You arrive at the gym (Evolutions, obviously) and you’ve been looking forward to your time on the elliptical. This is going to be your “me” time, away from work, family, obligations, etc. You’re ready to kick butt and be proud of how you’re on your way to your health goals.
You get to the elliptical section only to see that all of them are in use. In your head, you say “ugh” but it’s just a small inconvenience. You decide to use the time to do some more stretching. As you look over again, no one on the ellipticals seem even close to finishing. You leave briefly for a quick trip to the restroom.
You come back only to see another person stepping onto an elliptical! “She saw me waiting for the next available one!” you say to yourself. “I should’ve known, what an inconsiderate idiot.”
Let’s delve a little deeper into this situation using what we’ve learned in Chapter 3 of Eckhart Tolle’s book, A New Earth, as part of our Summer Soul Series.
When the ego is attempting to make someone wrong, a personal element comes into it. In the above situation, you don’t actually know that she saw you waiting for someone to finish using the elliptical machine. By attaching suspicion, your ego is trying to elevate itself through the use of thought-forms.
Complaining is personalizing a situation and increasing the sense of self rightness. It’s one of the ego’s favorite strategies for strengthening itself. Every complaint is a story the mind makes up that you completely believe in. It happens in the head alone, whether it’s verbalized or not. It has no real purpose, because it’s not meant to bring about change and only strengthens the ego.
Name calling is another way the ego strengthens itself. When labeling another, you desensitize yourself from another person. Instead of sensing the aliveness of the other, you cut yourself off.
Holding onto memories of past wrongs done to you, holding grudges and having regrets, often lead to the establishment of habits and patterns that puts one in a permanent state of identification with the ego. This leads to an addiction to thinking.
It can be said that thinking is humanity’s greatest addiction, crossing all cultures and nations. It’s no different from not being able to stop drinking, smoking, eating, etc. Thinking is an addiction because people have trouble letting go of thinking.
This addictive thinking often leads to grievances. Eckhart Tolle explains:
A grievance is a strong negative emotion connected to an event in the sometimes distant past that is being kept alive by compulsive thinking, by retelling the story in the head or out loud of “what someone did to me” or “what someone did to us.” A grievance will also contaminate other areas of your life. For example, while you think about and feel your grievance, its negative emotional energy can distort your perception of an event that is happening in the present or influence the way in which you speak or behave toward someone in the present. One strong grievance is enough to contaminate large areas of your life and keep you in the grip of the ego.
Carrying grievance is a permanent state of against, and whatever you are against, you only give it more power. What you resist, persists: it’s a universal law that there’s always an equal opposing force. Anytime there’s a “war against” something (e.g. war against drugs, war against poverty), the opposing force only gets stronger. Forgiveness occurs naturally only when you realize that the ego has no purpose other than to strengthen the false sense of yourself.
Underneath it all, the emotion that governs the ego is fear: the fear of being nobody, the fear of nonexistence, the fear of death. Ironically, the ego will cling to this fear for its very own survival, because the ego thrives by identification with form, and deep down it knows that no forms are permanent, that they are all fleeting.
The main thing is Presence. A space of no thought; present moment awareness. But it can also be in the background when thinking is happening. Becoming aware of the present moment slows down the overactivity of the mind, all the thinking.
This can be done while exercising. It may actually be easier to get into the state or Presence, since the body is already active, the mind is at another plane as endorphins are rushing in. Research has shown that repetitive activity + internally directed focus = a meditative state. In cycle class, feel your feet on the pedals, your leg muscles working against the resistance. Hear your breath flowing to raise energy, the humming of the other machines, listen to the swoosh of others spinning. If there is an object near you (eg. a clock, a water bottle) give it a soft focus and don’t label it. Absorb yourself in the awareness of sensation, sound and pure presence without words.
Once you see the ego for what it truly is, it becomes easier to be non-reactive towards it. It no longer becomes personal. You’re no longer attached to it. Without the juice of your attention, POOF! It disappears!
This is especially challenging when you are hurt by someone else. When someone does something wrong (intentional or not), or criticizes you and you feel hurt, it is the ego that feels hurt. Don’t say that “I shouldn’t be hurt”, just simply accept the feeling in the moment, and recognize what it is inside that is producing these feelings. The ego wants to defend itself and hurt can come from it via “self-repair” mode. Anytime one has hurt feelings, it is the ego that is hurt, not the self.
Can you refrain from judging another who has wronged you, simply because you are now aware that it was the person’s ego that was at play, and not the inner essence that you both share?
Presence is the exit door for the ego. Whenever you find yourself complaining, whenever you feel the need to feel superior or inferior to someone else, remember that this is your ego. And When you recognize this, bring yourself to the present moment: this is awakening to peace, joy and freedom from stories that cause suffering and illness.
Share your thoughts on this week’s lesson and how you’re being aware rather than overthinking on Evolutions Annapolis Facebook Page.