I exercise for the health/mental-benefit....but I also like the way it makes me look.
THERE I SAID IT.
Since submerging myself into both the spiritual and body positive cultures, a common concept I've tried forcing on myself is to completely dissociate my worth from the way that I look. Any action or thought that is revolved around my appearance (i.e. working out for aesthetics, taking sexy selfies, etc.) is created by the ego, and is inherently bad.
But, after wrestling with this idea for the last year or so, I've decided to take a different stance on it from some of the gurus. I've never had an issue expressing my opinion or breaking out the pack, so why stop now ;)?
The first thing I will say is that I intellectually agree with this concept. The thoughts and beliefs concerning our outer appearance are purely derived from the ego. We are only concerned with the way we look because we are trying to control how other people view us. This comes from a completely self-centered, attention-seeking, and egotistical part of ourselves.
But, there's a problem with that totality thinking. When we view the ego as bad/wrong/shameful, we are consciously or subconsciously trying to fight it. So whenever the ego comes to the surface, we judge ourselves for "not getting it right" and cause even more tension in our beings.
And no matter how many times we combat the ego, it still comes back. It's kind of like how cockroaches can survive a nuclear explosion. They're relentless. As is our ego.
What we seem to forget is that the ego is part of the human condition. We are all born with an ego. Even Jesus, Buddha, and the Dali Lama have egos. And while I do believe that we need to tap into pure consciousness and dissociate ourselves from our egos (to some regard) to experience true spiritual awakening....I don't think we need to shame or run away from our ego on a day-to-day basis.
In all actuality, I think a lot of us wind up combating our egos and we end up causing even more harm. It moves from "I want to lose weight" to "I want to lose weight....Oh, damn I just had an egotistical thought. I suck at this. And I still want to lose weight."
Or "I'll never have enough money.....Oh, fuck, I just let my ego make me concerned with external validation. I'm a bad person. And I'm still broke."
And this might not be the case for everyone. Maybe I was doing it wrong. Maybe some of you have an extremely easy time letting go of your ego and you hardly ever experience those thoughts. That's great. But, for those of us who have been tied up in our egos for our entire lives, those thought patterns might not dissipate as easily as we expected.
Personally, I was a victim to my ego's demands about fitness, nutrition, and my body for years. So, I've found it impossible to eliminate those thoughts from my day-to-day mind chatter. And I've also found that trying to pay attention and resist every one of those thoughts from my head was really exhausting and painful.
I mean...is it so BAD to want to look good and be attractive? Isn't it part of the human condition to want to be desired and admired?
Is it so BAD to desire financial abundance? Isn't it part of the human condition to want to be safe and respected?
Is it so BAD to desire attention from other people through social media and selfies? Isn't it part of the human condition to want to be accepted and loved?
I personally don't think it is. I think the problem is when we believe that satisfying the ego's desires will make us happy. Because that's not true....not matter what your ego tries to make you believe.
Anything that the ego desires is fleeting and unreliable. We can be the fittest chick in the gym, but at any moment we could get hit by a car and lose our ability to exercise. We can be the wealthiest person in our group of friends, but at any moment we could unexpectedly go bankrupt and revert to poverty.
We have zero control of the external things the ego is trying to manifest. So what happens when we put all of our eggs in our ego's basket? We experience an emotional roller coaster of highs and lows throughout life that are disguising themselves as happiness and depression. But, those highs, those external manifestations were never happiness to begin with.
The only thing that can bring us true, lasting, unwavering happiness and love is a deeper connection with our inner world. Living in the present moment. Consciousness. Finding a connection with the something outside of ourselves. Taking care of ourselves (mentally and emotionally). Getting in touch with our souls. Choosing love over fear. Opening ourselves up to the abundance around us in every waking moment. You know...the good stuff.
So being the enlightened person that I am (insert joke here), I've been able to (re)discover my true happiness. I feel worthy of love and respect without my ego. I feel safe without my ego. I feel whole without my ego. But, I am also woman in modern society who wants to have an awesome ass. IS THERE ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT?!
NO. Or at least, I say no. I say we should shoot for balance. And not 50/50. Maybe like 80/20 or 90/10 for the ballsy spiritual gangsters. I say that our FIRST priority should always be to our inner world (our souls, our purpose, our hearts). But, we can unapologetically leave a little room to appease the ego here and there. Notice I didn't say make room.... because the ego already made room for itself a long time ago. Were not encouraging or boosting the ego, were simply letting it be. Because like I said, fighting the ego doesn't get us anywhere.
