Ever wonder who it is that’s incessantly chattering in your mind? Always think, think, thinking. What about the federal judge inside you who critiques everything you do, everything you even think about doing? And how about the inner victim disguising itself as irritation—the part of you that just waits to be offended and loves to complain.
Does any of this sound familiar?
I suspect it does. This is the work of the ego, and we all have one. The ego is the part of ourselves that seeks to gain attention, to be validated, to be right. This is the high-octane fuel that sustains the ego. The ego isn’t all bad. Taking care of ourselves and defining who we are helps to keep us alive. On the other hand, the ego has an insatiable appetite for more—more attention, more validation, more everything—and this hunger is the cornerstone of any addiction, including alcoholism and drug addiction.
Our addiction is a bad choice we made to silence the ego. If you’ve ever been an addict, you know how this goes. As soon as you wake up, the inner committee starts its barrage of memories, opinions, reactions, and uncomfortable emotions about what is. Your addiction then comes in with its “I need.” I need to do this in order cope. And I need for someone to give me what I need.
The only long-term solution to the problems of the ego is the spirit—your own spirit. In the same way everyone has an ego, everyone has a spirit. So, if you feel deficient, lacking, and uncomfortable in your own skin, not only is there a remedy but the remedy is something you already possess. It’s actually free.
The key to opening spirit is to identify it correctly. Let’s say that the ego is fear and the spirit is love. You know the maxim, “You cannot serve two masters.” It applies here. Fear and love can’t live in the same house. If you want to control your fear, you need to cultivate your sense of love. And that’s easier than it sounds.
We think of spirit—love—as being intangible, but it expands as a result of our own actions. Here are four steps to help reduce ego and connect with spirit.
- Gratitude—One of the best ways to silence the victim, the part of the ego that says you have been wronged and are suffering from lack, is to express—even just to yourself—all that you have to be grateful for.
Action: Buy a journal and start a gratitude list. List ten things you are grateful for and ten reasons why. Also, make sure that one of the topics on your list is something that is causing you difficulty like COVID-19, your kids, a difficult boss or employee, even the loss of your job. Then write down the accomplishments of the day. This can be such simple actions—things like making your bed, eating properly, exercising, and not taking any mood-altering substances. Do this for thirty days and it will change your life.
- Surrender—Surrendering towhat is helps reduce the ego’s thirst to ignore the present moment and allows you to accept what’s happening with equanimity—which is a form of love.
Action: When adversity strikes, which it will do every day, surrender to the present moment. Don’t let the ego drag you into the past and beat you up. When things don’t go your way—which will probably be later today if it hasn’t happened already—I suggest taking a pause. Before you react to the perceived adversity, take a moment to ask yourself, Is death imminent in this situation? Then ask yourself, Can I change this?More times than not the answer across the board is no. Try to be aware of the struggle in your mind and let go. Abandon the idea that you have to fight.
- Service—Service is an amazing weapon against the ego. You are using your energy and resources to assistance to other people. There is no way that’s more direct than this to expand your sense of love.
Action: Make an intentional goal to commit to a service position. Find a philanthropical endeavor that feeds your soul in this way. Helping people who can probably never repay you, letting somebody know that they are loved even though they don’t love themselves. I tell you from first-hand experience that this will absolutely change your life.
- Meditation—This takes practice. Meditation is an awesome way to connect with spirit and to become acutely aware of workings of your mind.
Action: Every morning, before your hand hits the doorknob to the outside world, find a quiet place, sit comfortably, and focus on your breathing. In the beginning, you can set your timer for five minutes. Suspend your judgement, breathe intentionally—by which I mean watch your breath go in and out—and allow your mind to unwind. The point of meditation is to allow the thoughts to come to rest and to stay with your focus, the breath.
Once you connect with spirit, your self-seeking will slip away, and you will know a new freedom. There are only two choices—ego or spirit—and the choice is always yours. What will your choice be today?