Befriending the Ego.
I specifically remember an encounter with a Mayan astrologer back in 2018 that set me on a path to understand what "the ego" was for the first time in my life. I was traveling through Nicaragua in the midst of a quarter-life crisis-- recently divorced, sleeping on my parent's couch, staring at the layers of confusion and grief of my marriage ending abruptly. Everything in my life felt like it was suspending in air, and I along with it. I took a trip out to Central America on a whim to meet my sister who was living there at the time and explored various towns during the week. I ended up befriending a local artisan in the town square who studied Mayan spirituality and one evening during conversation he offered me a palm reading. As I watched him trace the lines on my hand, the words he spoke next shocked me: "You have a big heart, but also a big ego."
I was confused. "Did he just say I had a big...ego?"
What I had perceived "ego" to be was associated to characteristics like arrogant, grandiose, center of attention, etc. I could name of plenty of people that I believed to be egotistical from that perspective-- but me?! I had worked hard throughout my life trying not to come off that way, at the expense of making myself smaller in many situations where I could have stood my ground. How could someone unassuming, naive, and timid like myself have a big ego?
BOOM. That's when it hit me like a ton of bricks.
I had exhausted so much of my social energy throughout my life trying to control the perception of others, conjuring up a persona that I believed to be lovable and safe within the confines of her naiveté. It was in this moment that everything got flipped on its head, and my journey of awakening began to surface.
Then came the unraveling. The existential questioning. The dark night of the soul. I began to critically observe all of the ways I had been conditioned to behave and navigate society: as a woman, a woman of color, a daughter to immigrants, a woman raised in church purity culture, a married woman, an aspiring nonprofit humanitarian worker-- all things I took great pride in. It was in this painfully illuminating process that I began to realize that my ego had been in the driver's seat for a long time, dictating my every move in order to preserve a certain image I had strived to attain from others.
In fact, I had been living very little of my life consciously.
My life's experiences from childhood, to familial dynamics, to cultural upbringing, to social conditioning, to relationship patterns all carried a story, and that narrative informed how I was showing up in the world. But this world of mine was not alive, nor thriving-- it was a machine of regurgitating words and patterns. My ego was really good at manipulating people's perceptions of me, but who was I really? What did I actually believe? Or want for my life? Or think about the world, myself, and our existence?
The last several years of my journey has been spent repairing and relating differently to my ego. My ego was never to blame, but it needed to be integrated so that my shadows could be brought to light. It's challenged me to reorient my idea of "I"-- and humbly acknowledge that there is a greater consciousness that extends beyond our ego and this physical world. I am not my story. I am an expression of what I choose to embody. And there is so much power behind what we choose.
From this perspective, the state of the world should not surprise us. We're participants in a system that pins us against one another and feeds our ego so that we remain under the illusion that our "I" is of utmost significance. It keeps us divided, preaching a different message with the same approach. It keeps us in denial of our inconsistencies and too distracted to critically think for ourselves. The shadows are everywhere. Seeping out from the frameworks we work hard to uphold.
Our wise spiritual teachers and healers throughout history have been preaching the same thing for ages: if you want to see a changed world, it must begin with you. Once we recognize that working with our shadows is the avenue in which we come into deeper self-knowledge, we can begin to rip the veil of isolationism and see that we're never truly separate from those around us. We are mere reflections of one another-- and we get to choose the story we tell our future generations.