In shamanic work the questions of ego and its place come up for every single student. There is confusion. What is the ego? Don’t we need one? Isn’t it important to have a healthy ego so we can promote ourselves and be proud of who we are? Why all this talk about killing the ego, isn’t that crazy? If God meant for us not to have an ego she wouldn’t have given us one, right?
Yes, those are all real questions I’ve gotten from students and clients.
WHAT IS THE EGO?
The ego is the identity we have built up around our defined “selves”. The word “ego” is equated with “false self”, that image of yourself created by yourself, which you accept as your permanent core, and which you serve as if it truly has an objective existence. In many religions, this ego is seen as the core of ignorance. It is accepted as the root cause of most of our delusions and suffering.
To serve your ego is
to worship a false identity
created by yourself.
It is like someone suffering from amnesia
reinventing herself because
she has forgotten
who she is. ~ The Tao is Tao, 80
The goal in spiritual evolution regarding ego is to recognize that you are not your ego. You are something far grander, far worthier of love and compassion, and far more magnificent than anything the ego could concoct. The idea is not to kill anything, but to put the ego where it belongs in the back seat, so that the heart/soul/highest self can drive the bus. Your heart needs to be in charge at all times if your life is to be in flow.
Your heart/soul is the channel you tune into to hear God. The Creator of all that is, seen and unseen, named and unnameable. Your heart/soul is the antenna for your highest self, the portal through which all of the direction, information, teachings and messages that are for your highest and best path will come through. Yet we live in a world where we are told “we must use our minds, be smart, the mind is everything.” It is the problem of humanity. Very few people are fully tuned in to their heart at all times. They are constantly thinking, ruminating, planning, being angry, planning revenge, being jealous, having envy, criticizing the self and others, on and on and on and on..the ceaseless chatter that is the work of the ego.
The ego loves its own story. It loves its own story so much that it has convinced you that it is so important that you should risk never having true joy, never finding your ultimate life path, just to ensure the survival of the ego.
IS THE EGO OUR ENEMY?
The ego is a beautiful servant but a terrible master.
The ego is not the enemy, but it cannot be in the driver’s seat. That’s the whole point of moving out of ego — we must transcend it. On the healing path we are not to hate it or fight it or be angry at it, but to understand that it needs to be removed from its post as CEO of our lives. The ego/mind is not the source of our highest wisdom, our highest self.
Psychologists will argue that it is not possible to live without some self-image. It is mostly accepted that a positive self-image equips you with the abilities to adapt and to survive. But ego is not the same thing as “self image”. You can have a self-image without having an ego. The self-image becomes an “ego” only if the self-image becomes your identity.
I once read a piece about ego, by an author who was fighting so hard to prove that ego serves us well. This author stated, “She only wanted to keep you safe from disappointment, rejection, and other harm caused by other sick egos. She was only trying to ward off the forces that injure the mind. She controls you into a false sense of security, false protection, the illusion of the control. Your ego is not stopping you. She is serving you the best way she can in her crippled state.”
The very items that this author lists as “she is only trying to x, y, x” is the very reason the ego must take a back seat to the open heart. We do not want to be controlled into a false sense of security. When we allow that to happen, things eventually get very real and very scary. The rug will be pulled out from under you. You don’t need that if you are engaging in conscious change. Being proactive in allowing God to speak to you through your heart while your ego keeps quiet.
Your ego does not “serve you”. She stops you. In her “crippled state” she stops you AT EVERY TURN.
YOUR EGO RUNS FROM EVERYTHING THAT IS REAL
Every time you get an inch closer to your authentic self your ego tells you to retreat. Every time you come within a mile of a real teacher, and true teachings, the ego tells you to run.
Your ego has no interest in going on a journey into the dark night of the soul. Your ego is ill prepared to journey to your shadow self, and avoids the depths of your own darkness like the plague. The ego will move pretty pastel mountains of illusion all day and night to “block you” from seeing what needs to be seen. It will have you seeking out cohorts. Partners in crime who will bolster your ego right back up to that place in the sun.
The ego will never send you to a shaman. It’s why I say to people often, if something is pissing you off, something is making you uncomfortable, THAT is where you need to look if you want to heal. But so few do. Why? You guessed it. The ego. Those of us who are authentically called to teach – who have no interest in popularity, fame or recognition, never “come up with an idea” to do so. It is something we are called to do. And it’s not always fun. At times, it’s gut-wrenching and rough.
Demoting my ego from her position as pilot, to ground crew was not an easy journey. If my ego had had her way I would still be in a prestigious career, flying around the world, with her Chanel skirt suits, ready reservations at Nobu or Daniel, and box seats at Madison Square Garden being served Cristal while watching the Knicks play basketball. If my ego had her way she would have stopped me from following a path that regularly brings me face to face with visual imagery of my clients’ pain, suffering, physical and sexual abuse, neglect, abandonment and mother wound. True teaching, the Shamanic path, and ego cannot be friends.