As long as we understand at the end of the day that the ego is an insatiable phony trying to pretend to be us... it's all Gucci, baby. I think the best analogy I've thought of for the ego is Kramer from Seinfield.
He's annoying, impulsive, and a little crazy. Whatever he wants, he wants it NOW. And he'll want something different in ten minutes. You don't always agree with him or his values; but, he's still your friend. He still gives you a good laugh and boosts your mood once in a while. And more importantly, no matter what you do...HE AIN'T GOING NOWHERE.
So, in effort to break spiritual dogma and make peace and happiness easier for those of us trying to be spiritual in modern society without running to a meditation retreat every weekend to "reconnect".... here are the three fundamental steps I've taken to balance my relationship with my true self and my ego.
First note, if you're reading this and thinking "WTF is ego?"...I'll kindly suggest doing some quick google research before implementing any of the concepts. Try typing in "spirituality and the ego" and you should get you what you need. But for my soul seekers who are already familiar with the concept, let's dig into the work...
Get to know your ego
While all humans have egos, none of us have the same ego. Our egos are shaped by our past experiences and beliefs, which will ultimately drive our ego's desires in different directions. One person's ego could be infatuated with money and power, while another person's ego is more infatuated with their appearance. I'm part of the latter crew.
Since I've been meditating and engulfed in this work for over a year now, I'm reeeaaaallll familiar with my ego. I can catch myself within moments of having a ego-derived thought. Which is good....but it also caused a lot of stress when I was trying to get rid of said thoughts.
So now, instead of fighting my ego, I've shifted my focus to getting familiar with it. Paying attention to the way it sounds, the thought patterns it creates, and the specific situations it gets involved with. Since my ego is concerned with my physical appearance I know that exercise, eating, pictures, and mirrors will bring it to life.. So whenever those situations arise, I've adopted a general curiosity around my thoughts during that time. Notice I said curiosity and not hyper awareness or anticipation.
So that's the first step. Get to objectively know your egos. Meditating, journaling, and awareness will help you get clarity here. Don't drive yourself crazy with the specifies, just get a general idea for the times/situations your ego gets amped up. Whether its around money, relationships, attention, career, etc. Just start to notice where your ego likes to hang out.
Compromise with your ego
Once you're familiar with your ego, try and compromise with it. First, understand where its coming from. So for me, my ego might say "You should do cardio today because of the ice cream you ate last night."
And I'll be prepared for that. Since I've gotten to know my ego, I know its going to come up, and more importantly, I've accepted it. I know I'm not wrong for having the thoughts. And I also know not to fight it.
So, I might say "Hayyyyyyy ego. I understand where you're coming from. I know you don't want me to gain any weight. But, I'm actually kind of tired today..so I think I'll wait until tomorrow to get back in the gym."
Think KRAMER. If you try and argue with him, he's only going to get more combative.
Be gentle with your ego. Understand why it's showing up. Do your best to move through the situation without completely giving into it or completely fighting it. Shoot for the in between. It's not an all or nothing kind of thing.
So for my example, maybe I gave in and did the cardio. That doesn't mean I failed. I can easily take some time later in the day to meditate or journal to reflect on the situation and get in touch with what really matters.
Know you'll still be okay either way
The most important step. While I personally think it's okay to give our egos a boost now and then, we need to have an unwavering, relentless knowing that who we are, at our core, is separate from our ego. Nothing our ego drives us to achieve or gain will ever bring us the happiness and love we ultimately desire.
We have to know that we are inherently OKAY if we don't lose the weight, marry the guy, earn the money, or buy the house. We will still be worthy of love, safety, and acceptance if everything external falls apart. Our first priority should always lie in consciousness and connection to our inner world. The external stuff is just for shits and giggles.
Weight loss will never bring you happiness. Money will never bring you happiness. Likes on Instagram will never bring you happiness. But, who are we to tell other people how to live their lives? Does any human living in society today really have the time, resources, or energy to defend/ignore every ego-driven thought?
As light workers, were here to be the light... not shame others for spending moments in the darkness. We need to get real with ourselves and stop acting holier-than-though. Unless you're a monk, you're probably dealing with some ego-driven thoughts on a regular basis. You'e only human. And your ego is part of the human condition.
But, that's just my opinion. Maybe one day I'll be even more enlightened and have no issue clearing the ego's thoughts. But, for now, I'm choosing a balanced relationship. I'm choosing to hip thrust because I like the way it makes my ass look. I'm choosing to dress and dance in a way that makes me feel desirable. I'm choosing to keep it real with myself and everyone else around me. I'm choosing to be authentic.
This is my journey. What's yours?