#261 How & when DOES our EGO FEED itself? Feb. 24 19

                           How and when does our ego feed itself?

Ego means “I”. It is the mental symbol of how we see ourselves physically mentally and emotionally.”

It is our immaterial self-entity and self-image hidden deep in our subconscious and emerging during emotional storms..

Our self-entity is crucial to survive and function at all levels.

It is the root of “I want, I don’t want, I am fighting.”

To control, to enjoy, to hate, to analyze, to judge, etc…are all actions & emotions driven, by definition, from our self-centered ego.

Despite being immaterial our ego, like anything else, needs some sort of energy.

Where is this immaterial energy coming from?

Being essentially self-centered, our emotions and feelings are back-feeding our ego.

He (ego) loves to generate feelings/emotions because, not only they boost and provide food to the ego but also because we believe –subconsciously- that our emotions/feelings define our identity as much as our biological and social identity in our day-to-day routine.

Our ego lives and feeds itself from the permanent emotional roller coaster made of “I want”, “I don’t want”, my anger, my fear, my nostalgia, my guilt, my past, my future, my thoughts, my pleasure, my pain, my judgments, my expectation, me vs. the others and many many more “I, me, myself, mine”.

Here are classical day-to-day examples:

“I am angry at you because you did not tell me….”

This anger is, by definition, self-centered – this you and not some body else- and this anger represents also the energy fuelling the ego. It cannot be otherwise. The more angry we are, the more ego-driven self-centered we are. If we did not have an ego, anger would not exist and we would not react with emotion.

“ I am upset because I did not get what I want”

“I am fearful about the future”

“ I regret the past. It was more fun those days”  Etc…..No point to list zillions of examples.

They are all identical: ego triggers + and – emotion, + & – emotion feeds and boosts the ego and self-image.

This is a vicious Catch22. This is why it is so difficult not to fall in this trap. We all do.

In fact, the more angry I am, the better my ego feels. All of this is subconscious.

So, how to get out this vicious circle?

Shunryu Suzuki gave his usual ironic answer to a student asking, “ How much ego do we need?  He replied: “Just enough to cross the street without being hit by a bus”. Typical  Zen irony

Like for anything else, a proper balance between too much and not enough ego is the solution.

It has been showed over and over that huge ego and not enough of it do not bring happiness but rather suffering.

When you are reacting emotionally or when negative feelings are popping out of your mind, try to pause and become the observer rather than being a victim trying to fight back. It means do not react.

It means saying to yourself: “OK, I am accepting”. Accepting does not mean to be weak or coward but to control the emotional hurricane, which will blow you away.  

Easy to say but very hard to master because our emotional brain centers react 20 to 30 times faster than our rational one localized in our prefrontal cortex. Mindfulness is the tool to use. Watch w/o judgment,

w/o decision. Learn to mind the mind. If you can do it for 1 or 2 min. you will notice that the sudden emotional flame is down.

If we react and fight about something, we are adding fuel to your ego. This is, again, the vicious circle.

Our Western culture is brainwashing us about having a strong personality, to fight, to resist and to win all the time. Eastern culture is far less dogmatic, more philosophical, and, probably somewhat wiser.

Like for anything else in Zen philosophy, the ego is like a coin. It has 2 sides and w/o 2 sides the coin or the ego cannot exist.  A proper balance between the good ego and the bad must be achieved.

The good one is giving us joy, the bad one …pain. As long as we accept this balance, we are dong OK.

THANK YOU Oakville Zen Team

#260 OUR SOUNDLESS VOICE Feb. 17th 19

                            Our soundless voice 

This soundless voice comes from our brain- mind in the form of thoughts and feelings either positive or negative.

Between 70,000 and 150,000/day. This inner voice is continuous and, coming from our own mind, we are, therefore, talking to ourselves and, on the top of that, we are also faithful listeners to what we are saying to ourselves. Because the talker and the listener are the same person and coming from the same mind, we strongly believe in our inner soundless fictional voice. Crazy situation! Of course we do need to think when judgments and decisions must be taken in our day-to-day activities but these decisional thoughts represent a very small proportion of this silent and relentless mind-made sound track.

Zen teaching is very clear on this wacky phenomenon:  “Watch your mind all the time and don’t trust all its thoughts and feelings, since many of them are ego driven, or just dreams and w/o decision “

This is mindfulness in action.

Here are several “recordings” of our mind-made ego-driven inner voice followed by their Zen replies.

I want happiness as much as I can & as often as possible says my little voice.

——Zen: Being happy is fine but seeking ongoing search for happiness, material or not will never stop.  This ongoing, never ended search is, by definition, the antithesis of happiness.

I must resist and fight my negative emotions such as anger, fear, grief, resentment, boredom, anxiety, negative judgment. Etc. says the inner voice.

——-Zen: On the contrary. If you do so, you are feeding energy to your negative emotions and pain will increase. This pain is self-created as long as your unobserved mind runs your life. The pain that we created    is almost always some form of non-acceptance and subconscious resistance to your feelings. Accepting them is key if you want to deal with them effectively.

I am thinking therefore I am says the little voice. Descartes said that 400 years ago and we believe that.

——–Zen: Not so. When you observe your thoughts you are achieving a higher level of consciousness.  You then discover that thoughts are just that and represent only a little part of yourself Rather then believing that you are our thoughts and feelings, be the awareness and observer of them. By doing so, you realize that you not the thoughts but an independent entity from them.

I am in control of my life says the voice.

——–Zen: Only a tiny part of it. It is just a wishful thinking. We don’t control anything such as events and people. Trying to master this outside world is a great source of frustration & unhappiness

I am missing the past and regret dearly my previous mistake says the voice.

——–Zen: The past is dead. Accept it rather then being prisoner of your past all the time.

I am anxious and worried about the future says the voice.

——–Zen: Of course, planning is necessary but the future is not born and still fictional. Negative feelings about its potential events are also a tool of our mind to upset our present moment and making it miserable.

Consider past/present as very efficient tools of the mind to control you and spoiling the present moment, the only reality whatever exiting or mundane.

I am unhappy most of the time says the silent  voice.

——–Zen: We believe people, events and situations are causing suffering, dissatisfaction and unhappiness but, ultimately, this is not so. Our resistance and non-acceptance to them are the real culprits since most of these outside factors are not in our control.

Things can last; I have time says the voice.

———Zen: Nothing , good or bad, lasts forever. Only ongoing change is permanent and everything is transient.

For many reasons, I don’t like too much myself says the soundless voice.

———Zen: Because of our education to push for better insight and self-criticism, poor self-image is an endemic disease in our Western world. Fixing our flaws is one thing to be done but suffering from an permanent poor-self image is counter productive, even destructive. Accept yourself as you are and don’t identify yourself with your negativities. Rather, express self-compassion and empathy. It will help you greatly to do the same for others.