The other day, while driving along in silence, I suddenly remembered an old conversation with an acquaintance.
Funny how that happens sometimes in your car, or perhaps when you’re somehow required to wait or on the road traveling and getting the body from Point A to Point B. Your mind gets to wander and travel a little, too. You have free-floating memories and images ticker-tape by.
This old friend had said, in response to a conversation about being on a journey of awakening “I’ve been at this a long time.” He implied he knows a LOT. He sounded like he thought of himself as further along than other folks asking questions in satsang (group gatherings in meditation practice with a teacher). He didn’t really need to be there, he said, it was just amusing to him to get new material from the words the teacher used.
As I recalled the conversation, the thought went through my head “what a big ego that guy had!”
Have you ever thought someone had a big fat ego?
Let’s do The Work today on someone you’ve known, ever in your life (yes, THAT person) who was so full of themselves, thought they were such a genius at some topic.
Maybe a boss, or a leader you encountered. Perhaps a family member. I remember students sharing this thought about certain professors. I’ve heard this quite a bit from people in the political scene lately. Ahem.
In my case of remembering, how funny that I could find someone was an egotistical know-it-all on Spiritual Enlightenment.
Hmmm, now that I think about it, I’ve had this exact same thought on more than one person.
Interesting. Because when I discover I’ve judged more than one person for the same type of displeasing quality (according to me) then I know I definitely need to do The Work.
And ONE person with a disturbing quality is enough.
So let’s go.
He is such an egomaniac. He thinks he’s so ultra-spiritual. He should have some humility, instead of thinking he’s better than others. Jeez! He should quit advising people on spiritual or mental-health related topics. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. What a loser.
Yes, my thoughts running through were that mean.
And no, don’t start turning it around immediately to yourself and thinking you know where this is going. That’s such a good ploy for the mind to use to get you off track. It’s not The Work.
We need to break it down, slowly.
(Even slower than this Grace Note. To really dig into this thought that someone else is too full of themselves, you’d do The Work thoroughly one thought at a time!)
So, is it true they’re over-the-top big ego, when it comes to this topic (in my case, spiritual awareness)?
I mean, look at him. He used to be a drug addict. Now, he’s all Mr. Peaceful trying to start a business as a spiritual advisor. Seriously?? He doesn’t listen to anyone (including me)….He’s way too needy. He acts like a jerk, he….
Um, just a sec. When you start justifying, explaining, pointing things out, telling stories about this person, you aren’t actually answering the question. The question is: “Is it true, what you believe about this person and their ego?”
I don’t even know him very well.
Even if you say “yes” to this question, notice, and keep going.
Next question: How do you react when you think this is true about this person, that they’re an egomaniac?
Terrified! Angry! Enraged! Planning how to avoid them, or hoping something happens to them to take them down a notch. Yikes. it’s mean, vengeful, victim-y. I’m definitely disgusted, and At War with this person and their apparent “ego” and their words and mannerisms. I complain about them in my head, or talk about them to other people.
So who would you be without this very stressful story? Seriously, what if you couldn’t even have the thought that this person is a jerkish loser who has worthless advice for everyone and isn’t as smart or right as he says he is?
Hold still and think about it for a minute.
This person, who you’ve raved about because they’ve got such a gigantic ego….what if you couldn’t have such thoughts about them? How would it feel?
More relaxed, for sure.
Suddenly, I’m aware at all the intense raging energy I put on that person. Like he’s soooo bad, it ruined my day. And how, without that energy and that feeling, my experience of him would be much kinder, less serious, more can-do, to be honest.
I see he’s just talking. He’s participating. He’s having a conversation. He’s saying what feels right to him in the moment. He’s very, very interested in this topic. He’s done a lot to get to the place he’s gotten.
I don’t have to agree with him, but I can regard him without my thoughts of vicious judgment towards him. I can notice that here in my car, all is quiet, and quite spacious, and my life is not very impacted by this other guy’s commentary or activities.
But even if your life IS impacted by someone you think of as having a massively huge ego the size of Montana….what would it be like to be in their presence without thinking you’re in a war against them? Without the belief they’re SO WRONG you’re ready to have a fit like a Tazmanian Devil?
