Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Is Your Ego Your Enemy or Your Friend?

The dialogue between Ken Wilber and Andrew Cohen on Women's Enlightenment in the latest issue of What is Enlightenment, and my and Anyaa's take on it, has stirred a lot of conversation on the SeattleIntegral list. With about even support and disagreement on our postings, it's good that a discussion has ensued, for there have been a lot of really excellent points from both perspectives.
Anyaa and I are sticking to our perspectives, but opting out of the discussions for the most part, as we've said most of what we want to say on the subject....except to make one last point that goes beyond the WIE article and what I think is its masculine perspective at the exclusion of the Divine Feminine.

Isn't it interesting that people who would never think of killing anything else think that killing the ego is so important?
And why is it important to kill the ego? Isn't killing the ego an act of ego? There are many traditions that recommend killing the ego, but to me it sometimes looks as if those who are calling the loudest for the ego to die, have the biggest egos, suggesting it's your ego that needs to die, mine's just fine, thank you.
The laughable part of this is that you can't kill the ego. It's impossible.
My new friends and teachers, Diamond and River Jameson, from the Total Integration Institute, have a better idea: Make friends with your ego. It's a valuable tool that, when befriended, allows us to be more fully integrated in our felt sense body experiences during this existence, rather than living the masculine approach of Eros without the integrated being of the feminine Agape.
This is the really important stuff: Each of us, male or female, BGLT, whatever, can only live a fully integrated life if we learn to embody both the Divine Feminine and Divine Masculine in our being. Enlightenment is not masculine. Nor is it feminine. It's not emptiness. It's not fullness.
It's all of the above, integrated into our human experience as fully and complete as humanly possible. It is "multi-dimensional whole being and Integration."
Image source Google, credit unknown


Anonymous said...

Good points Gary. I agree with the notion of befriending one's ego. Here's a very personal response. Sometimes I think that I had to build an ego brick by brick after a childhood, early adulthood and religious conditioning that destroyed what ego I brought into the world with me. For a long time I didn't think I was entitled to the air I breathed on this planet. I need enough of an ego to love myself. Just that much...

MoE said...

Hm... I wonder if there is not a misunderstanding somewhere here. There are two forms of ego:

First, the psychological one that is essential for our human self to function (and the healthier, more well-developed and mature, the better). In a rough analogy, this is the software that allows our human self to operate in the world.

Then, there is the ego of a sense of a separate self, which comes purely from a belief and is not really there. It is not anything to be "killed". But we can explore what is already more true for us than this sense of a separate self, through any number of practices.

Anonymous said...

Trying to get rid of the ego is like trying to get rid of one's skeleton.

We need an ego as a vehicle to get around in the social/physical/embodied world.

Its a vehicle. Only difference is, we know to get in and out of our cars, how to apply the brakes
and control speed.

Egos need cultivation and training, not destruction.

Violent methods of "ego destruction" just add additional layers of reactivity and trauma to whatever issues the person already has.

Its worth asking why this stance of violence-as-spiriutal-practice has seemingly gained crediblity among so many seekers, and is beng endorsed as desirable by some spiritual leaders.

Rather than violent ego destruction being emancipatory, this stance seems to be an extension of the violent tendencies already in the culture and perhaps re-enactment of violence that went on in various families of origin.

It may not be emancipatory at all, but re-enactment of a dynamic that thwarts development.

Engaging in spiriutually rationalized violence isnt likely to be healing. It just adds more stress, more trauma, more reactivity, and in extreme cases, burdens people with memories of things they've witnessed or done that they will become ashamed of later on and regret having done.

Those who cant bear to admit regret for having behaved violently under spiritual auspices may try to evade regret by rationalizing that violence as something noble,, that only highly evolved people would have needed for themselves, that only highly evolved persons would apprciate.

Those who adopt this strategy risk becoming part of the culture of collusion that glamorizes violence as necessary for spiritual development and rationalizes the deeds of abusive spiritual leaders.

There's often an elitist tinge here--that only superior people appreciate the noblity of violence and only they can see the beauty in what less evolved persons see as pain and ugliness--and dehumanizing.

Daring to disapprove of spiritually rationalized violence means losing ones sense of being special--a specialness people cling to when trying to endure the stresses of life in an abusive community.

To decide that it was mere violence,nasty, an affront to human dignity means giving up that sense of being special and losing rank. That's a hard thing to give up, if in a violent group a person has comforted him or herself by thinking that enduring the misery was a mark of being special, one of the elect.

(Which BTW is ego in action...in a way that keeps us trapped)

Its important to assess anything by asking 'At some point, does this romanticize violence?'

Doesnt matter if its a movie, music, a presidential candidate, or a guru.

Ask that question and keep asking that question.

Anonymous said...

I see a connection between emotional strength and making your ego work for you instead of against you. This is what works so well for people like John Travolta and Donald Trump to name a few.

Anonymous said...

This topic is very close to me. Two points that I would like to make.

Destroying ego is at the very heart of trauma.

Awakening, enlightenment, or whatever knowing that is gained through meditation, or the "spiritual experience", changes or eliminates ego, but it is not deliberate destruction of ego. It is a natural change, that result in healing in a way that normal consciousness cannot bring about. I think that this is lost on people who try to experience "ego destruction" by willing it, through reading about it, or just desiring it, without attaining it through the "mystical experience."

I started practicing meditation on a whim. And I have been graced by it. I also have had my ego destroyed through psychotherapy. I have spent decades recovering from it. Self can be recovered, even if it is damaged or buried by a bogus belief system. However, life is forever changed, and the real and tangible parts of life often cannot be recovered, lost relationships, lost opportunities, family, etc. My pet peeve is any belief system, particularly psychotherapy that pretends to know the correct mind or behavior for a person. It is not possible, and this is the place where damaging ego destruction begins.

A person cannot live without a self. A person must go within and find the wise mind that knows. And this is the emergence of ego that functions with happiness, strength and love. Destroyed what normal consciousness thinks is unhealthy ego, and it will lead to at best frustration and perhaps true misery, and at worst the inability of function and a cascade of losses. This is truly hell on earth.

Anonymous said...

I too see it as a friend.. the leaders who profess that it's your enemy doesn't jell with the rest of belief that there is one true self. That everything is connected and one and we are all in this together.

Branding something as evil and calling it 'ego' and the need to kill it doesn't make sense to me. I can understand it can go haywire and that you need to come to peace with it/him, recognize him, appreciate him, humor with him and he will help you and knows when he needs to take a backseat. I don't think fighting him is going to reward us.

Some of my readings conveyed ego is good for all the creative work (like bridges/iphone/internet) but it's bad when dealing with emotions/people. So by befriending him, you can know when to bring him forward and when to allow him to relax in his hummock.

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