September 15, 2013

Inner Dialogue

While feeling excitement and uncertainty about my professional life, I realize I'm exactly where I need to be. I have the tools and practices to stay present with all that arises; to see more clearly. If I made this change earlier, I imagine the process would've been murkier--filled with constant (and paralyzing) doubt and self-judgment. But now I can suss out ego and hear my authentic voice.

My dad asked me to define the term "ego." He realized my use of the word is not the dictionary definition nor his personal definition. I said it was Buddhist language that I try to avoid in general conversation (and then I found the word "ego" littered throughout my blog posts). Perhaps my readers also want clarification.

Ego survives on suffering--either 1) reaching desperately for pleasure, gain, fame, praise or 2) fiercely repelling pain, loss, disgrace, and blame. Ego concretizes--sees in black and white (no gray, no changing). And ego is never, ever happy. It is relentless and must be constantly fed. It promises a break, a moment of relaxation, or happiness, but never delivers. In this way, ego is a tyrant. So perhaps I should call it my inner-tyrant.

The inner-tyrant speaks loudly and unkindly. I've learned to reduce the volume of ego. It remains background chatter (I have no expectation it will disappear), but the voice gets quieter--especially when I don't believe or follow it. Sometimes, though, ego sneaks through a backdoor; whispers something alluring and (seemingly) reasonable. And I follow.

I wrote an essay about my last few years; my road map to choice and to leaving my job. It's a nice piece--truthful, well-written, interesting. I wanted to charge ahead and submit the essay--my first step as a writer. Yet my internal compass was absent. I wasn't sure of my motivation: well-cloaked ego edict or intentional push from my inner-artist? I've learned to pause when my compass is absent. So I did (just barely). I shelved the essay. And then I saw the truth: I wanted the essay to wrap-up my life as an academic. This piece was a way to leave that life behind--never to be written about again. When actually this essay deserves more tender care and attention. Someday in the future.

I am 44 years of habituated thoughts. My meditation practice allows me to better see these thoughts and the emotional responses (and vice versa). Each day I feel more awake. More awake to life, others, and myself. I still get hooked by ego, but I always find my way back home. Back home to my open, kind, creative heart.


  1. Very interesting. (Arte Johnson used to say that on Laugh-In. Remember that?) So many questions here. First, your ego liked the idea of the essay because it would bring closure to your ego, but your heart did not need that closure? Hence the essay gets shelved for a while? (You are not the first writer that did not send in her first piece.) And just what kind of closure is this? Is it different than the kind of closure we get by going to a funeral? And am I correct in assuming your inner dialogue is between your ego and your heart? And if so, can you tell us in a future post about the nature of your heart the way you described the ego in this post? I see words like "internal compass" and "inner-artist", but I am not sure how these are related to your view of the components of the self.
    I guess I grew up in a more Freudian time of the id, the ego, and the superego, but it has never been that clear to me what the benefits are of thinking of the self as composed of fragments. I have always been struck by the passage in Exodus (3:14) where Moses carries on a conversation with God in the burning bush. When Moses asked God who God is, God's response is: I am who I am. I like the unity of that, and I like to think of myself as one person that is more than just the sum of my parts. My conscious self emerges from all my parts, but it is more than my parts. For what it's worth, I also do not care much for the idea of mind-body dualism. I am all of me.
    Having said all that, be sure to understand that I am more than happy to carry on this conversation using YOUR terms - as long as I understand what you mean by them. Carry on. I am excited by your new life!

    1. oh, dad, always the inquiring mind (that I love so much). the path to my heart is through attention and awareness. when i'm actually present and experiencing the moment, ego disappears.

      thanks, as always, for your love and support.