The most profound things are the simplest things. One of the books I’m reading right now is The Art of Happiness, a western psychologist’s encounter with the Dalai Lama. The contents are childishly simple, but of course most of us don’t even start the process, or even give any thought to the matter. We plan our work to the nth degree, while the important things such as our relationships and our lives receive little attention.
To add to the lack of planning, there’re all sorts of traps. The ego is one of the more common traps detracting us from happiness.
I started off this post by writing about somone else’s ego. However, I couldn’t really get the balance right between saying anything interesting, and not revealing too much about them. So, perhaps its time to look at my ego.
My own ego has been the biggest barrier in many areas of my life. Just as not asking questions because of not wanting to appear stupid is stupid, so is not wanting to ask questions because you think you know it all already. I am fortunate enough to have a dear friend who has done Buddhist meditation for many years, and gone through some of the most profound realisations in his own life. Yet all too often, when he says something profound, I know it already. My ego tells me I know, and the message doesn’t sink in. The intellect lays its own traps, as its possible to know things intellectually without knowing them in totality. The intellect, which should be a doorway, is shut, because it already finds the knowledge stored, and sees no need to let it in again. But the knowledge is stored as a relic at the back of a dusty cupboard, and not something lived and made real.
An example from my tai chi practice is the concept of sinking. I had an intellectual understanding of this in my first year of doing tai chi. Luckily tai chi involves years of practice, which is another kind of doorway, and I’ve since had two realisations in understanding what sinking is, both of which made me realise I had no absolutely clue until that point. My intellectual understanding was a trickery. Perhaps the words I would use now to explain the concept to someone else now would be identical to what I would have used then. But everything has changed.
Ego inflates our sense of importance so that our role seems indispensable, and that of others diminished. Ego causes us to lose sight of the greater picture, causes us to want to be puppet masters pulling the strings, when all we actually achieve is a grotesque dance in the organic flow of life. Ego is a bubble of self-importance, that when inevitably burst leaves us thinking we are helpless and insignificant. The tactic of the military, or religious cults, involves smashing the ego, and filling the void at that point with the supreme authority of the higher-ranked, or the cult leaders, so that the victims become unquestioningly obedient, a sad denial of their humanity.
Perhaps most fundamentally, ego separates, filtering the interconnectedness of everything through a tiny lens so that what we perceive is coloured by our own prejudices. When giving with the ego, we give for the purposes of promoting the self.
Even this post has the shadow of the ego lurking. Am I writing this because someone may enjoy it, reflect, learn something? Or is it to appear wise, to gain credit?
Ah well, anyone who’s actually read this far, decide for yourself and feel free to tell me 🙂