbles up naturally and often, quite like the refreshing water from an Artesian well. This was evident in the interview as His Holiness would grow quite serious and express sorrow over all that his people continue to suffer. There was film footage of him greeting refugees coming out of Tibet and weeping with them as he listened to their stories. After resting, he sat with the journalist and laughter bubbled up as he spoke of other experiences or shared thoughts about the meaning of life itself. He gave me a vivid image of the balance of emotions in a life lived fully and passionately.

I have met others along the way who believe that enlightenment means the opposite. They live with little emotional response to life at all. It is true they are not tossed about by the waves of life but I haven’t encountered them on the ziplines of life either! This is the path they have chosen and I honor that for them. For me, I want those “Wahoo!” moments and I am willing to embrace the deep sorrows as well because I know it all comes and goes. I know the well of contentment within. I know true joy which never ceases, even if it grows quiet at times.

There are no longer “Somedays…” in my life. There is now. Living mindfully from True Self is quite enough for me. It is a ride of cosmic proportions and I am grateful for the journey, especially now that I know who I Am.

Group Energy

I attended my first yoga class in my new home town this afternoon. The studio is called Yoga Blend and it is on Magnolia Avenue in Burbank, California. It was recommended to me by my daughter-in-law, my fellow yoga teacher, and my new friend who is a neighbor in the complex where I live.

I have been doing my own practice but there is nothing that compares to taking a class and experiencing the energy of a like-minded group. I did not know a single person in that room but we all came seeking the gifts of hatha yoga. We all came equipped with a mat, a body and mind, and a breath.

I came away feeling like my body was my own instrad of some tight, stiff vehicle that had carried me around but didn’t feel like me. Now, four hours later, I am beginning to feel where the muscles stretched or worked. There is that sweet tenderness that lets me know my practice released pent-up toxins, tightness and emotions. A cup of soothing mint tea is steeping on the kitchen counter. I will sip it after I finish this and have a quiet evening, preparing for a night of restorative sleep – and perhaps dreams of rainbows and unicorns.

Group energy takes me where I cannot go alone. No thinking “what next,” just relaxing into the guidance of a caring teacher. I could feel the energy of those around me as each person turned within and honored themselves and others with their mindful presence.

It was just what I needed and I am reminded to always be in gratitude for my teachers and their teachers, for the knowledge and traditions passed down through the generations. Yoga is a gift taken deep into my being when my heart and mind are open to receive. Thank you, Divine Love, for bringing yoga and meditation into my life.

Aum shanti. Namaste.

The Lady in Lace

With a faltering marriage and intermittent health problems, I was feeling emotionally drained and spiritually abandoned. My quest for healing and wholeness in body, mind, and spirit seemed, ironically, to be tearing my life apart.

Becoming weaker and weaker over a period of months, I had to pry myself out of bed to take care of my family and home. As one diagnostic test after another showed that everything was normal, I certainly began to question the meaning of that word!

One Sunday afternoon as I lay on the bed, exhausted and sick, hot tears filled my eyes. Feeling totally alone, it seemed that I was completely unable to change anything in my life. As I drifted into a half-dream state, I prayed for courage, for the strength to endure with my sanity intact until some answers came. Some of the emotional pain subsided, and I found myself drifting, floating on a cloud over a beautiful field of wildflowers. It was lovely, and in that moment, I felt safe and peaceful.

I suddenly realized I was on the ground, sitting among the flowers, watching a woman in white approaching from a great distance. I was filled with anticipation and curiosity as the woman moved toward me quickly and effortlessly and then stopped about five or six feet from where I sat. She wore the most beautiful long, white, high-collared lace dress, and her long hair was pulled back softly from her face.

I looked deeply into her eyes. Somehow I knew her, but from where? She smiled with such depth of love and tenderness that my heart swelled within me, and I wept, feeling the tears soak my face.

“Who are you?” I asked. Her answer unfolded in my awareness without a single word being spoken. She was my grandmother!

The beautiful woman before me was my mother’s mother, who had died in an influenza epidemic when Mother was barely six months old. She smiled again when I asked her why she had come to me. Speaking directly to my heart and soul, my grandmother explained to me that I was going through a uniquely feminine experience, something that is part of the emotional and spiritual lives of all women, the phase of a woman’s life that often brings great pain and suffering.

