Learning to Recognize Ego

I love the cartoon drawing of a Devil on one shoulder and an Angel on the other. It is such a clear picture of my nature. That is, my Human Nature vs. my Spiritual Nature. As a Mystic, I really want to listen to and follow the angel. But I have found that ego can make this tricky.


A number of years ago, I tried to address ego in a class I was teaching. When I introduced the subject of ego, I immediately got push back. That had never happened to me before. The students spoke very strongly against even trying. So I gave up. This was such a painful experience that I have avoided talking about ego every since. About six months ago I started feeling that I was being called to give a talk on ego. I completely ignored it. But the call kept coming back. Apparently the angel wouldn’t take no for an answer.


This talk is about my experiences, my thoughts, and my conclusions. What I am presenting is my “Best Guess” and is subject to change. I am not speaking from the perspective of an expert. I am a work in progress with the goal of getting more in touch with that Angel on my shoulder…


I believe that my Spiritual Nature speaks to me through intuition. I have had many incredible, magical experiences by listening and following my intuition. However here is the story that really reminds me of ego, and the choice I have.


One Sunday morning in meditation I heard, “Take the didgeridoo to Church and let people hold it, but don’t play it.” I knew that this didgeridoo had the feeling of Being infused in it by aboriginal elders. So this made sense to me.


This happened years ago when our Unity Church was in Kingston. I took the didgeridoo to Church and asked people to hold it. Of course I was asked, “Do you play the didgeridoo?” I said, “Yes,” then people would say something like, “I love the didgeridoo, would you please play it?” And I kept saying, No, not today.


But I got tired of this and thought, I play the didgeridoo. As a matter of fact, I play it rather well!” Now I knew this was Ego but I begin to doubt what I had really heard not to play. When someone else asked me to play, I thought, ”Why not?” So I took the didge away from someone and started to play. But I could not make a sound! I tried again and again, but no mater how hard I tried, I could not make a sound!


A few weeks later I heard, “Take the didgeridoo to Church and this time you can play it.” So I did. After I played it, someone came up to me and said, “Wow, you have really learned a lot.” To which I replied, “Yes I have, and you don’t even know the half of it.”


I think of ego as how I unconsciously see myself, Its my self-esteem, my self-image. It changes without my knowledge or awareness and can sneak up on me. Sometimes it seems like it has a mind of its own. Recently I heard, “The ego never sleeps.” Something for me to keep in mind.


There is a recent book about ego and when I heard about it, I thought, “I will just read that and use it for my talk. This will be a piece of cake.” So I read Ego is the Enemy By Ryan Holiday.

The aim of …the book] is “… to suppress ego early before bad habits take hold, to replace the temptations of ego with humility and discipline … “


To me, the book spent a lot of time showing how following ego doesn’t work.


From the lesson of “Taking the Didgeridoo to Church,” I already knew that I did not want to listen to ego. What I needed to do was to learn to recognize ego sooner.


How do I recognize Ego?


Here are some ways:


1. Emotions - I heard in meditation,

“Emotions tend to come from the ego.” I think that this is particularly true when they suddenly arise. For example, when I read or hear something and I am very angry.


2. Being Right – Especially without thought and consideration of others. For example, when I see an article and I feel pleased because someone was taught a lesson. “This serves them right” is certainly coming from ego.

3. Judging – I feel that I can use good judgment for myself and learn from observing others. But when I am judging someone else I am crossing a line.


4. Wanting something -


5. Believing that this is Real. I am fooled by the Physical.


Tests - Sometimes when making a decision, I am not sure if ego has slipped in. So here are some tests that I use to recognize ego.


1. Check with intuition. Is the answer different?


2. Recheck Intuition with changes. For example, “Can I learn this lesson without pain? Or I ask the question in a different way.


3. Recognizing that choices can be both spiritual and ego. For example, about 17 years ago I was trying to decide if I should buy a new truck. Part of what I was experiencing was a need. I canceled a visit to our daughter in Oklahoma because I was not confident that our old truck would make it without problems. But I also knew that I wanted a new truck because it would be so nice. Through meditation, I decided that what I was experiencing was about 70% need and 30% want. So we bought a new truck. In the all the years since then, I have continued to see this as a good decision.


4. Checking with my Spiritual Family. Including my Church Family. Comparing intuitive answers with someone else can really help. This expands my Spiritual perspective.


