March theme – Asmita (ego)
Monthly Theme – Klesha 2: Asmita (Egoism)
written by Clare Lovelace
Patanjali defines Asmita or egoism as mistaking the transient aspects of ourselves – the physical, emotional, and mental – for the true self, which according to the Yogis is the unchanging, ever-peaceful observer behind those characteristics.
This is a different interpretation from merely thinking highly of oneself, which is generally associated with the word ‘ego’ in the West. Thinking poorly of oneself is also falling into the same trip of Egoism. Any time we identify with our mental or emotional fluctuating state rather than our peaceful True Nature – this is obstructing our spiritual growth.
When we identify with our occupation or possessions for our sense of purpose and happiness then we automatically reinforce a sense of separateness. Anything that seems to threaten our job or possessions we start to label as ‘bad’ and try to avoid it whilst running towards anything that supports this limited view of ourselves based on identification with the small self. This keeps us trapped in a cycle of craving and aversion.
Through the practices of meditation and mindful movement we can begin to observe our mind (or ego) rather than identifying with it. By watching the mind curiously we can start to understand what drives our emotions. The simple act of watching rather than becoming creates a buffer zone in which we have the space to choose. Rather than becoming an angry person when we are threatened and acting out of fear we learn to watch the emotion as it arises, give it space and then choose to respond or not. It takes 90 seconds for an emotion to pass through the body if we don’t perpetuate it with the stories of the mind. Every emotion we experience also has a physical effect on the body. Positive or negative thoughts release hormones (dopamine or cortisol) straight into our bloodstream which in turn affects our mood and physical health. By learning to connect with our true nature, rather than being enslaved to our egoic self we can re-wire our brain and live with an increased sense of peace and genuine happiness.
Questions to consider:
- How do I react when I’m identifying with my ego?
- What daily practices can I put into place to create the ‘buffer zone’ between my thoughts and reactions?
- What would life look like if I didn’t place my sense of self worth on external circumstances (relationships, work, possessions, wealth etc)