Wow, I’d be lighter. I’d feel more excited about taking true action. I might make a few phone calls.
Turning the thoughts around: He is NOT an egomaniac, he’s humble, maybe even insecure. He does NOT think he’s ultra-spiritual. He never said anything about being better than others. He should advise people on spiritual or mental-health related topics. He knows what he’s talking about. What a winner.
Hmmm. How could this be just as true, or truer?
Well, all he really said in that conversation long ago was that he couldn’t relate to most of the other people attending the retreat we were on. He actually said he’d like to go to another retreat, so he didn’t say he was no longer interested in this topic and had no need for outside information. He didn’t say he knew everything, or MORE than others. He never used those words.
He got completely clean from drugs (winner). He helped out his family when his mom got sick. He gave free labor to the mother of his kid when he couldn’t give her money. He’s slowly pulled himself back on his feet. He probably SHOULD advise people on mental health issues, especially those about addiction recovery.
Can you find evidence for this turnaround for the person you’re thinking of? This is a powerful exercise. Because….how would you really know all the details to be able to make a perfect, full, complete assessment of this person’s behavior? I sure didn’t at the time.
“Argue with reality, and you lose. But only 100% of the time.” ~ Byron Katie
Turning the thought around again, all to myself (instead of this person I’m projecting all over): I am an egomaniac. I think I am ultra-spiritual. I should have some humility, instead of thinking I’m better than this guy, or better than myself. Jeez! I should quit advising people (including him) on spiritual or mental-health related topics. I don’t know what I’m talking about. What a loser.
Now, I know you’re aware these turnarounds to the self should be a kiss, not a slap. This is important! Otherwise, you start getting into a sort of negative egomania, which is just as troubling (maybe worse) than the positive egomania.
So what are some examples? How could this turnaround be true?
For one thing, in the moment I’m flashing about this man and his inadequacy, I’m getting worked up into a frenzy that’s neither necessary, or helpful. I’m in favor of non-violence. Including in my mind. And yet, seem to be thinking violently.
I could adopt a little humility. Here I am trying to be ultra-spiritual and all-accepting, acting nicey-nice when actually at the time, I might have had a more honest real conversation with the man, asking him questions, finding out about what makes him tick, being curious about what he meant when he said certain things.
And it’s completely true that I shouldn’t advise anyone on matters of spirituality or mental health. They can find their own answers. I especially shouldn’t advise this guy–why can I tell him to stop giving advice when it’s OK for me to give it to him?
I should stop advising myself, too, while I’m at it. I’ve always got ideas like “meditate for an extra hour!” or “go to India!” and thinking God is going to be louder or more present if I do MORE or go somewhere or add something, later. Not here, now.
Why not try a little openness, and acceptance, about this person in the world? What if I tried a little openness, acceptance and humility about myself?
Doesn’t that feel a little sweeter than gripping the steering wheel with fury as I drive and think “JERK!” about someone?
“Some people think that silence is more spiritual than speech, that meditation or prayer brings you closer to God than watching television or taking out the garbage. That’s the story of separation. Silence is a beautiful thing, but it’s no more beautiful than the sound of people talking. I love it when thoughts pass through my mind, and I love it when there are no thoughts. Thoughts can’t be a problem for me, because I have questioned them and seen that no thought is true.” ~ Byron Katie in 1000 Names For Joy pg. 180
That guy with the Big Mondo Ego? How is it just as beautiful as the next thing, like television, or taking out the garbage, or meditating or learning to love what is? What if I’m not really the authority–for myself most of all–on spirituality around here, and what people should or should not be doing, thinking, believing or saying around me?
They should be saying what they say.
And it’s sooooo good they said it, because I’m invited then to jump into the pool of love, all-of-life and spirituality in everything, and swim, too….rather than staring down from the high dive, full of anger and fear with arms folded across my chest.
Welcome to the end of separation.
P.S. If you have agonizing thoughts about anyone else in this world, (alive or dead) then your experience is perfect for The Work. You can do this during retreat for great benefit. Questioning your thoughts doesn’t mean you’ll become a tiny passive potato. You’ll probably be more clear, and more alive, whatever this may look like for you. Connected.