Those who are lost in their egos game believe that your most valuable asset is your image. But it’s a lie. A lie that keeps you hidden from your true gifts, the gifts of your soul. Those are the only things you will be taking with you when death knocks upon your door. Your image will be lost when you a) get old b) make a huge mistake c) disappoint your fans d) show that you are a real human and not perfect e) die.
Each of these things will happen to each of us.
BEING YOUR AUTHENTIC SELF
If you are heart centered and have unconditional love for yourself, there is no image to push. You don’t have to airbrush your photos, stand next to fluffy pink unicorns, and whisper sweet nothings all day. When you unconditionally love yourself, you get to just be you. You will say things that will piss people off, and it won’t bother you a bit. You will say things that make some people dislike you. That won’t bother you either. You will say how you really feel and believe, instead of remaining silent about things that matter to you.
And guess what? You will be uninterested in what others think of you. Only ego cares about that. Your authentic being cares only that the connection to the Divine is secure, authentic and real. Your higher self cares only that you are authentically you, at all times, in ALL circumstances and around ALL people. Your mom, your dad, your friends, your kids, your clients, your fans.
WHAT ABOUT MY ACCOMPLISHMENTS?
How on earth are we supposed to “promote” ourselves and succeed in life if the ego stays in the background? This is just a melding together of two totally separate issues. Self-image and ego are not one and the same. If you won the gold medal in 26 Olympic swimming events that is a fact. A fact that can and should be used on your “resume” of life if you are planning to go into sports coaching, motivational speaking, fitness training etc… 26 Gold Medals is a fact of your human existence and has nothing to do with your ego. Worldly success is extremely relevant in terms of what your qualifications are for future endeavors. It becomes ego if you believe or say “I am better than you …look how much more special I am because I won all these medals.” That’s the ego talking. And even if you don’t say it out loud, but you think it, your ego is destroying you. Also, if you believe deep down that you are special and important BECAUSE you won 26 Gold Medals. That is also ego.
I do Bikram yoga many times a week. I listen to the voice of Bikram Choudhury himself over my iPhone. For years now, every time he gets to the place on the recording where he says “I changed millions of people’s lives” I cringe. I cringe for his soul. Each time I hear him say that I say to myself “no, Bikram, YOU did not change anyone’s lives. You channeled beautiful medicine and the medicine helped people change their own lives.” There is only one person who can change your life, and that is you.
THERE ARE NO HEALERS, ONLY TEACHERS
A true shaman knows this: there are no healers. There are only clear vessels, hollow bones — those who have done the work on our own selves to dissolve the ego, knock off the lenses of perception, and simply allow the medicine to move through us without any obstructions. We deliver that medicine in appropriate doses to those who work with us and we then detach from the outcome. The healing is theirs and theirs alone.
Jesus Christ, the most powerful shaman on this planet, had no ego – yet he had immense power. He claimed only to be a teacher of God’s word. He struggled. He was fully human. He lived as a real man who experienced suffering, doubt, pain and tragedy. The reason we still hear His voice 2000 years later is because he was as clear a channel as one can be in a human form. The ego is not capable of having a one-on-one direct, experiential relationship with God or Christ. But the heart can.
My friends, there is only ONE way to move the ego out of the lead role in your life. And that is to fully love yourself. Your real, true authentic self. When you love yourself deeply you can allow your heart and soul to be in charge of everything because you trust it. The ego trusts no one, not even you.
But when you love yourself unconditionally and know deep down that you are a perfect, beautiful, magnificent being connected to the light, you are able to fully let the ego take a step down. Your intelligence, your talents, your gifts, your accomplishments, your training, your education and your degrees, those are all wonderful! They are things you have picked up along the way on THIS journey to be placed in your toolkit. But they do not define you, just as your wounds don’t define you.
In my toolkit are many interesting items. A career at the top law firm in the world. Successful asylum cases for Tibetan Monks and Nuns. A stellar sales career in which I earned millions of dollars with a 76% closing rate. Honors graduate from both college and law school. Several degrees, expertise in health, wellness and science based nutrition, motherhood, homeschooling, creator of over 1,000 original plant based recipes, medical intuitive, flower essence expert and practitioner, plant medicine carrier, crystal healer, musician, writer, poet and much more. Interesting and sometimes fun tools.
But each and every day I live with the knowledge that death is coming for me. And when this trip is over, no matter how many more successes, gifts, baubles, awards, achievements, accolades I may acquire before the end, the tool kit will be placed by my grave and forever more will be nothing but dust in the wind. All of it. Fading into the merging consciousness of all that is, was and ever will be.
It is in that understanding that death taught me how to live.
It has been in walking the path of the wounded healer, the shamanic journey into and out of the shadows, that has brought me to a place where I truly love myself unconditionally. I honor my true nature. I value every moment I get to breathe. I treasure the gift of this human life. I am thankful for all of the other gifts that have accrued in my tool kit, but mostly, I am thankful that God showed me how to place the ego gently in the back seat so that my heart can remain forever the open receiver. I honor each and every one of you, and pray that we all find our way back to our hearts. ~ Liana