Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Shades of "Ego"

"Colors of a Desert Morning"
-in my meditation garden-

"Relinquish the ego," "lose your self" -  a necessary step for any spiritual life regardless of what path you may be walking down. 

Yesterday I had an interesting online conversation with a very thoughtful person about what it really means to "relinquish the ego" when you are searching for your "soul."  He said something that made me realize how glibly we toss around words like "ego," thinking that everyone uses this word in the same way.  It made me realize that, "ego" probably has several shades of meaning. 

In yesterday's conversation, my online friend said to me, "All my life I have been on a spiritual journey. All my life I have been trying to figure out how to lose my self and relinquish my ego."  

He then went on to say, "But I don't want to suppress my emotions or turn off my imagination. I don't want to devalue my self.  I don't want to give up that which is uniquely me,  and I don't understand why I must do this in order to walk a spiritual path." 

This morning I have been reflecting on my online conversation of yesterday. Actually I think that relinquishing the ego, losing self, doesn't involve suppressing personal uniqueness at all. 

In one sense my "ego" is that part of me that is unlike anyone else in the world. My "ego" is the way I see the world through my own eyes, my own unique mind and spirit. 

But "ego" also has another shade of meaning. Buddhists teach that "ego" is actually an illusion. There is no such entity as an individual, separated self, disconnected from other beings. Everything and everyone IS a dynamic set of interrelationships. Every one of us IS a complex web of relationship.  

So, in this sense, relinquishing the ego means giving up the false illusion that "I" am an isolated self.

Jesus, like the Buddha, taught that you have to lose your self to find your self.  In other words, if you want to find your soul, you need to lose your false idea of an isolated, alienated self and live as a "relationship" with others - soul is a relationship with all beings. 

As I reflect on these different shades of meaning when it comes to the "ego,"  I realize that I can indeed lose my self,  I can relinquish my ego and still very much value and hold on to my uniqueness as I travel on a spiritual path. 

I value my uniqueness, my intellect and education, my emotions, my vision and imagination, my poetic spirit.  At the same time, I  realize that these are the gifts that I bring to the relationship that I am. My uniqueness (my ego) is my gift offered for the building of the common good. 

I can value my own uniqueness and at the same time realize that in the larger scope of things, "I" am not all that important.  "I" am simply part of the flow of life and not the center of it all. 

As I sit in my meditation garden, I look out into the breathtaking morning skies rising up out of the desert mountains. The beauty of it all never ceases to amaze me.  I realize that "I" am one of those many different brilliant colors in the array of the one glorious picture lighting up the skies.  

I celebrate my uniqueness. I relinquish my ego.  I find my self.  


  1. u helped us to breathe.
    there used to be fear always,that i m addressing myself .
    i am caring for myself and at the same time somebody from inner goes in discomfort,
    and if i say i m an ordinary man ,then again reaction comes that how can i b ordinary.
    things should be cosy now
    thanks paul

  2. Thank you for the post. I have asked myself that same question, and often felt guilty about my reluctance to let go of my "ego." Thanks again for this thought provoking insight!

  3. Very insightful piece....thank you!