She said that my own healing of this passage would bring healing to the other women of my earthly family. I knew then that, as I endured the process and eventually healed myself, my daughter and future granddaughters would be able to move through this time with much greater ease.

Grandmother wanted me to know that I was not alone and that, just as she had watched over my mother, she had always been with me and would always be watching over me. I learned that day that I came from a lineage of women of spiritual strength and presence. Understanding that I had within myself the strength and ability to endure and bring healing to myself, I knew that I would grow from it and be able to help the women who would come after me. This passage, successfully navigated, would greatly enhance my own spiritual and emotional journey toward wholeness, as well as that of succeeding generations.

Returning to full consciousness a minute later, I felt as though I had slept in Grandmother’s healing embrace. Tears of gratitude and awe flowed through me.

The following year, when visiting my parents, I asked about my grandmother. My mother got out the one surviving photograph of her mother. It shows my grandmother at her wedding, radiant in her long, white, high-collared, lace dress, her long hair pulled back softly from her smiling face.

(Published in a collection of stories compiled by Lee Lawson (copyright 2000) in a work titled: VISITATIONS from the afterlife, True Stories of Love and Healing – published by HarperCollins books. Chapter 13, pages 197-198)

Follow-up:

I was diagnosed several months later with overlapping conditions. The diagnosis came just in time to prevent me from becoming comatose and was treatable with short-term heart medication and a diet specific to my biological needs at the time.

This experience led me into a more balanced and healthy lifestyle, which I live to this day. The doctor and nutritionist who led me back to health taught me to recognize and prevent further such episodes. Today I live without prescription medications and am healthier and stronger than ever. My gratitude for them is without limit.

Yin/Yang as Contrast

In my last entry I referred to dark/light as an example of Yin/Yang. The first thing that comes to mind when I think in these terms is black and white photography. This is one of my favorite artistic mediums. The edges are much more apparent than they are in color photography. More is left to the imagination because of the lack of other colors. The shadows or dark areas give definition and clarity to the light. Rather than working against the light, the dark supports the light, making it shine brighter.

In belief systems grounded in judgement, light and dark are seen as good and bad. The terms positive and negative carry connotations of judgement, even though scientifically these terms denote opposite sides needed to create a balance of function (as in the two ends of a battery + and -). When we automatically judge something as negative or bad, we deny ourselves the understanding that balance requires two sides to act as counter-weights for one another.

Emotions are judged harshly if they have been labeled as negative. Fear is deemed negative in the Western mind and yet, in Eastern philosophy, it is seen as one of the Master Teachers. Legitimate fear can save your life. Unrealistic fear can paralyze you. Learning from your fear can increase your self-awareness and nurture your spiritual growth. Sitting with an intense and uncomfortable emotion brings insight and often healing. Sit quietly and ask “Fear, what have you come to show me?” Then listen with an open mind and heart for the answer.

I have shifted the way I language emotions because even extreme happiness can stress the body and the mind, creating imbalance. I now assess (rather than judge) my emotions in terms of intensity. I am currently experiencing wonderful times with my family and the intensity of joy and fulfillment feels overwhelming at times. If I were grieving, it would be tempting to fight against the experience rather than embrace it. In both cases, it is a matter of the intensity of the emotions I am experiencing. As the intensity rises so does the sense of being overwhelmed. In both situations, the answer is to embrace the experience and be aware of what I need to remain balanced physically, mentally and emotionally. Imbalance in either direction (joy or sorrow) can, over time, lead to exhaustion and illness.

I am passionate about life. Human beings experience life through their senses and that includes emotions. When I am out in nature, I stop and drink in the visual wonder of it all. I take deep breaths and smell what is around me. I close my eyes and listen. I pay attention to the memories and/or emotions that these sentient stimulants evoke in me. I want it all.

At the same time, I seek balance so that my responses (physical, mental, emotional) do not toss me around or throw me against the walls of my life. Been there; done that. It is exhilarating to soar (yang) and necessary for my health to come back to earth (yin) and walk in balance.