Some Things for me to Remember


In writing this talk, I realize that what I may have been trying to teach in that class long ago was “Eliminating Ego.” I now believe that I cannot eliminate ego, but I can learn to recognize it faster and then not follow it.


One definition of Wisdom is knowledge plus timing. A friend told me that I am a “High Thought Person.” This means I need to take time to think. That I need to say things like, “Let me get back to you, I need to think about that, I don’t know.” Ego would have me rush in.


“Can I make a decision now?” When a decision does not seem to be clear, it might not be ego that is causing the problem. Sometimes the timing is just not right. Using intuition to find out that the decision cannot be made now can save a lot of time and frustration.


If Asked. I learned this at work. It means I may develop information related to a subject, or a position, but I don’t use it unless asked.


Working Together


Ego would have us stick with what makes sense, with what we planned and practiced. This is what we can do the best and thus put ourselves in the best light. However, Intuition takes into account the unknown. Following Intuition instead of ego is one way that we can support each other. Here is an example:


Last Sunday, Becky & Matt sang "Across the Universe" by John Lennon. The line “Nothing’s gonna change my world” is repeated over and over. It kept running though my mind and I eventually thought, if you are talking about the Physical World, nothing could be further from the truth. The one thing that we can count on is change and it is often unpredictable and unexpected.


I finally decided that this might be related to my talk and I emailed Becky and asked if there was a particular reason that they included it, or if they had any reaction to that line.


Here is the essence of what she wrote back:


It's funny that you would bring this up - we did not originally intend to play "Across the Universe"


The repeating line “Nothing's gonna change my world" didn't seem to fit Kellie Wright’s talk. 


Something to know about Matt is this: he is very easy going about most everything in life, and when he gets a 'message', especially about a sacred song during the service, requiring us to "surf" rather than present what we have rehearsed, I know it's for a reason beyond us, even if I don't understand it at the time. To keep with the surfing metaphor, he "caught the Wave".


Here is the line in the song that caught Matt’s attention and it is the reason that they sang it:


Limitless undying love which shines around me like a million suns                                                          
And calls me on and on across the universe


John Lennon is quoted as saying that the words of Across the Universe came through him. Essentially that they were channeled.


The refrain: "Nothing's gonna change my world" could certainly be interpreted as a resistance to change, the ego's clinging to what is Known, Familiar, Safe, Easy, etc.... but I think in this case, the phrase is used as a mantra - knowing that God is All, and that God's love is constant, consistent, unconditional, nurturing.


I think that Becky is exactly right. If I am in the Real World, for as the Course in Miracles says: Nothing Real can be Threatened.


So Matt followed his intuition and I followed mine. And as a result, I have this great example of how we can work together. It wouldn’t have happened if they had followed ego. Together we shall overcome.


So how am I doing relative to ego? I think that this story gives an insight.


Not too long ago I was laying in bed in the early morning in great pain. I had two areas of my body that were horribly painful. This had been happening over time, but that morning the pain was particularly bad. I thought, why me? What am I going to do about this? My intuitive answer did not seem clear. Now there is a theory that pain means we have a lesson to learn. Later when I was meditating, I heard:


“You underestimate the power of Ego.” I really heard this lesson and a few days later, one of the painful areas went away.


About a week later, when I was meditating, I heard: “You underestimate the power of Holly Spirit.” I really heard this lesson and a few days later, the other painful area went away.


So how am I doing? I think that this story shows I still have a lot to learn …


When I led the Thursday night meditation two weeks ago, I mentioned that today I would be taking about ego. The question was asked, “How can I use intuition instead of ego when feeling anxious?”


This is a very good question. For me, feeling anxious is a form of Fear. So the question is how can I get past Fear?


From the book, Ego is the Enemy

Ego [can] soothe … fear. It [can be] a salve to … insecurity.

… ego tells us what we want to hear, when we want to hear it.


Ego told me, “I play the didgeridoo. As a matter of fact, I play it rather well!” And how did that go? Not well at all.


I don’t want to follow ego. I want to follow Holy Spirit, I want to reach that which is Real. Nothing Real can be Threatened. Then, as Matt and Becky helped me realize, "Nothing's gonna change my world" "Nothing's gonna change my world"


Here is a the meditation that I use to get past Fear.


Meditation – The Violet Flame of St. Germaine



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